Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 27, 2014

July 23rd, 2014

1 Kings 3:5, 7-12
Romans 8:28-30
Matt. 13:44-52

The Old Testament reading is a wonderful story of a conversation between God and Israel’s newly appointed young King, Solomon. God tells him to ask for whatever he wants and God will give it to him. Though young, Solomon knew enough to ask for something important that he really needed if he was to serve and lead God’s people in the right way. He asked for “an understanding heart to judge justly and to distinguish right from wrong.” Wow! God was impressed because Solomon did not ask for riches, for a long life or for revenge on enemies, but for “wisdom.” So God did grant him a wise and understanding heart. Even today we speak of the “wisdom of Solomon.” So what have we requested from God lately? Something important? Something we need or something we just want? It’s always time to ask, “How will God respond?”
The second reading from Romans offers one of my favorite Bible verses: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God.” For those who believe, who pray and who take time to reflect on their life, this verse may resonate with their experience. Twice in one week recently, I read in two different places, on the internet and then on a calendar, this sentence from a great philosopher: “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards.” It reminded me of the Bible verse above. It is in looking back at life events that we often realize that God was indeed with us, giving us strength, sending us an angel of sorts to offer a helping hand, giving us a solution to a dilemma and never abandoning us in our need. Looking back, recognizing God’s loving interventions and finding meaning in our life are part of both the Jewish faith and the Christian faith. Let us take time to reflect, find meaning and then move forward in life with gratitude and trust.
In the Gospel reading Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to something precious like a pearl buried in a field and then tells us what a man does to get it. Jesus also compares it to a fishing net that brings forth really good fish, smaller useless ones and maybe even some junk from the sea. There will be a need to sort things out. Jesus says “Do you understand?” I’m not sure if I completely understand… But we do need to look at these two parables and look for their meaning. Perhaps that’s the whole point of seeking the Kingdom of God, asking ourselves the right questions. What is really important and precious to me? Do I go after it with serious thought and effort? Am I willing to sort through my life and let go of what is of poor quality, painful memories, grudges, unhealthy relationships and destructive habits? Am I willing to invite God to walk with me and show me the way?
In St. Mary’s health System part of seeking the Kingdom for us is surely to “live the mission” with energy and compassion day in and day out.
Sr. Suzanne Beaudoin, SSCh
Director of Pastoral Care

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – July 20, 2014

July 17th, 2014

Psalm 54: 6, 8
Wisdom 12: 18-19
Romans 8:26-27
Gospel of Matthew 13:24-30

We open this week’s “scripture picture” with the delightful cry from the psalmist,

“See, I have God for my help. I will serve you with a willing heart, and praise your name, 0 Lord for you are good.” Psalm 54:6, 8

It is my hope and prayer that you can recall many times on your life journey that you had occasion to cry out those or similar words to acknowledge some gift or favor granted to you that might have seemed impossible. Indeed, we often “stand at the door and knock” for so long we ask, “Is Anybody Home?”

Yes! Someone is home! Throughout the readings this week I sense there runs a theme: God’s Presence in Power and Love (see how this plays out in our 2nd lesson).

“But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much leniency you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. And you taught your people by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind.” Wisdom 12: 18-19

This Sundays’ third lesson is from a familiar friend of God and one we have heard from a lot. St. Paul’s journey is one many of us can relate to. It was Tough! However, once Paul allowed himself to be in the presence of the power and love of God, he became a man of love and kindness and of service.

Paul writes: “The Spirit too helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself prays to the Father for us with pleas that cannot be expressed in speech. God who searches hearts knows what the Spirit means, for the Spirit intercedes for the saints, (us) as God himself wills.”

Paul’s words may come across a bit confusing. I like to interpret the passage as meaning that the Holy Spirit is praying to God the Father for all of us! How fabulous is that?

Our final lesson for this week is from Matthew, one of the twelve chosen by Jesus to become teachers. He is one of the four writers of the words of Jesus and is actually referred to as “Teacher.” Matthew shares the words of Jesus with us:
“The rule of God is like a mustard seed which someone took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest seed of all, yet when it is grown it is the largest of plants so that the birds of the air come and build nests in its branches.”

This Scribe now takes a writer’s privilege to digress from a translation that tends to take away from “God’s presence of Power and Love.” You of course may read the full passage from Matthew 13:24-30. I would like to continue with the insights of St. Julian of Norwich who imagines God handing her the mustard seed…

“He showed me a little thing in the palm of my hand; ‘What may this be?’ And the answer was this: ‘It is all that is made.’ I wondered how it might last; it was nothing but ‘littleness.’ I was answered: ‘It lasts and ever shall last for God loves it.’ And so all-things have being in the love of God.” Julian of Norwich

Every day as this Chaplain follows the lives of the sick and broken among us, I give thanks for all of you who serve our people as well in such selfless, caring ways when you have your own pain and concerns to hold. Be assured that these scriptures are speaking about and to you. You are held in God’s Presence in Power and Love.

God appreciates simple things. Three little words, three essential prayers…Help! Thanks! Wow!

With a Grateful Heart,

Chaplain Elizabeth Lowe
Pastoral Care

Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul – July 5, 2014

July 1st, 2014

Acts 12:1-11
2Timothy 4:6-7, 17-18
Matthew 16:13-19

These two great Saints share the same feast day. Why? It is perhaps because they were contemporaries and vibrant leaders of the early Church. They have much in common but they also had very different personalities and somewhat different backgrounds.
Both were Jewish, though Peter was an uneducated fisherman and Paul was more of a scholar in Judaism. Both were men of passion and dedication. They were doers and eventually became tireless missionaries in spreading the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. Calling them Saints means they are close friends of Jesus who sought the will of God in all things. They were men of deep and lasting faith. Both made mistakes, repented and experienced conversion at different times in their life. At the beginning of the Passion of Jesus, Peter denied even knowing Jesus, most probably through fear. Paul was an arrogant persecutor of the early Church. Eventually, they both became prominent and effective leaders in the early Church. They were bold and courageous. Peter and Paul did not always agree with each other, but they did manage to grow in understanding and work together for the good of all. This could be quite an example to us who may sometimes disagree about certain things and yet continue to live the mission, working together for the good of our organization, our patients, residents and families.
St. Peter had been a disciple of Jesus for three years, following him around in ministry, relating with him on a daily basis and getting to know him personally while growing in his faith that Jesus “is the Christ, the Son of the living God.” We hear Peter proclaim this very belief in the Gospel this week when Jesus asks the Apostles a “But who do you say that I am?” Jesus, on that day, indicated that Peter was to be the first Pope, official leader of the Church. He was to be visible head of the Church with Jesus always the true head of the Body. But Peter would also suffer and eventually be martyred.
In the first reading we hear that Christians were being persecuted by King Herod and that the Apostle James was killed by the sword. Then there is a delightful story about Peter being imprisoned and kept securely watched by multiple guards. Yet during the night, he miraculously escaped with the help of an angel. All the while, Peter thought he was dreaming or seeing a vision. When Peter recovered his senses, he realized that God had rescued and freed him to continue the mission. When we look back on our life, we may sometimes realize how close God has been to us and how God has saved us and rescued us as well. Do you have memories of any angels in your life?

As we turn to St. Paul we remember he was not one of the original twelve. He actually was a Jewish persecutor of the early Christians, thinking he was doing the right thing. However one day, he met or heard the Risen Jesus and had a major conversion, becoming a staunch follower of The Way. Along with the original Apostles, he became a missionary of the Good News of Jesus, with a special calling to evangelize the Gentiles. Paul was a great preacher and communicator, writing many letters to the Christian communities once he had moved on to other places. Those epistles are now part of the New Testament Scriptures. He too suffered much, being imprisoned, flogged, shipwrecked and was eventually martyred for his faith in Jesus. In the second reading Paul tells us the Lord stood by him and gave him strength through it all. He felt he had run a good race, finished and kept the faith as he says in today’s letter to Timothy. He was ready for the reward God had prepared for him. Where have we found strength in our difficulties? Have we kept the faith and do we feel we are running a good race in our Christian life?

Here in Lewiston we have a beautiful and historic church called the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul on Ash Sreet. May it continue to be a sacred place of worship and may these Saints watch over our city, our people and St. Mary’s Health System.
Sr. Suzanne Beaudoin, SSCh, Director of Pastoral Care

 

The Feast of Corpus Christi – June 22, 2014

June 19th, 2014

Ps:81(80):17
Deut: 8
1Cor: 10:16-17
John 6:51-58

The Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ
This beautiful feast can serve to remind us of the motherhood and fatherhood of God and the tremendous desire of the Son of God to feed us. Reflect for a moment on the many times in the gospels Jesus has fed individuals, crowds, passersby, and even those about to betray him. Eating and serving was a big part of the ministry of Jesus for example, the wedding at Cana, fish fries on the beach, calling the tax collector out of the tree for a meal. These are some on–the many gatherings where the crowds were fed.

On the evening before Jesus was to be betrayed he gathered the twelve people whom he had nurtured the most over the three years of his ministry. He blessed the bread and the wine and instituted the “forever meal”…the meal we would have the privilege of partaking in forever down through the ages. Jesus, knowing it was not fully understood nor appreciated, and with a breaking heart passed his body and blood to this band of followers hoping, I am sure, that light would eventually come out of the darkness.

St. John’s gospel today reminds us of Jesus’ words when speaking to the Jewish crowds:
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

Join me in a walk through our d’Youville corridors, dining rooms or bedrooms at mealtimes…see the loving hands of all levels of support staff feeding our elders and patients who cannot do that alone, Not only is there food for the body, bur conversation , laughter and singing for the soul! This is only one area of our great hospital where this gift of nourishment can be found on any given day…

Scatter love as you scatter seeds—-
Your store stays undiminished….For love makes Love as seeds make seeds
In a harvest never finished; Nor look to see how your gift fares…
It is enough to plant it; Just sow Love with a lavish hand and take harvest for granted.
                                                                                                                Kashi Rahman

Chaplain Elizabeth Lowe
Pastoral Care

 

Feast of the Most Holy Trinity – June 15, 2014

June 11th, 2014

Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
John 3:16-18

You’ve seen the signs at football games: Jn 3:16-18
Well this Sunday’s Gospel reading for Holy Trinity Sunday has that exact Scripture passage from the Gospel of John and here it is:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but that the world might be saved through him.
Whoever believes in him will not be condemned,
but whoever does not believe has already been condemned,
because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”(John 3:16-18)
It’s quite a text to have for Father’s Day: God sent his Son into the world so that all of God’s children could have abundant life. Some have pointed out that this feast of the Most Holy Trinity is a bit different from other feast days that we celebrate-most of them are about a specific event such as the angel announcing the Mary would give birth to a son in the Annunciation or Jesus’ birth as Christmas or even Jesus’ resurrection at Easter. Today’s feast is not an event; it’s part of church doctrine. Not only is it doctrine but it is the central mystery of Christian faith. And it’s a difficult concept to understand:

One God in three persons (so somehow 1+1+1=1)
One of the most crucial truths of this mystery is that we see it is in God’s nature to be in relationship, in community. We hear this at the beginning of Mass, we proclaim it when we make the sign of the cross and we hear it in the second reading for this Sunday: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” However in our world, most relationships are composed of pairs and as David Lose points out, “Two can play on a see-saw, the third demands a whole new game.”
He goes on to note that most of what we learn is about contrasting pairs like odd/even, hot/cold, yes/no or up/down. A while a pair defines itself over and against each other, “the Trinity is not like that. The three members of the Trinity do not — cannot –define themselves over and against each other but in, with, and through each other. In Baptism, we are invited to know who we are, not in terms of what we aren’t, but rather in terms of how much we are loved. We come to know who we are, that is, in terms of whose we are, the treasured possession of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” So next time you see the sign, you can take it as a reminder that you are loved completely. And perhaps you could even share that powerful love with the next patient or resident you serve or colleague you encounter.
Elizabeth Keene
Mission Integration

 

Pentecost – June 8, 2014

June 4th, 2014

Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11
1 Corinthians 12: 3b-7, 12-13
John 20:19-23

As Jesus came into the midst of the disciples gathered in the upper room, he knew their fear and their hesitation to venture out in public after his crucifixion. He knew all that lay ahead for them in their ministry. Jesus showed them his hands and his side. They rejoiced when they saw the Lord. “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And so he breathed upon them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” It was a promise.

Fifty days after Easter, the disciples were again gathered in the upper room, praying and waiting as Jesus had told them to do. He had said he would not leave them orphans but would send them the Holy Spirit of Truth and Love so they could indeed begin their mission. The Holy Spirit did come and filled them all. Through the Holy Spirit, the disciples received many gifts. Jesus assured them that the Spirit of God would be with them as they faced the many challenges of their mission which was to “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.” This was their commissioning. Some early Christians referred to this day as the birth of the Church. The disciples then went forward and preached the Good News.

What are the implications of Pentecost for us today in 2014? As baptized Christians, we also were commissioned to go out and spread the Good News. What does that look like for us today? It first must begin by each of us taking a long look at how we live our lives. If we are going to spread the Good News, we must embrace and live the Good News and be a humble example to others. Do we follow the Commandments? (Exodus 20: 1-17) Do we live the Beatitudes? (Luke 6: 20-26) Do we live the greatest commandment; “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke: 27-28)? Do we stand up for what is right and good? Do we rack up a list of accomplishments to get ahead or do we serve others simply, quietly? Living a life of a baptized Christian is not easy. In order to do so, we all need the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord) to assist us in our ministering to others.

In appropriate moments, especially as we interact with those who are ill, lonely, suffering or dying, can we bring the Good News of God’s love to all we encounter? The Good News that God loves them no matter what has taken place in their lives. Let us ask God to take away our fear and our hesitation in sharing the Good News with all we meet. May we be examples to all by the way we conduct our lives. We are disciples also and we have been commissioned. “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News!

Dan Doyon, Pastoral Care

Third Sunday of Easter – May 4, 2014

April 28th, 2014

Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 22-33
1 Peter 1:17-21
Luke 24:13-35

Take a walk with me on the road to Emmaus as disciples of Jesus. The sun is shining brightly and the temperatures are soaring. We are engaged in a conversation about the events that have just occurred. We are talking and debating about everything that has happened to our friend, our teacher, our rabbi, Jesus. Deep in our conversation, we are unaware that another person has joined us and is now walking with us. At one point, this man interrupts us and he asks what we are talking about? Stunned by his presence and the question, one of us asks him “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know of the things that have taken place there in these days?” And he says, “What sort of things?” And we proceed to tell him about the things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, how the chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. And how we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel. Now it’s the third day and some women in our group have just astounded us by saying that they couldn’t find his body in the tomb and some angels told them that he was alive. Then some among us went to the tomb and found things as the women had described, but him they did not see. “What do you make of that?” We ask the stranger. The man says to us, “Oh, how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke!” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interprets to us what referred to him in all the scriptures.

As we approach the village, we are still very intrigued by this man. We ask him to stay on with us. Something is drawing us to him. Something familiar is burning in our hearts. As we gather at the table for a meal, this man takes the bread and blesses it, breaks it and gives us some. With that our eyes are opened and we recognize him. Jesus. Then before we know it, He is gone from our sight.

Soon after, we return to Jerusalem and tell our friends all that has happened and how Jesus made himself known to us in the breaking of the bread.

So this week, I leave us all with a few questions to consider as we live out our faith. Are we slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken? Do we recognize Jesus in our midst of pain and suffering? Are our hearts on fire when we hear the word of God? Do we see Jesus in the breaking of the bread? Do we see Jesus in each encounter here at St. Mary’s and d’Youville? The journey continues …

Dan Doyon
Pastoral Care

Easter Sunday – April 20, 2014

April 16th, 2014

Acts 10:34a, 37-43

Colossians 3:1-4

John 20:1-9

When I was young, it was a tradition to get a new outfit for Easter-a spring dress, shiny new shoes and new ribbons for my sister’s hair (mine was always too short and too curly for ribbons.)  One of my favorite pictures of my Italian grandmother is on an Easter Sunday where she has her new dress and a new hat, standing on tiptoes with her high heel shoes so she would appear taller. We all wanted to look our best for Easter Sunday.

That’s an important aspect of Easter-the “newness” of life that comes to us because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Somehow though, we have equated newness with outward appearances of looking beautiful, impressive-even striving for perfection.  Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber challenges this perspective:

“The God of Easter, the God who brings life out of death doesn’t want to make you impressive, this God isn’t satisfied with making you good or nice. If you think that’s what resurrection looks like, if you think it looks like perfection and piety and therefore you haven’t experienced it, you might be wrong. Because God isn’t about making you spiffy.  God isn’t about making you nicer.  God is about making you new.  And new doesn’t always look perfect, with a fabulous new dress because like the Easter story itself, new can be messy.

New looks like recovering alcoholics.

New looks like reconciliation between family members who don’t actually deserve it.

New looks like every time I manage to admit I was wrong and every time I manage to not mention when I’m right.

New looks like the lumpy awkward forgiveness we manage to scrounge up despite ourselves.

New looks like every fresh start and every act of forgiveness and every moment of letting go of what we thought we couldn’t live without and then somehow living without it anyway.

New is the thing you never saw coming …never even hoped for, but ends up being what you needed all along and it happens to all of us.

Because as Jesus said…the world according to God is near to us. And God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and pulling us out of the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back to life over and over.”

We certainly participate in this “new” life for our patients, residents and families in our Catholic health care ministry at St. Mary’s through our programs, services and individual patient encounters.  But hopefully you are experiencing this newness for yourselves in the times God is loving you back to life after disappointments, frustration, misunderstandings or other challenges.

Happy Easter! Happy New Life!

Elizabeth Keene

Mission Integration

Palm Sunday – April 13, 2014

April 11th, 2014

Isaiah 50: 4-7

Philippians 2:6-11

Matthew 26: 14-27;66

Imagine… it’s a warm sunny day in Jerusalem and people have heard that Jesus is coming to town. Crowds begin to form and there is talk of Jesus being the One. The One who will save them from oppression and persecution. Excitement is building as they hear that He is approaching. There is talk of the miracles He has performed. More people gather – some faithful followers, others out of curiosity. Then they see him and shouts of praise rise in the air. These ordinary people begin to lay their garments out in the dirt street forming a “red carpet” for Jesus. People are shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Lk 19:38). In his homily on Youth Day 2013, Pope Francis said, “Jesus has awakened great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world. He understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of God’s mercy, and He has bent down to heal body and soul.” These are the very people who were welcoming Jesus. The joy expressed on this day came from hope that Jesus would be the king who would save them from oppression, misery, and tyranny.

As this scene continued to unfold, Jesus understood that he was entering this city for the last time. While many had come to know Jesus, others still misunderstood his real purpose for being here and mistrusted Him and his message. Simply, Jesus had come to assure us of His Father’s love and to bring us salvation from our sins.  He came to teach them, to teach us how to live: to love the Lord your God with your whole heart your whole soul, your whole being and to love your neighbor as yourself. So simple a message and yet it was mired by jealousy, mistrust, and hatred. The manner in which He entered Jerusalem showed us that he was not a king above the people but of the people. He was one of them. He understood them. He loved them so much that he was riding toward Calvary to sacrifice his life for the atonement of sins committed in the past, present, and future. So while there was great joy on this day, Jesus also experienced a heaviness of heart.

Let us remember His sacrifice as we wave our palms this Sunday and make sincere resolutions to lead better lives. As we listen to people’s stories of brokenness, let us bring the hope of the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus to all the people we encounter here at St. Mary’s Health System and in the world. May God bless you all as we begin Holy Week.

 

Dan Doyon

Pastoral Care

 

 

Fifth Sunday of Lent – April 6, 2014

April 11th, 2014

First Reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14
Second Reading: Romans 8:8-11
Gospel: John 11:1-45

Today’s Gospel shows Jesus not as some distant spiritual icon, but as someone we can relate to. We see him weeping at the tomb of his friend Lazarus. And that is beautiful to contemplate.
We tend to forget that Jesus was human. We tend to forget that Jesus had feelings like us. We tend to forget that he felt tired, hungry, and thirsty.

Why is it so important that we remember these facts?

Why is it so important that we notice the tears flowing down his cheeks at the tomb? It’s because this is a dimension of Jesus that we can all identify with.

Because Jesus had feelings, because he got tired, hungry, and thirsty, he knows exactly how we feel at times. And this is important if we are to identify with Jesus and relate to him. Because he had feelings, he understands what it’s like to be human. And just knowing this makes all the difference in the world.

Today’s Gospel shows us not only a Jesus who inspires us by his humanity, but also a Jesus who transfers us by his divinity. We not only see him weep at the tomb of Lazarus, but we also see him raise Lazarus to life. It shows us a Jesus who can touch our lives in a way that no other human can do. An example will help us illustrate.

Thomas Merton was a great modern spiritual leader. His life story reads like a movie script. He was orphaned at 16, became a Communist at 20, found Jesus at 23, became a Catholic at 24, and entered a Trappist Monastery at 26.

He was in his late teens backpacking his way through Europe when he began his spiritual journey. It started when he started visiting the great cathedrals. He was overwhelmed by their art.
In his spiritual autobiography, “The Seven Story Mountain”, Merton writes:

“And now for the first time in my life, I began to find out something of Who this Person was that men called Christ.
The (artists) of those forgotten days had left upon the walk of their churches (paintings), Which by the peculiar grace of God, I was able to in some measure to apprehend… But above all the most real and most immediate source of this grace was Christ, himself, teaching me who he was.”

So, because Jesus was a Son of Man, he could inspire young Merton. And because he was also the Son of God, he could do infinitely more. He could also transform him beyond his wildest dream.

Now, in regard to each of us, the Gospel’s story of Lazarus, and the life story of Thomas Merton speaks to us about Jesus in a way that we can understand and relate to. And what do they tell us?
First, they tell us that Jesus is the Son of Man. He was like us in all things but sin. He understands what it is like to be tempted and rejected, and hurt. Second, the stories tell us he is not only a Son of Man, but also the Son of God.

He can do for us what no other person on earth could ever do. He can raise us to new life and transform us, as he did Lazarus.

This is the Good News contained in today’s reading.

It is the Good News that Jesus is both Son of Man and Son of God.

It is the Good News that Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves.

It is the Good News that if we open our hearts to Jesus, he will show us life as we’ve never seen it before.

Will you open your hear to Jesus this Lent in a New Way?

Rev. Joseph Manship
Pastoral Care