FrKen2

Dear friends who frequent our website,
Have you had enough yet?

These days of covid-19 have extracted a toll on everyone..

And to underscore how deeply we’ve been affected, I traded e-mails with a 9/11 tower survivor and this person indicated a greater emotional exhaustion today.  As the events of September 11th are etched in our minds as to where we were and what we were doing when we heard about the suicide attacks, which of us can say the same for the moment when we realized the severity of this invisible attack, not only in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., but all across the nation.

We’ve been scrambling to adjust to a new way of life with our families, separation from our friends and relatives, social distancing, wearing masks and gloves whenever we go outside, worries about our jobs, concerns about being infected and possibly dying, and now newer worries about the food supply chain and the ability to buy those important items that we took for granted just a few months back.

The same person that I indicated above also mentioned that one of the little things that has helped him get this far is the song we’ve all sung many times, “Be Not Afraid”.  And when I asked why this person wasn’t afraid, the answer was that they were still a little afraid – but not nearly as afraid as they probably would be otherwise.  It wasn’t just a case of ‘not being afraid’ of what’s going on – but the reason why fear shouldn’t overwhelm us – “I go before you always”.  Those were the words and the sentiment that makes the difference.  And when Jesus promises to go before us it implies the next line which goes “Come Follow Me”.  Just like we’ve heard from the gospel that the sheep hear the voice of the shepherd and follow because they recognize their protector, and the one who guides them to fertile pasture, so too do we listen to the voice of Jesus, especially as we recently celebrated “Good Shepherd Sunday”.

We’ve heard so many times that we’re all in this together.  So if we’re all together we should take solace that there’s strength in numbers, but also strength from our faith in God.  There are some who claim that everything we’re experiencing is a punishment from God for forsaking the commandments.  Pope Francis has wondered if what we’re experiencing with this previously unknown virus is an natural occurrence for ignoring the health and well-being of our earthly (and only) home.  There are no easy or obvious answers.  There is no one with a magic wand to make it go away, nor someone to wake us from a horrible dream.  There is every indication that there will be a need to change our expectations and our life-styles during the summer and beyond.

Perhaps one of those changes that needs to evolve a little more deeply is two-fold.  First is the acknowledgment of Jesus’ promise that “I am with you always, even until the end of time” (Mt.28:20).  Although we can’t gather physically to come before Him and receive Him in Holy Communion – Jesus is still present to us in the Eucharist reserved in the tabernacle.  Jesus is still present to us when at home, our families gather together for a live or taped celebration of Mass, for you are also familiar with His promise that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst”.  Jesus is with you not only in those moments, but each time you come together in prayer.  Yes, he brings us together in prayer – He is with us when we call to Him in prayer.  Second and finally, “Where Charity And Love Prevail, There God Is Ever Found”.  This is a time of being charitable with a depth and generosity that we may not have considered previously.  This is a time of accepting the charity and assistance we might not have needed before.  Yes, in every act of Charity, Jesus is present - because God is love – and where there is love/charity, God is present in the presentation of that gift and in the acceptance of that gift.



-----
Lent 2020
One of our Lenten day by day prayer booklets was entitled, “Open Your Heart To God”.  There’s nothing mysterious about...the title and yet it struck me that this theme isn’t just for the Season of Lent, but for every day of our lives.

When we fall in love with somebody, we react by opening our heart to that person.  We want them to be a part of our inner-most being – we want to be a part of their inner-most being in return.  We want them to know everything about us, and we want to know everything about them.  And when we fall in love, we can overlook certain faults, we can make excuses for them, and we will even bear up and endure under a time they may hurt us, hoping against hope that they won’t hurt us again.

Our God has already opened his heart to us.  And even though we may turn away from God, though we may look to end this relationship, Our God continues to open that divine heart, hurt so often by us, hoping against hope that we will realize that we’ve only been hurting ourselves.

Lent is that beautiful and sometimes exasperating season when the church asks us to look at ourselves in a mirror and to honestly judge what we see.  Lent is that challenging season of making a determination that we will attempt to change what we don’t like seeing in that mirror.

When we fall in love with another person, we will do almost anything to maintain and strengthen that relationship.  A mom or dad seeing the wonder of new life, a new life they’ve created together; a pair of newly-weds discovering that there is so much more to this other person than they initially suspected in this person with whom they want to spend the rest of their life; siblings talking and laughing as they pass into adulthood discovering that their younger or older brother or sister isn’t that pesky and constantly annoying creature sitting next to them in the car.

Lent is a time when we can truly open our hearts to God.  It is a time of discovery not only of the wonder of divine love for us, but the wonder of who we are before God – adopted sons and daughters.  Let us remember how wonderful it was to fall in love; let us act on those memories opening our hearts to the Lord and God who first gave his heart to us.
---
Christmas 2019
Christmas is the one day that we all look forward to each year.  It doesn’t matter how old and mature, how hard and gristled you’ve become, there’s something about the joy of Christmas Eve and Christmas morning that’s contagious and encourages surrender to child-like wonder.  The lights, Christmas trees, the presents, our interaction with our loved ones are all signs of the SPIRITUAL JOY we embrace in celebrating the birth of the savior – Jesus Christ.

For me, one of the key aspects of the Christmas celebration are the Christmas hymns we sing in church and the personal interpretations of those songs given to us by so many singers over the years.  Silent Night is one of the best loved Christmas hymns, a song, which tradition has it, was hastily written for guitar because the church organ had broken.  The melody and the words are so simple, yet so powerful.  You can listen to arrangements from a choir, a solo trumpet, a harp and flute duet and each can pluck a different emotion from our souls.

“Silent Night!  Holy Night!  All is calm, all is bright”.  Isn’t this what we all seek in our lives?  We all long for a healing silence, a holy silence; a silence which we still can hear that God is whispering to us how precious we are and how much we are loved.   Amid all the hustle and bustle of these past weeks, you and I long for a stillness and a calmness in our hearts which surrounds us and somehow the music becomes an invisible beacon of light piercing our darkness, shattering our apathy.  And the best part is that we want to share this sacred stillness and peace with all we love.  Sometimes the most potent messages are crafted not in words alone, but what we behold from those words.  To say “I Love You” is powerful; but a gentle caress says much more.

Singing this touching hymn, we can picture in our mind’s eye a maiden, oh so barely touching womanhood, holding a sleeping infant on her shoulder.  Perhaps she has a look of shocked and wearied relief as the days of travel and the trials of childbirth have finally come to an end.  No room at the inn, she and her husband are content, even grateful, to be directed to a stable at the edge of the city and to their surprise, shepherds come.  They kneel in the babe’s presence saying that they’ve been directed by angels to come and honor the new-born king.

The wordless invitation to join in this scene ourselves can bring us to another beloved song: JOY TO THE WORLD!  THE LORD IS COME!  Yes, The Lord Is Come; let all the earth receive her king.  How can our hearts not prepare room for him?  In our sorrow, in any distress and pains we may be suffering, this Infant King comes to us as a weak baby and yet is the very healing, the comfort we’ve been waiting, praying and hoping for.  We think to hold the infant; in fact, it is the infant who embraces us and imbues an aura of solace and peace.  This is heaven embracing earth.  This is God embracing woman and man.  This is the wonder of Divine Love.  The King becomes a pauper; Almighty God becomes fragile man.  The sinless takes on the sins of the world and we sinners become the saved!

What is my favorite Christmas Hymn?  Although it’s difficult to pick one from the great classics like O Come All Ye Faithful, O Holy Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, I suggest that really listening the words of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing can melt any frozen heart.

“…Peace on earth and Mercy Mild, God and sinners reconciled…Mild he lays his glory by, born that we no more may die…”  We long for peace, reconciliation, eternal life.  This is what my prayer and my wish for you is this Christmas and always – The Peace of Christ which nothing and no one else in the world can give.  I pray and wish that anyone separated from their loved ones on earth and the love of God be reunited in joy.  I pray and wish that this year’s celebration of the birth of Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, lead you more firmly on the road to eternal life.  BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO ALL!  JOY TO THE WORLD!
---
There’s a very old joke about the boy throwing the alarm clock out the window because he wanted to see ‘time fly’. It seems like just yesterday that we were sending the kids off to their first day of school and now the leaves are turning color, falling and our hearts and thoughts are tuned to Thanksgiving and beyond.  I’ve heard dozens of people say, “I can’t believe it’s already November.  This year is flying by faster than ever”.

The passage of time is something we can’t control – to an extent ‘time’ has control over us.  We’re limited in the number of things we can do every day; we don’t have the ‘time’ to do all the things we desire.  This is not an observation just for our current age.  In the second letter of Peter we find, “But there is one thing, my friends, that you must never forget: that with the Lord, ‘a day’ can mean a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day”.  And in this letter, Peter himself is quoting Psalm 90.

I believe that these words are reminder for us not to put off to tomorrow what we truly need to do today – to become closer in our relationship with Jesus Christ.  I find that too many people say that they don’t have time for Sunday Mass, they don’t have time to pray, they don’t have time to strengthen their relationship which is unique – no one has the exact same relationship – because there are too many other things in the way.

The events that we witness in our world, the tensions we experience in our church, perhaps even the conflicts and pressures that are a part of our own family life, truly confirm that this is not the time to be standing alone – that we need a closer and more intimate relationship with God to successfully navigate all that confronts us because otherwise we are prone to apathy and despair.

The Old Testament Book of ECCLESIASTES reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun – that is that all we experience has been known by every generation before us going all the way back to the beginning of time.  The author observes that there is a time for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven.  There is a time to be born, a time for dying; a time for laughter, a time for mourning.  There is a time for speaking and a time for silence; a time even for war and a time for peace.

With this in mind, may we remember that there is always a time for prayer, time to spend with God because God is eternal.  Although ‘time’ has no meaning for God – an everlasting present – no past/no future – we are mortal beings.  We have a definite beginning and a definite end.  Too many people have begged for one final wish within that lifespan – “Please give me a little more time”.

Is time running out?  That I don’t know.  What I do know is the time is now – now is the proper time, now is the proper hour, for us to gather together in prayer and worship to pray for one another, for healing, for comfort, and yes, to pray for holiness.  The prayer of Our Mass – the prayer of Jesus Christ himself – is a prayer for unity – A Comm-union with our God and with one another.  We are “One Bread – One Body”.  There is truth to the saying that when we pray by ourselves, we pray alone.  That when we pray with others, each is praying with us and for us and in this unity, we pray more strongly for one another.  For each person, there is indeed a time for solitude.  Yet perhaps more importantly, this is the time for unity in prayer that we might together ask God’s guidance to lead us safely through these tumultuous times.


----
Summer 2019
I’m told that my last letter was around Eastertide and that seems like a very long time ago.  This is my 14th letter on the website, my latest attempt to share the message of the gospel with as many people as possible who might log on – either accidentally or purposefully.

It is summer and as I write, the forecast is for at least three days of hot, humid, weather with hazy sunshine with temperatures in the 90’s.  And unless you’re blessed with being in an air-conditioned place (and hopefully most of us are) these can be long and miserable days of feeling blah, with tempers as hot as the thermometer and sweat pouring down your forehead into your eyes with the least little movement.

If you’ve heard the expression ‘hot as hell’, it’s an apt saying - as the summer season is the appropriate time to think of our spiritual state as we try to keep our physical bodies comfortable.  We don’t like to talk about Hell.  It makes us uncomfortable - as well it should.  But Jesus speaks not only about the reality of the devil, he also speaks about the fires of Gehenna.

We remember the story in Luke’s Gospel (16:18) about the rich man and Lazarus.  After they both die, we hear that the rich man suffered the torment of Hades and asks that Lazarus dip his finger in water to cool his tongue for “I am in agony in these flames.”  We know that the rich man was NOT condemned for being rich but for not sharing his blessing with the poor.

In Mark’s Gospel (9:47-48), Jesus speaks about those things that lead us to sin.  If you hand or foot or eye should cause you to sin, it is better to get rid of them and to enter the Kingdom of Heaven maimed or crippled or blind than to be “thrown into hell where the worm does not die nor the fire go out.”  Here Jesus is using what is known as Semitic Exaggeration to remind us that even though doing harm to one’s self is evil, it is still not as bad as what hell is.

Although the famous scene of St. Matthew’s description of the Final Judgment does not mention the fires of hell, it is obvious that Jesus is speaking about eternal punishment.  The bottom line is simple, however.  Gehenna, Hell, Hades, the realm of Satan is to be avoided at all costs; the loss of the Kingdom of God for all eternity is itself Hell.

For those times that we suffer physically – from the heat and humidity, from a physical injury, from mental anguish - any of these cannot begin to compare with the spiritual suffering we will experience if we do not live by Jesus’ words.  “This is my commandment – Love one another as I have loved you”.  We literally cannot imagine the extreme horrors of what Hell is like just as St. Paul remarks in his First Letter to the Corinthians that the wonders of heaven are beyond us as well.  “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard nor has it entered the mind of man of the things God has prepared for those who love Him’”.

Let us pay attention to our physical discomforts in life so that we may one day know the truth of Paul’s words in death!

---
Easter 2019
EASTER!!! The most dramatic event in Human History – the most unwitnessed event in Human History.  
Think about it – no one actually saw Jesus rise from the grave.  So many Easter Cards portray Jesus, glorious, holding a staff with a flag of victory waving in a gentle breeze.  While the Resurrection of the Son of God may have occurred in this fashion, that actual moment is beyond human recognition.  That moment when Christ rose gloriously from the sleep of death is a DIVINE MOMENT beyond human definition.  EASTER IS A GOD MOMENT when we are promised a similar divine moment – for all eternity.

All the encounters of Jesus with his disciples were AFTER the experience of the empty tomb.  Actually, this should not at all surprise or shock us.  Most of us have a very dramatic and Hollywood image of Jesus rising from the dead.  Yet, as with his birth, when the great majority of the population of Bethlehem was asleep and had no idea that the Son of God was born in a stable, here too, despite numerous times when Jesus said that the Son of Man must suffer and die and on the third day rise again, his disciples did not camp out opposite the cave in joyful expectation.  Rather, they locked themselves away in the upper room, fearing for their own safety.

If we go to the end of the 27th Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, after Jesus is entombed on Good Friday, the Chief Priests and Pharisees ask Pilate to place a guard at the tomb to ensure that the disciples of Jesus do not steal the body with the claim that he had just risen as he preached (Mt27:62-66).  Matthew records for us that as the women approached the tomb an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled away the boulder and sat on it, scaring the guards so badly they were like dead men.

If we go to the 16th chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel, the women encounter an angel who tells them that though they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, he is risen, he is not here, and to go to his disciples and Peter to tell them he will meet them in Galilee.  And yet perhaps one of the most beautiful lines in the resurrection narratives (at least for me) is found in the Gospel of Luke 24:5. WHY LOOK FOR THE LIVING AMONG THE DEAD?  HE IS NOT HERE; HE IS RISEN.

It is a simple statement by an angel to the women who had come to anoint His body, yet dramatic and forceful.  None of our notions of that Easter Morning can compare to the reality of the Power of God – the Power of God’s Love.  No matter what we may imagine about Jesus rising from the tomb – our imaginations fail; we can’t quite grasp the enormity of what happened to Jesus – what will happen to us!  In his 1st letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul writes that ‘eye has not seen, ear not heard, nor the mind conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.’  The Love of Jesus for His Father was Perfect – It is that same LOVE FOR US that will bring us to Perfection as well.
Fr. Ken

---
Past Website letters from Fr. Ken