Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. This celebration is attached to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2nd. This Feast is also known as Candlemas Day – the day on which candles are blessed symbolizing Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Jesus Christ to all peoples. The celebration of World Day for Consecrated Life is transferred to the following Sunday, which is today – in order to highlight the gift of consecrated persons for the whole Church.

In our Diocese of Metuchen, there are many religious houses where the members have made a gift of themselves to God in consecration, making their light shine through their vowed commitment to making Jesus Christ the center of their lives. In our own parish, we are blessed to have the presence of two such consecrated persons – Sr. Marie Therese Sherwood, OSF and Sr. Maria Derecola, OSF. They belong to the “School Sisters of St. Francis”, an international religious order that originally came to the United States in 1913 to serve as teachers to immigrant children. Of course, the original mission of their community – and Catholic Sisters in general – has evolved over the years in order to meet the differing needs of the times. The Sisters of the United States Province serve in three states (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Texas) and two countries (USA and Italy) with a single common denominator — outreach to God’s people wherever they are and for whatever their needs may be. We are grateful to Sr. Marie Therese and Sr. Maria for their presence and ministry in our community of St. Matthias.

Today’s Gospel passage has Jesus asking us to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. The religious men and women do that in a very visible way by consecrating themselves with religious vows. But that is not the vocation of the vast number of people. So how can an ordinary Catholic, who is not in the lime light of public sphere, become the light of the world?

A woman in Bible study related that when she recently went into her basement, she made an interesting discovery. Some potatoes had sprouted in the darkest corner of the room. At first she couldn’t figure out how they had received enough light to grow. Then she noticed that she had hung a copper kettle from a rafter near a cellar window. She kept it so brightly polished that it reflected the rays of the sun onto the potatoes. She exclaimed, “When I saw that reflection, I thought, I may not be a preacher or a teacher with the ability to expound upon Scripture, but at least I can be a copper kettle Christian, catching the rays of the Son and reflecting his light to someone in a dark corner.”

This woman’s experience is an inspiration for all of us that we too can become the light of the world by radiating the light of Jesus Christ.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

The National Catholic Schools week begins today, with the theme: Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.  Our Bishop Checchio has written a beautiful letter explaining this theme very well.  You can read a portion of his letter in this bulletin. The complete letter is on our parish website.

This theme should remind us of the motto of our own St. Matthias School: Faith, Caring Excellence. Is it just a coincidence? No. Catholic schools were begun with the specific purpose to form students to become good Catholics by instilling in them the values that would make them good citizens of the world, so that they would enrich the society with the leaven of the gospel and the example of faith. That is why the Catholic school, like the Catholic Church, is not a building or an institution, but it is the people. As the people of God, we, here at St. Matthias, work together to bring the Kingdom of God to Earth and raise up the next generation to do the same. Hence our teachers and students forming the foundation of the school are active people of faith who serve others and God, under the able leadership of Mary Lynch, the School Principal. We, parents, elders, benefactors, and well-wishers have a stake in this mission of Catholic education. Thank you for all the support you give to St. Matthias School to help us fulfil this mission. Our 10 am Mass this Sunday is a celebration of our Catholic School. It will be followed by an open house – open to all.

Each year the Diocese of Metuchen honors youth leaders from various parishes. The St. Timothy Award is given annually to High School Youth who live as disciples of Christ, setting a positive example for other youth, witness to their faith by exhibiting Catholic morals and integrity, demonstrate Gospel values through service to others and exhibit Christian leadership in parish, school, and/or community settings. We are very happy that two of our St. Matthias parish youth were chosen for this award: Melody Adamski and Emily Chavez. Hearty congratulations to these young ladies for meriting this great honor through their leadership, faith and service. As we are proud of their achievement, I wish to thank Sue Lenczewski, our Youth Ministry Coordinator, and Deacon John Radvanski who have been guiding our Youth/NeXt Level ministry.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus begins each of the Beatitudes with “Blessed are you …” These are guides for us to live joyfully. Each beatitude Jesus has uttered is so counter-cultural that we won’t believe it unless we experience it. It is then that we can and will know the “blessedness” that Jesus promises in the here and now. May we all resist Satan’s beatitudes (read on page 4 in this bulletin!) and imbibe the BE-ATTITUDES of Jesus and make each day a happy one for us and for others.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

What’s the difference between a “Catholic Bible” and a “Protestant Bible”? This is a question that I have been asked many times, and probably you have too. The Catholic edition of the Bible has 73 books while the Protestant edition has only 66 books. The New Testament books are 27 in Catholic and Protestant Bibles. But Protestant Bibles have only 39 books in the Old Testament, while Catholic Bibles have 46. The seven books included in Catholic Bibles are Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch. Catholic Bibles also include sections in the Books of Esther and Daniel that are not found in Protestant Bibles. These books are called the deuterocanonical books. The Catholic Church believes these books are part of the canon of Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit. These books are printed as part of the Old Testament in a Catholic Bible. In some other Bibles, these books (and sometimes additional, non-Scriptural books) are printed between the Old and New Testaments.

Today, the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, is instituted by Pope Francis as the “Sunday of the Word of God.” This is to remind us all of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the Word of God and the liturgy. Why is reading and praying the Bible so very important in our personal and family life? The words of Sacred Scripture are unlike any other texts we will ever hear, for they not only give us information, but they are the vehicle God uses to reveal himself to us, the means by which we come to know the depth of God’s love for us, and the responsibilities entailed by being Christ’s followers, members of his Body. Surveys have shown that few Catholics read the Bible on their own or as a family. At the same time, we are amazed at other Christians who are able to quote Bible verses. As St. Jerome once noted, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Why is proclaiming the Scriptures an essential part of the liturgy? The General Instruction of the Roman Missal says: “When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel” (GIRM, no. 29). Hence, Scripture readings are an essential part of every liturgical celebration – whether it be a sacrament or a prayer service. Readings from Scripture are part of every Mass. At least two readings (3 on Sundays and solemnities), one always from the Gospels, make up the Liturgy of the Word. In addition, a psalm or canticle is sung.

These readings are typically read from a Lectionary. For convenience, the readings and psalms for each day of the year are put together in the Lectionary. The readings are divided by the day or the theme (baptism, marriage, vocations, etc.) rather than according to the books of the Bible. Not all of the Bible is included in the Lectionary.

Someone created this meaning for the word BIBLE: Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. But in fact, Bible is the nourishment for every day of our lives here on earth. What extra effort can we make to be more familiar with God’s Word?

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

The Alzheimer’s Association & St. Matthias Catholic Church Monthly Support Group

The Alzheimer’s Association and Saint Matthias Catholic Church are co-hosting a monthly Support Group for people living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and their care partners. Our next meeting will be Wednesday, February 8th, from 2 pm-3 pm on Zoom. Registration is required. To register, call 800-272-3900 and mention the St. Matthias group.

The Group provides a safe and supportive environment and offers dementia-related education, emotional support, and connections with resources so that the group members may enhance their lives in the midst of the journey. For more information, visit alz.org/NJ

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

A Rich Treasure of Celebrations

January 16 to 25 is filled with a plethora of special observances for our church and society. On January 16 we observe a National holiday for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr .the great Baptist minister and civil rights leader who inspired many people and laid the foundation for the 1964 Civil Rights legislation that would begin a healing and reconciliation process in America. Born on January 15 1929 in Atlanta Dr. King proved to be a powerful, inspirational leader who sought to end racial discrimination through nonviolent peaceful means. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for peace in 1964. He was assassinated on April 4th 1968 in Memphis TN. People are asked to reflect on the principles of racial equality and nonviolent social change espoused by Dr. King. We follow the American custom of celebrating the holiday on a Monday, the third Monday, rather than the actual day of his birth.

From January 18 to 25 we will celebrate the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This year’s theme is taken from the first chapter of Isaiah, Do Good: Seek Justice. Is 1:17. During this week we are asked to pray that our world may move towards the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper, “that all may be one” Jn. 17:21. The week concludes significantly enough on the feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul. If the grace of God was powerful enough to bring about his conversion then it can surely bring about a more unified church and help thereby to promote the Good News of Christ to a waiting world. Consider attending mass an extra day this week to pray for Christian unity.

And finally on January 20 we will celebrate the 50th Annual March for Life in Washington DC. This year’s celebration will also mark the momentous overturn of Roe V Wade. Abortion is the greatest human rights abuse of our time but thanks to the perseverance of the Pro Life Movement, through education and advocacy change is slowly taking hold. The struggle continues now that the decision about Pro Life policies is handed back to our elected representatives in Washington and in States Capitols .This year’s March for Life will go from the Mall to the Steps of the United States Capitol building and not to the steps of the Supreme Court, as in other years. There will be many speakers at the rally on the Mall preceding the March. I will be marching as usual and encourage others to do the same. Watch our bulletin for information about buses.

And on January 23 our nation will observe a Day of Prayer for Legal protection for the Unborn. Consider attending Mass at 8am that morning or join us for a Eucharistic Holy Hour for Life immediately following Mass.

A rich plethora of feasts and celebrations indeed, all for justice and the protection of human rights. Let us “Do Good and Seek Justice” (Is 1:17)

 

Msgr. Brennan

The Epiphany of the Lord

 

Dear Friends,

Happy Feast of Epiphany! That word, in its Greek origin, refers to God’s revelation to humans. Today we focus on the wise men or magi who later legends have named as Melchior, Casper and Balthazar. They may have been of noble birth, educated, wealthy, and influential. Whether we agree or not with the non-biblical descriptions about them, one thing is certain: they had apparently studied the Hebrew Scriptures, in particular, the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. They knew the words of Balaam: “A Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). They certainly were acquainted with the prophecy of Micah: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel” (Micah 5:2; see also Matthew 2:5, 6). They probably also knew and understood the time prophecy of Daniel regarding the appearance of the Messiah (see Daniel 9:25, 26). Their study of the Scriptures led them to the Messiah and they adored him.

Reading and praying the Scriptures is the surest way to know the Messiah. “The more we seek him, the more we find him…” a famous worship song declares. The wise men must be admired for their willingness to spend their time, inconveniencing themselves a lot, in order to find Jesus and worship him. Decision to read the Bible daily is an excellent New Year resolution that can still be made on this second Sunday of 2023.

May be today is the right time to ask: Did we begin the New Year in the right spirit? St. Paul gives an excellent piece of advice he practiced himself: “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13). The spirit he advocates is to be forward-looking at the possibilities that we have in the call of God in Christ Jesus.
“Forgetting what lies behind” is an invitation to not dwell on the past failures, hurts and wrong choices but to learn from them in the light that Jesus brings into our lives. No doubt our desire is to be better persons, to live better lives, to make more healthy choices and to live with all in harmony and peace. “Straining forward to what lies ahead” is the promise of the fulfillment of our longings in Jesus. As we celebrate Epiphany today, let us remember that the wise men reached their goal because they strained forward to what lay ahead. Their guide was the star that led them from the beginning of their quest. We too need to keep our eyes on the star and should take care that we don’t lose focus.

It is said that New Year’s Day is “the first blank page of a 365 page book.” Obviously, we all desire to write good things in that book. As we enter the second week, can we be happy and proud of what we already wrote in the first seven pages of this book?

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal