20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

I’m almost over the jet lag after a 15-hour non-stop flight from New Delhi to Newark – not counting the nearly 3 hours of flight from my home town to New Delhi. I’m thankful to God for this first home visit I was able to make since the start of the pandemic. Though a short visit of about three weeks, it was a hectic time with visits, trips, celebrations, etc. The weather was good with slightly lower temperatures at about 90° due to the frequent monsoon rains (90 is pretty mild compared to the summer’s 100-110 degrees!!).

But the joy of being with my aging mother, as well as enjoying the company of all my siblings and their children, was worth going through any sacrifice. I had a memorial Mass at my home for my dad whose funeral and the first anniversary, as you know, I was unable to attend. Then there was the extended family get-together: Thirty-three of my cousins and their families came together for an evening of fellowship, prayer and food at my brother’s house – a monthly practice our family has kept up. I also had to preside at celebrations of First Holy Communion and baptism as well as a wedding in the family – not counting a couple of funerals (not of my family but of the parish acquaintances) that I had to attend.
All these may sound like I was not having a real vacation in the way we understand. But being with family and extended family whom I had not seen for a long time was vacation. It makes me conscious of the bonding not only with the extended families but also with the entire parish and village community where I grew up. This communitarian dimension of life is something many of our parishioners can relate to from their own various cultural roots.

I am lucky that I could be away without worrying about St. Matthias – thanks to Msgr. Seamus Brennan who oversaw the parish with the help of our wonderful parish staff. But he deserves extra gratitude for taking care of all the sacramental needs himself. As announced last Sunday, Msgr. Brennan is now in Ireland, with his family, for a well-deserved vacation and to celebrate his 50th anniversary of the Ordination to priesthood – in the very shrine church he was ordained 50 years ago.

Tomorrow (August 15) is the feast of the Assumption of Mary, which is usually a Holy Day of Obligation, but it is not this year since it is falling on a Monday. You can read more about the Holy Days of Obligation in this bulletin on page 6. But I would encourage and invite us to attend the 8 am Mass on the feast of the Assumption – if you can. Otherwise, at the end of the day, as some do, watch it online from our St. Matthias YouTube channel.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Today’s Gospel is a continuation of the theme from last week.
Jesus told the story of the man who needed to build bigger buildings to hold all of his earthly possessions. Jesus said how he was a fool because that night his life would be demanded of him.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells his disciples to sell their belongings and give alms. He tells them that “wherever your treasure is, there is also your heart.” In heaven there is “an inexhaustible treasure that no thief can reach”.

Jesus is again giving the message that all our earthly possessions are fleeting. Whatever we have amassed here on earth will be left behind. As many of you know, I’ve worked in the death care industry for many years. It’s been said many times that no one has ever seen a U-Haul trailer behind the hearse.

Our true treasures are as Jesus said, in our hearts.

Jesus also tells the story of the servants who await their master’s return from a wedding. Blessed are the servants who remain vigilant on his return. Then Jesus says these very important words: “You also must be prepared. For at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

This portion of the Gospel is read at the vigil prayer service for the deceased. It’s placement in the vigil isn’t random. It’s to remind all of us that none of us knows the hour that we will be called home to the father. Peter asks Jesus if this parable was for them or everyone. Jesus gives a lengthy explanation which basically boils down to it being for everyone.

What Jesus is saying to us is that we are all to live our lives prepared, because we don’t know the hour we will be called home.

So we need to keep a close relationship with the Lord. We can do that through Prayers, through reaching out to help those in need, and through frequent reception of the Eucharist.

We don’t want to be the person who amassed so many worldly possessions but forgot that true treasure is where your heart is.

So let’s remember to live our lives prepared for that time when we will be called home.

Peace of Christ,
Deacon Russ

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

World Youth Day – Lisbon, Portugal –
July 28th – August 7th, 2023

“Thus will it be for all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”

I seem to toggle between two approaches to Life – a spirit or an attitude of scarcity and abundance. Scarcity can come from a perspective that we will never have enough money, stuff, or time to do what we want and enjoy. We’re convinced that we’ll never have enough. We will never be content unless we have more of the right thing!

Or we can approach life with a spirit of abundance. We’ll never want for anything if we truly believe. “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”  Then any moment can be viewed as a blessing, and every possession and comfort becomes a gift.

I find it’s ironic that the more I realize I have, the less I seem to need. But the more I think I need, the less I seem to have.

To put this into perspective, I invite you to reflect upon these words taken from “The Paradox of Our Age” (His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama)
We have bigger houses but smaller families
More conveniences, but less time
We have more degrees, but less sense
More knowledge, but less judgment
More experts, but more problems
More medicines, but less healthiness.
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back
But have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We built more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever
But have less communication.
We have become long on quantity,
But short on quality.
These are the times of fast foods, but slow digestion.
Tall man but short character.
Steep profits but shallow relationships
It’s a time when there is much in the window, but nothing in the room.

So what’s in the room of your mind and heart? The Gospel teaches us that we can have the life that we want, by being present to the life you have been given through your Baptism, and continuously nourished through the Eucharist!  When you receive Jesus’ Body and Blood, I encourage you to receive it like it was your First Communion!  Receive it knowing Jesus invites us to experience the abundance of his grace. There’s no limit to what we have been given, or how many times we’re forgiven.

The Gospel calls us to have enough awareness to live simply so others who are less fortunate can simply live, to step up –  like our patron St. Matthias – to make a difference in someone’s life who is struggling to obtain enough of whatever is their deepest hunger or need.

If you’re looking for an exciting opportunity to either take many steps on an actual  pilgrimage, or to share some of your treasure for a worthwhile trip by financially supporting someone’s desire to take a pilgrimage, please consider the World Youth Day which will be next year in  Lisbon, Portugal – July 28th -August 7th, 2023.  Our Bishop will lead us on this pilgrimage to Lisbon, Portugal, and desires your presence on this journey! To learn more  about the trip, please visit the Diocesan Web page: https://diometuchen.org/wyd  Or you can contact Sue Lenczewski or myself by emailing smyle@stmatthias.net

This trip is for teens 10th grade or older and young adults. Parents are welcome to attend. The price is $4,289 pp. double occupancy, including airfare, hotel, transportation in Europe, WYD fees, most meals, taxes, and guides. The hotel is the Lisbon Marriot.  All attending are encouraged to additionally purchase international health and travel insurance.
I’m looking forward to sharing the treasures of abundant life with you and encountering the expansive and diverse Catholic community – both here in Somerset and hopefully in Portugal!

 

Deacon John

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

LORD, TEACH US TO FORGIVE

Today, in Saint Luke’s gospel we read one of the most well-known readings to Christians around the world: Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray to the Father.  This version of the “Our Father” in comparison to the one written by Saint Matthew is much shorter and a bit different.  The Lord’s Prayer is the prayer of the Church.  It relates to us as the daughters and sons of God created in His image and likeness, and likewise it instructs us as to how we are to lead our lives.  Jesus taught His disciples by example, and they knew that Jesus was a very prayerful man, as this was not the first time they observed Him in prayer.  Witnessing Jesus in prayer, His disciples asked Him to show them how to pray.

As we know, the “Our Father” is more than just a supplication to God.  It is a life lesson, a universal instruction on forgiveness.  Once we have sinned, forgiveness is the remedy that puts us back on the road to God’s grace.   Sin is very hurtful and breaks our relationship with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Forgiveness is always two-fold, and as Christians, in order to be forgiven, we must forgive others.  As Saint John writes (20:23), “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”.  The outcome of forgiveness is peace; living a life in harmony with God, self and others.  Forgiveness has a way of changing one’s entire manner of being.  It lifts you up to a true sense of restoration, a renew-ness in God’s love.  In the end, it puts a smile on your face, knowing that love has triumphed over vengeance and antipathy.

Consequently, we look to Jesus the Teacher instructing us on the original meaning of forgiveness when at His crucifixion as He hangs dying on the cross, He says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).  There is no greater example of love for us than this.

Joseph C Gidaro
Vice Principal

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear  Friends,

An unknown writer has said: “Summer is when Hair gets lighter. Skin gets darker. Water gets warmer. Drinks get colder. Music gets louder. Nights get longer. Life gets better.” Is your summer any or all of these and more? No matter what the answer, summer is a time of relaxation to be refreshed and rejuvenated in mind, body and spirit. If human nature is a yardstick, I think, many people will focus on the body; less will focus on the mind; and even less will focus on the spirit. The real challenge is to have a balance in all three areas of our life.

Last weekend I had a weekend getaway for officiating a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic. This coming weekend, God willing, I will be in Kerala, India, with my mother and family. As you know, I could not go home for my father’s funeral nor for his first death anniversary. So, this is a bit overwhelming emotionally while the joy of seeing my mother and the rest of my siblings and the extended family is something I am looking forward to. I am happy that Msgr. Seamus Brennan will be in charge of the parish in my absence and am truly grateful to him for all his services and ministry to us all.

During my last weekend trip, I was able to read two short but excellent books as well as plan for the bulletin materials for the coming few Sundays. The first was an Apostolic Letter that Pope Francis published a few weeks ago “On the Liturgical Formation of the People of God.” In this Letter, the Pope said he wanted “to invite the whole Church to rediscover, to safeguard, and to live the truth and power of the Christian celebration. … I want the beauty of the Christian celebration and its necessary consequences for the life of the Church not to be spoiled by a superficial and foreshortened understanding of its value or, worse yet, by its being exploited in service of some ideological vision, no matter what the hue. …. Let us abandon our polemics to listen together to what the Spirit is saying to the Church. Let us safeguard our communion. Let us continue to be astonished at the beauty of the Liturgy.”

The Pope asked a question a couple of times in this document: “how can we grow in our capacity to live in full the liturgical action? How do we continue to let ourselves be amazed at what happens in the celebration under our very eyes?” To me, these are very serious words that should make us rethink the impact our liturgical celebration can have for us, and in a special way, for our young people. This is a matter that we all are concerned about: how do we make sure that our younger generation will joyfully receive and proudly practice our faith? We need to continue to have more discussions on this with all segments of our parish community.

The second is “Holy Moments” – Matthew Kelly’s latest book. He looks at the human question, ‘Why do you crave more?’ And his answer is: ‘Because God made you for more.’ The author inspires us to make a difference in our life and in the life of those around us. I started reading this simple book at the airport and completed it in the flight. More about it later.

Have a good and relaxing summer. Be enriched in mind, body and soul!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

12 or 72 disciples? We reflected on this question last Sunday based on the Lukan gospel about Jesus sending out 72. It is such an important point for our understanding of our own role as disciples that I wish to emphasize it further. Luke, the only gospel writer who mentions this, has a universalist outlook. He wants us to know that the mission of Jesus is not restricted just to the 12 Apostles, but also to a much larger group. The 72 thus represents us all who are baptized Christians whose duty it is to pass on our Faith, as Pope Francis wrote in his first Encyclical ‘The Light of faith’ (Lumen Fidei): “… from one person to another, just as one candle is lighted from another. … It is through an unbroken chain of witnesses that we come to see the face of Jesus.”

We are part of that beautiful chain of witnesses, binding us all the way back to Christ and the first 72 he sent out. Whether others become part of that chain depends on whether we do our part like those ahead of us have. It is wonderful to see some of our parishioners doing precisely that. When I talk to some of our parishioners, they tell me they came because someone invited them to worship at St. Matthias. That’s a beautiful example for the rest of us. If more of us were to do that…. well, you know the result!

But there are difficulties, too. Some parishioners have shared with me their struggle to answer some of the questions people put to them about our faith, our church, our doctrine or about the Bible in general. We feel less confident to share or speak about faith matters. That’s one reason I have been giving an open invitation to all to attend as many sessions as you can – whether it be the RCIA, GIFT or FAITH SHARING. Many parents have expressed – to us priests, deacons and the catechists – their lack of understanding of our faith as they truly want to educate themselves about what we believe. Attending these sessions will enable them not only to teach their children but also to engage other adult acquaintances and friends on religious topics.

Here’s another suggestion for all of us: this summer offers us a wonderful opportunity to enrich ourselves with some knowledge of our faith. When media gurus speak about summer reading lists, why not make our own list of faith-related summer reading list? How many of us have read the writings of or about Pope Francis? Last Sunday I mentioned, “The Joy of Love” which made people more aware of the joy of living the Christian? Or his writing on The Care of Creation (Laudato Si)? This one caught the world’s attention like a wild fire as soon as it was published. In fact, my plan to go solar for our parish buildings was approved due to the openness created by Laudato Si towards better stewardship of our natural resources.

My point is this: we all need enrichment about matters related to our faith. The more effort we will make, the better we will be able to speak boldly about why we believe what we believe. Hence I invite you to do something constructive this summer for our inner life, the life of our soul.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

Last Sunday’s 60th Anniversary Mass, presided by our Bishop Checchio, was a memorable event for everyone present in person or online. What was particularly touching was the presence of some of the original members of our parish who were there in 1962 to build up this parish that was led by our first pastor Fr. William McKenna. ( See some of the pioneers on the cover page.) As we honored them with a luncheon in our cafeteria after the Mass, it was exciting to listen to some of their stories and anecdotes about the challenges of those early years. Jeff Hentz, the Co-chair of the Anniversary Committee, interviewed some of these pioneers. These will be made available soon for us to view.

Speaking of the Anniversary Committee, I have only words of appreciation for the many events and ideas they have been meticulously planning and
implementing. Anne Marie Francis (Co-chair), Jeff Hentz (Co-chair), Dee Christmas, Pat Cullen, Joanne Diana, Gondee Tibay, Mary Frances, Emily Chavez, Sue Lenczewski and Msgr. Seamus Brennan deserve special gratitude from all of us for organizing these events – some of which will be happening
in the coming months.

Happy July 4th weekend to all! On this anniversary of the declaration of independence from Great Britain in 1776, we celebrate the freedom we cherish. It was interesting for me to read that the first description of how Independence Day would be celebrated was in a letter from John Adams to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. He described “pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations” throughout the United States. As we celebrate the positive aspects of our nation on this patriotic holiday, let this also be a time for us to express and give thanks for the freedom and liberties won for us by the first generation Americans.

Happy July 3rd to the Christians of India, who celebrate the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. This year his feast falls on a Sunday and therefore the Lord’s Day takes precedence. But our neighboring Parish of St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Church on Elizabeth Avenue in Somerset, celebrate today as their parish feast with a 9-day Mass and Novena. I was the celebrant for one of the Novenas/ Masses. St. Thomas, better known by his nickname “doubting Thomas,” evangelized southern India.

Some parishioners here and elsewhere have asked me if I was converted or my parents were converted to Christianity. The truth is that I am proud to belong to the “St. Thomas Christian Community” that traces its origin to St. Thomas himself. How could Thomas, one of the 12 Apostles, have reached India? Merchants from the Middle East used to go to India to buy spices and so Thomas reached India in one of their ships in the year 52 AD. He converted several Hindu families and established seven churches. He was martyred near Chennai and his tomb is in the Cathedral of San Thom. In fact it is interesting
for us to know that there are only three Cathedrals in the world, built over the tomb of an apostle: St. Peter’s in Rome, St. James in Santiago de Compostela (Spain) and St. Thomas in Chennai (India).

As we rightly celebrate our political freedom this July 4th weekend, let us not forget that the good news of freedom in Jesus Christ that St. Thomas proclaimed will always be ours.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

A warm welcome to our Bishop Checchio who is presiding at our 60th Anniversary Mass today!

Celebrating 60 years of the founding of our parish is a time for us to stop and thank God, and all those who went before us, those who made this beloved parish what it is today. I was  struck by the initial struggles our founding pastor Fr. McKenna and the original parishioners had to go through, as I was reading the history of our beginnings, like this passage:

“As with many new parishes, this parish began without money, land or a home for its pastor. The late Rev. John J. Reilly, pastor of St. Augustine’s in Franklin Park, a classmate of Father McKenna’s offered the hospitality of his rectory and the use of his offices. During November 1962, Father McKenna purchased an addressograph and other office equipment. Ben and Elly Beckage graciously offered their home and an office was established. Envelopes were printed by Lovell Claypool and the church bulletin was prepared by Elly. On Monday nights volunteer women came in to prepare the mail. Father McKenna lived at St. Augustine’s for a year until a home on Easton Avenue was purchased as a rectory for the parish.”

This is only a glimpse of what they had to cope with in the beginning years. It is important for us to know more about their struggles and challenges that they bore happily and patiently for the community of St. Matthias. It is good to hear of their efforts in getting the two pieces of land that make up our present campus. The first piece of 12 acres was donated generously by Mr. Nathan Koslow of the Amwell Estates, and the second piece of 10.8 acres was bought from Mr. & Mrs. Albert Helmstetter. We are so very grateful for these and the many other challenges and sacrifices the pioneers made to make this into a well established Catholic stronghold with a strong sense of Catholic identity through its witness to Jesus Christ, with numerous ministries and a thriving school. Kindly read more about our early history in this bulletin. So let us celebrate with a sense of joy and gratitude and look forward with hope for greater things for us. As you already are aware, our church building needs some renovation that is long overdue. Hence as announced earlier, I, together with our Pastoral and Finance Councils, would like to hear from you what you think our building/renovation priorities are. Please respond to the survey at www.stmatthias.net/ParishSurvey

Yes, taking care of our church building is very important. But what is even more important is the church community. Even though we have 3000+ families on record, we know many of them do not attend church for various reasons. Many of them are plainly hurt by the church and so left the church; many feel that they are simply ignored by the church. Can we reach out to all of these brothers and sisters? They are part of this community. You can make them know that we miss them and they matter to us.

I wish to start a renewed effort of evangelization – a mission that the Lord Jesus has given to all of us. The word ‘Evangelization’ can be scary for many of us. Don’t be. Evangelization begins with a simple invitation that you and I can give to an individual or family to come to our church. I wish to prepare us all for this mission with follow-up steps soon. In the meanwhile, let us rejoice and thank God for the blessings of 60 years to our wonderful community of St. Matthias.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

The Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ

 

Dear Friends,

Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, single fathers and other father figures in our life. We will have a special blessing for all these good men at every Mass.

There are also some other celebrations worthy of our attention. The Bishops of our nation are calling for a three-year grassroots revival of devotion and belief in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. In our Diocese, the launch of the Eucharistic Revival begins today, June 19 at the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, with a noon Mass celebrated by Bishop Checchio and a Eucharistic Procession to follow. In our parish, I am not aware of any Eucharistic procession in recent memory. This Sunday’s feast of Corpus Christi is a beautiful opportunity for us to have a Eucharistic procession. Hence, weather permitting, we will have a short Eucharistic procession on Saturday within our campus – just around the church and school – at the end of the 5 pm Mass and conclude with Benediction. I invite us all to join and receive the Lord’s blessings.

This Sunday is “Juneteenth.” What is it? Even though the Emancipation Proclamation granting freedom to all enslaved persons took effect on January 1, 1863, the last quarter of a million enslaved people were finally set free by Union troops in Galveston Bay, Texas on June 19, 1865. This triumphant day is known as “Juneteenth.” Although it has long been celebrated in the African-American community, this event remains largely unknown to most Americans. The historical legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of never giving up hope in uncertain times. Just as we praise and thank God for the emancipation of the enslaved Israelites during the Exodus, we raise our hands in prayers of gratitude for the freedom of our formerly enslaved Black Brothers and Sisters! Remember what we sang on the Easter Vigil: “Sing a song of freedom! God has won the victory!” This is applicable to Juneteenth and any other instance of injustice that calls for liberation.

Next Sunday we celebrate our 60th Anniversary Mass presided by our Bishop. We have invited all the priests, deacons, religious and lay men and women who have served our parish and school. The Parish Pastoral & Finance Councils, and other parishioners have suggested that we use this Anniversary to do some renovation of our church that is long overdue. Some of the suggested ideas are: Refurbishing the pews, renewing the floor, Add more bathrooms, Narthex (a big enclosed gathering area from the breezeway up to the statue of Mary) Renew/clean the Church walls, Replace church windows with stained glass. But how do we raise funds? It was suggested that we ask each family to contribute, keeping in mind the 60th Anniversary, a minimum of $60 or multiples of 60 (120, 180, 240, etc) as each family is able to sacrifice.

What among these church renovation ideas should we prioritize? Or, are there other needs that you, our parish family, have in your mind? Our Councils agreed that we ask the whole parish for your input. Hence, we will have a short and easy google survey. I invite all of us to respond to that so that your voices will be heard, and appropriate decisions can be made.

God bless us all to have a happy and meaningful 60th Anniversary Mass and continue other celebrations throughout the remaining part of this year.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

The Most Holy Trinity

 

Dear Friends,

This is the season of graduations. Thousands and thousands of students all over the nation are having their graduation celebrations this month. But many of them will not have the unique way of celebrating graduation as our 8th graders had here at St. Matthias School: celebrating it with the Holy Mass, followed by the graduation ceremony. The involvement and participation of the graduates in reading, singing, and leading the prayer of petitions brought joy and pride to their families, the faculty and administration of the school. The Pre-K and Kindergarten graduation ceremonies also had the unique Catholic touch – though without Mass.

This way of celebrating the graduation gives a distinct identity and message to our children and parents. The catholic identity makes us realize that we continue to further the mission of Jesus Christ through Catholic education. St. Matthias School motto, “Faith, Caring and Excellence,” puts our Catholic faith first without diminishing the importance given to caring for the person and striving for excellence in all fields of school education. Many students received awards for academics and for various other achievements. St. John Paul II rightly said: “The mission of the Catholic school is the integral formation of students…”

A couple of years ago, I was happy to read a report from the Wall Street Journal newspaper that found Catholic school students have more self-discipline than their counterparts. Here at St. Matthias, Mrs. Mary Lynch, our Principal, together with Mr. Joe Gidaro, our Vice-Principal and all the teachers, nurtured our students’ Catholic identity through daily prayer, Mass attendance, reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, celebrating other Catholic devotions like Rosary, May Crowning, Stations of the Cross, etc.

Such a faith-based formation is vital to the future of us Catholics as we know that these young students will continue our Catholic faith and heritage. In my homily during the Mass, I told them “Remember, St Matthias will always be your home. You are always welcome here at St. Matthias. I hope you will continue to attend the Sunday Mass here, I hope you will continue to be altar servers. And I will be very happy if all of you can participate as readers/lectors and be ushers/ministers of hospitality, or join the choir.”

Maintaining our St. Matthias School would not have been possible without the cooperation of parents, well-wishers of our parish community and other interested persons. So many of you – even though you have no children of your own in the school – have been very supportive and appreciative of the school in many different ways, especially through becoming “Tuition Angels” who brought much needed relief to so many families in financial straits. Thank you. Let us continue our efforts to bring the mission of Jesus Christ to as many more as possible through our commitment to St. Matthias Church and School.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal