25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

Just a week ago, we had the funeral of Marion Fischer who was the librarian for St. Matthias School for 45 years. She and her husband Francis “Frank” Fischer were among the founders of our parish. She passed on her faith to her children and grandchildren by her example of living the faith and participating both in the church ministries and community activities. Her family said that she would not be deterred by the most dire weather conditions from attending Sunday Mass! May she rest in peace. As we mourn the passing away of this vibrant disciple of Jesus, and become aware of the decreasing number of the founding members of our parish, we need to ask ourselves this important question: how seriously are we taking on the mantle of these pioneers in living and passing on our faith?

Today is national Catechetical Sunday – a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the role that each person plays, by virtue of Baptism, in handing on the faith and being a witness to the Gospel. This year’s theme for the Catechetical Sunday is: “This is my body given for you” (Luke 22:19). We have heard so many times that the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. The term “Eucharist” originates from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning thanksgiving. In the celebration of the Eucharist, bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the instrumentality of the priest. The whole Christ is truly present — body, blood, soul, and divinity — under the appearances of bread and wine, the glorified Christ who rose from the dead. This is what the Church means when she speaks of the “Real Presence” of Christ in the Eucharist.

Catechists are the ones who are teaching this and other truths about our faith to our children who attend our religious education/GIFT and sacramental preparation programs. We, here at St. Matthias, are blessed with wonderful women and men who give their time and energy as Catechists. We are very grateful to them. Today at all the Masses you will hear some of them speak to us about their passion as Catechists. I hope their testimony will inspire some of you to volunteer as Catechists. Being part of St. Matthias is life-giving as is the experience of so many – including Marion Fischer who, in the words of her children, “found her strength in her work among the children.”

Learning of our faith is not to be relegated only to children. We all need this learning. Don’t we all have many doubts about what we believe and practice? That is why we all need to choose something intentionally from the opportunities our parish offers. We are preparing to begin the RCIA sessions and the Fall Into Faith small faith sharing groups. These are excellent ways to learn more about the Word of God and our faith in a setting where we have ample time and freedom to clarify many of our questions on faith matters. I invite us all to consider this seriously and make a decision in the coming weeks as you will be hearing more about these two programs.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

Today is the 21st anniversary of 9/11. We are grateful that our annual tradition of the 9/11 Service will be held today at 4 pm, here at St. Matthias. The Fire Companies of Franklin Fire District # 1 are hosting this service to honor the emergency service members who were killed on September 11, 2001, including our parishioner FDNY Firefighter John M. Collins, who graduated from St. Matthias School and Immaculata High School. Yes, we will never forget.

I’m sure you must have heard about the “Pay it forward 9/11” project. Their website: www.payitforward911.org says that this 20 year tradition was begun by American Kevin Tuerff, so we never forget the tragedy, and also to pay tribute to the heroes of Newfoundland, Canada, who showed him and the world their kindness in 2001. The town of Gander, population 9,000, took care of him and nearly 7,000 other stranded airline passengers from 90 countries for five days when US airspace was closed. Here’s how they explain their current goal: “This year, our aim is to restore the kindness and unity the world witnessed in 2002. Last year, we launched the “11 Days of Kindness and Unity” campaign and we need your help to repeat it again. Encourage houses of worship, schools and business to join “11 Days of Kindness and Unity” (Sept 1-11).” Practicing kindness and unity is an ongoing process. Hence we can be consciously doing acts of kindness and unity even after the date this project had proposed is over.

One area that will help us in this project is the way we think of and treat grandparents and elderly. Today is ‘National Grandparents Day’ – a time to honor grandparents and grand-friends for their contributions to our families, neighborhoods and communities. Pope Francis has been an avid advocate for grandparents and the elderly. He established the 4th Sunday in July as the Day for the Catholic world to celebrate Grandparents and the elderly.
Presenting the Pope’s special message to the world months in advance, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life, observed: “The Pope’s message is the alternative to the culture of rejection: it helps all of us, and the elderly themselves, to understand that – far from being material to be thrown away – they have a precise vocation within our communities. In this time that yearns for peace, the Church has a great need for elders, who have the ‘gift’ of tenderness, who are able to protect and intercede.” It is good for us to read the short and beautiful letter of the Pope, available from the Vatican site at: https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/nonni/documents/20220503-messaggio-nonni-anziani.html

Our Diocese of Metuchen will have the official closing and Mass of thanksgiving for the 40th anniversary of the diocese.  On Saturday, September 24, 2022, Bishop Checchio will be leading a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He will be the principal celebrant of the Pilgrimage Mass. Many busloads of parishioners from various parishes will attend this event, accompanied by many priests, deacons and religious. I’m happy that our Msgr. Brennan will be attending this pilgrimage. If any of you wish to join, it is not too late. Please contact Angela Marshall at amarshall@diometuchen.org for more information or transportation.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

Happy Labor Day weekend! Then, Back to school week! Sincere appreciation for all parents who are excited as well as possibly stressed about the back to school preparations. The school administration, led by Principal Mary Lynch, is all set for the school reopening. The maintenance team has done an excellent job of cleaning, waxing, painting etc. that has made the classrooms, bathrooms, hallways, cafeteria – in fact the whole school building look very inviting.  Hearty welcome to all our students and all the staff and faculty! More school news can be read in this bulletin. I wish to share some church news:

RCIA: we have been blessed with a very vibrant RCIA ministry because of which a significant number of adults have been joining our Church each year. This was possible because of a very efficient team headed by our former Parish Staff member Phyllis Stone assisted by Anne Marie Francis & Mary-Frances Reavey. They were supported by Carmen Calvimontes, Gondee Tibay, Jason Goldberg and Dee Christmas. As coordinator, Phyllis did a wonderful job of seeing to every aspect of the RCIA process that culminated at the Easter Vigil when those in the RCIA class received Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation. I am ever grateful to Phyllis and her team for their commitment to this ministry.  I am very happy to say that Anne Marie Francis and Mary-Frances Reavey have graciously agreed to share the responsibility of RCIA leadership. As part of the RCIA team, both Anne Marie and Mary-Frances have years of experience with RCIA process and leading the sessions. With help from the rest of the team and the Parish Office, they will be organizing these sessions and we do hope that you, our parishioners, will continue to invite others to be part of our next class of RCIA 2023.

Parish Trustees: You may have noticed that Isaac Peng and Marge Richards have been listed as Parish Trustees. With Isaac’s moving out of the parish some time back, I have nominated Pearl Scott to that position as Parish Trustee. I thank Isaac for his selfless service and wish him God’s blessings in his new place. At the same time, thank you to Pearl for accepting to be the Trustee together with Marge Richards.

The Parish Survey: Your response on prioritizing the renovation needs of the church has been tabulated. Thanks to the 289 parishioners who responded and gave other ideas, comments, criticisms, encouragements etc. I plan to implement whatever is practical. See the survey result in a table format on page ….

 Prayer Sessions: The improvements of the church’s building must go hand in hand with the growth of the church community’s Spirituality. What is prayer? How can I pray personally? What is the proper way for me to pray? These are questions people keep asking. One of our parishioners, Ivette Mitchel, who has lots of experience in guiding others to pray, has offered to lead four sessions on these important aspects. If you are interested, please contact Ivette by phone at (908) 247-6039 or email at ladyi63@aol.com She will finalize the details after hearing from you.

May this Labor Day help us to appreciate every work we do as God’s plan to give us purpose, fulfillment and to be a light in the world.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

Recently a very faithful and active parishioner asked me about a certain prophecy that predicted three days of darkness on the face of the earth which is to begin on September 1, 2022, and for which we need to be prepared with “candles of blessed wax alone that will give light during this horrible darkness.” This is apparently based on prophecies by visionaries or seers like Blessed Anna Maria Taigi who lived from 1769-1837. Padre Pio is also said to have made or alluded to such prophecies – though that claim is disputed. The Church does not oblige us to believe in any particular prophecy, whether it is about natural calamities and total darkness as punishment from God, the end of the world, or the exact time of the second coming of Christ.  In fact, obsession with the second coming of Christ was a concern that St. Paul had to address in his letter to Thessalonians in these words:

We ask you, brothers and sisters,
with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
and our assembling with him,
not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly,
or to be alarmed either by a “spirit,” or by an oral statement,
or by a letter allegedly from us
to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.
Let no one deceive you in any way. (2 Thessalonians, 2:1-3)

This was part of the passage read for the Mass last Tuesday and I explained that it is not a thing of the past. The very deception, that St. Paul warned the first Christians against, has been recurring time and again in the course of human history. Most prominent among these has been date-fixing for the second coming of Christ. History is filled with so many such dates for which many different groups, deceived by a cult leader or a visionary, had prepared, even by selling all their possessions. But such examples of fixing a date, based on some sayings of a seer, is totally contrary to what Jesus himself said in Mark 13:32: “Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

At the same time, we give credence to what we know from the Bible about the second coming of Christ. That is what we profess every Sunday in our Creed, “He [Jesus] shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead; and His kingdom shall have no end.”

What the Scriptures are asking us is to be ready for it for God has not revealed the date or time as some have been predicting, no matter how sincere these individuals are. That readiness happens when we go about our daily duties even as we try to live the gospel values to the best of our ability despite whatever shortcomings and frailties we may have. But, do not be afraid as Jesus has reminded us numerous times:

“See to it that you are not deceived. For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.” (Luke 21:8-9)

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

Today’s Gospel has a very controversial question put to Jesus: “Will only a few be saved?” If this question is put to Jehovah’s Witnesses, they will answer that the saved will number exactly 144,000, quoting the Book of Revelation 7:4 where it records this number as those saved from the tribes of Israel. But Scripture scholars point out that the same Book of Revelation 7:9 speaks about “a great multitude of those saved, whom no one can count.” Hence mainline Christians believe that the number 144,000 is symbolic to indicate the great multitude who will be saved, not to offer a limit on the souls who will be in heaven.

While different religions claim different ways to attain heaven, what do people in general think of the relevance of religion and God? What is the connection between belief in God and morality? And how important are God and prayer in people’s lives? Pew Research Center posed these questions to 38,426 people in 34 countries in 2019.

The result is published in an article interestingly titled: The Global God Divide. Despite variances in religious observance, a median of 62% across the countries surveyed say that religion plays an important role in their lives, while 61% agree that God plays an important role in their lives and 53% say the same about prayer.

This ‘God divide’ is very visible in various regions of the world. Of all 13 countries surveyed in the European Union, Greece has the largest share of residents who tie belief in God to morality (53%), followed closely by Bulgaria (50%) and Slovakia (45%), while just 9% in Sweden, 14% in the Czech Republic and 15% in France say that it is necessary to believe in God to be moral. While 26% in Canada and 44% in the U.S. say belief in God is necessary to be moral, nearly everyone surveyed in Indonesia (96%) and in the Philippines (96%) draws a connection between belief in God and having good values. And almost eight-in-ten (79%) in India say the same.

We know that Jesus is very inclusive and welcoming even as He invites everyone to repent and believe (Mark 1:15). So we need to be reminded that we are not the only ones invited into the Kingdom of God. There are so many who have been invited! This was a truth hard to swallow for the Jews who thought in a very exclusive way. This is still hard for those Christians who think similarly. An old anonymous poem presents this Gospel truth in an unforgettable way:

“I dreamt death came the other night, and heaven’s gate swung open wide
With kindly grace an angel bright, Ushered me inside
And there, to my astonishment, Stood folks I’d judged and labeled
As quite unfit, of little worth and spiritually disabled.
Indignant words rose to my lips, But never were set free.
For every face showed stunned surprise – No one expected me!”

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

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