Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

In ancient Athens a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little children. He laughed and jeered at Aesop, asking him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity. Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian, “Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bow implies.” The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. Aesop explained, “If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it.” Aesop was talking about balance.

As followers of Christ we need to realize that Jesus advocated balance in life. He never asked us to be so involved in doing good that we neglect our need for leisure, for rest, for family, for friends. He showed it by his own example as we hear him telling the disciples in today’s gospel: “Let’s get away to a lonely place by ourselves and rest a while.” Read Mark 6:30-32 and you will see that Jesus realized that he and his disciples were overstretched in attending to the constant demands the people made on their time. They needed a break away from everyone and everything.
We are half-way through the summer time of vacation and relaxation. But are we really relaxed? Some parents may find that what they thought was a relaxed summer is actually a stressful one. I was impressed by a blogger who reminded the parents that summer is a break from routine, and not a break from parenting: “Seeds grow slowly; chicks hatch when they are ready; important things take time. Children and teens don’t understand time — they want what they want when they want it. We too often react by jumping on their timeline. When we contort ourselves to suit their whims, we not only upend our lives, we give away the opportunity to teach them about patience.”

The same applies to our inner life too. Can this summer be a time to attend to and grow in our spiritual self? Can we use this summer as a wonderful opportunity to enrich ourselves with some knowledge of our faith? When media gurus suggest summer reading lists, why not make our own list of faith-related summer readings? I would suggest to get any of the writings of Pope Francis that you can freely download. Whether it is “Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel” or “Laudato Si – On the Care of Creation” or “Amoris Laetitia – The Joy of Love” or “Gaudete et Exsultate – Rejoice and Be Glad,” (our newly Vocations Committee will be asking us all to read this last one), you will find that you are in for a treat.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

“The best way to FIND yourself is to lose yourself in the SERVICE of others.”

Dear Friends,

Did you notice a huge pile of mulch – 20 yards to be exact – in front of the church a couple of weeks ago? It was donated by the good will of Mr. Will Dupree of Spooky Brook Landscaping. A big thank you to Will for his good will donation. I was planning to arrange with Joan Seamon to get a group of volunteers to spread the mulch. But suddenly I saw some individuals doing that work on their own: Tom Mager, Debbie Evennou, Collette Edwards and Fr. Joe Curry. Their selfless example inspired even me to join them for a few hours in wheelbarrowing the mulch!

Seeing these wonderful parishioners stepping up, even without being asked to do this physically demanding work, made me realize the goodness of our people. We have so many parishioners volunteering for so many parish ministries. Some of them we see and recognize on Sundays: ushers doing hospitality, Lectors/Readers, Eucharistic ministers, sacristans, music and tech people. Others we do not see or recognize: youth group mentors, RCIA team, catechists, volunteers on the Pastoral Council, Finance Council, School Advisory Council, Property Management, Vincent DePaul Society, Home School Association, and many others. Our parish owes them a big salute as their good will to offer their time and talent is an important factor that helps this parish run smoothly.

Volunteering is their way to express their love and commitment to St. Matthias parish, bringing them so much satisfaction and contentment, with no expectation of any material or monetary reward. God who sees these good acts will be their reward (Matthew 6:4). Albert Schweitzer echoed the same when he wrote: “The interior joy we feel when we have done a good deed is the nourishment the soul requires.”

Volunteering is a great way to give back to the church community that is always there for us. The example of these numerous volunteers is an impetus for the rest of us to consider volunteering. Our Parish is in need of volunteers. Hence I propose to have a pool of volunteers who could offer some of their time and talent, as per their availability/convenience, for various parish needs from time to time. Could you email me at if you are willing to be part of that pool, with a very flexible commitment? Let us know your name, email, phone number, and type of volunteer work you would be willing to do (e.g, answering phones, typing/data entry, yardwork, or anything else you would be willing to do.)

I am reminded of the words of Gandhi: “The best way to FIND yourself is to lose yourself in the SERVICE of others.” How reminiscent of the message of our Lord Jesus Christ himself!

God bless your goodness.

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

Happy Fourth of July! This weekend is a time for us to express and celebrate our patriotism – not only through flags, fireworks, and partying with family and friends, but also through serious reflection on our freedom, its high price, its sacred meaning and the way we need to pass it on intact to the next generation. When our Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence two centuries ago, the American Dream was officially born on the foundation of freedom, democracy and hope. It is good to remember the four types of freedom President Roosevelt spoke of in January 1941, as he was building support for the World War:

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression — everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way — everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants — everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear — which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor– anywhere in the world.”
But when this American Dream is sought after by illegal immigrants, we have a problem. The ongoing national conversation shows how divided and polarized we are on this sensitive topic. Instead of taking any hardline position based on any political affiliation, it is good for us to know the united stand of our nation’s Conference of Catholic bishops. On the one hand, our Bishops assert our fundamental right to control our nation’s borders; on the other hand, they ask for humane and compassionate treatment of immigrants as our brothers and sisters created in God’s image and likeness. The following is excerpted from the US Bishops’ pastoral document, Welcoming the Stranger among Us: Unity in Diversity,

“Without condoning undocumented migration, the Church supports the human rights of all people and offers them pastoral care, education, and social services, no matter what the circumstances of entry into this country, and it works for the respect of the human dignity of all—especially those who find themselves in desperate circumstances. We recognize that nations have the right to control their borders. We also recognize and strongly assert that all human persons, created as they are in the image of God, possess a fundamental dignity that gives rise to a more compelling claim to the conditions worthy of human life.”
More such passages from this pastoral letter, “Welcoming the Stranger Among us: Unity in Diversity” will give us a Christian perspective on this matter that goes beyond partisan politics. When we realize that the Church is not condoning undocumented immigration, we will be open to solutions that will prevent more illegal immigration even as we show loving compassion to those already here as our Bishops call our attention to the reality of the United States as largely a “nation of immigrants.”

Happy July 4th !

Your brother in Christ, Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

The announcement last week that Msgr. Joseph Curry will be transferred was met with lots of sadness from all of us. Fr. Joe, as he is affectionately called, has been with us for less than two years. But within this short time, he has endeared himself to our community through his unique faith-filled ministry. He has an uncanny ability to put anyone at ease with his outgoing nature and his resounding laughter that can be heard from afar!

Fr. Joe has been an invaluable help in the school, both for our teachers and our students. His love for our students was evident in the way he mingled with them and taught faith matters. He had creative ways to teach the students despite the pandemic limitations. The teachers found in him a willing tech-guru, helping with their tech problems as the teaching went remote due to the pandemic. Fr. Joe was able to bring new life to our youth ministry through his natural gift of relating to young people. Coordinating with adult mentors, he was able to keep the youth ministry going even through the pandemic, using technology and media. Both the parish and the school are truly indebted to Fr. Joe. His inspiring presence will be missed by all of us as he officially leaves on July 6 to take up his new assignment at Immaculate Conception Church, Somerville.

At the same time, we are very happy to welcome to our parish Msgr. Seamus Brennan who has been serving as a senior priest at Blessed Sacrament Church in Martinsville. As a senior priest, Msgr. Brennan comes with lots of experience, after his ordination in 1972 at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Waterford, Ireland, for the diocese of Trenton. He has served as Parochial Vicar at St. Barnabas in Bayville and at St. Philip and James in Phillipsburg. Msgr. also served as pastor of St John’s in Lambertville, St. Matthews in Edison and Immaculate Conception in Somerville, and he served as Temporary Administrator of Nativity of Our Lord in Monroe Township. Monsignor’s hobbies include golf, walking, and cycling. The Catholic Community of St. Matthias heartily welcomes Msgr. Seamus Brennan.
We know that any change can give rise to conflicting feelings within us. While farewell to one priest brings us sadness, welcome to another brings joy. And we trust God’s Word: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). As we remain ever grateful to the wonderful presence and ministry of Fr. Joe, we pray that Immaculate Conception Parish will be blessed and enriched as we have been by his presence. I am sure that Msgr. Brennan will be a welcome asset to St. Matthias. He is looking forward to meeting all of you and serving the needs of our parish.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago we celebrated our moms and offered Mass to them. Celebrating Father’s Day today, we are doing the same – offering our dads, on the altar of God during this Holy Mass and invoking our heavenly Father’s blessings on them while we thank God for the life of those dads who are called to eternal life. At a time when the Fathers’ role in the family and in society is not fully appreciated, it is good that today we can celebrate, congratulate and pray for the men who continue to reflect the Divine qualities of fatherhood as they lovingly establish, nourish and maintain their families.

Lucille Ball, who became one of America’s top comedic actresses with the 1950s TV show, I Love Lucy, did a remarkable TV interview with Merv Griffin shortly before her death. He asked her a very serious and pointed question: “Lucille, you’ve lived a long time on this earth and you are a wise person. What’s happened to our country? What’s wrong with our children? Why are our families falling apart? What’s missing?” Lucille Ball answered without hesitation: “Papa’s missing. Things are falling apart because Papa’s gone. If Papa were here, he would fix it.”

Her pertinent comment has been confirmed with some recent studies that have demonstrated how important a father is to his child’s development. Children with fathers present have lower rates of delinquency, drug and alcohol use, teen pregnancy, and so on, than those with absent fathers. The father’s presence is also a significant positive factor in children’s getting a college education, finding a satisfying job, and making a lasting marriage. Psychotherapists today are saying that both parents are vitally important to the stable development of their children; the mother’s input is invaluable in the formative pre-adolescent years but the father’s most important influence is at adolescence. Single mothers tell us that it is terribly difficult to teach their children about the meaning of God the Father Who seems so impersonal because their children have been abandoned by their natural fathers. Adolescent daughters long to hear from their fathers that they are beautiful and loved. In fact, a girl’s choice of a partner and satisfaction in marriage is often directly related to the relationship she has had with her father.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the vital importance of the father’s role comes from the fact that, with his wife, he cooperates with God the Creator in bringing a new human life into the world. There is no power greater than that (#2367). I invite us all to have a look at a few Biblical references to fathers: Genesis 2:24, Exodus 20:12, Ezekiel 19:19-20, Sirach 3:1 16, Matthew 19:16-22, John 1:14, 2 Cor. 6:16-18, Ephesians 6: 1-4, 1 Thess. 2:11 – 12.

Happy Father’s Day!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Faith, Caring and Excellence

Dear Friends,

We just went through the week of graduations. It was very heart-warming to see the graduation of the little ones in Pre-K and Kindergarten. Their innocent glow as they sang some beautiful songs and posed for the diplomas touched everyone. The graduation of our 8th graders was more of a defining moment that elicited mixed feelings of joy and sadness — joy at the fact of this class of 2021 crossing an important milestone in their lives. All the parents and family, school administration and faculty, priests and parishioners are happy to see them moving onto the next phase of the journey of their life.

At the same time, there is that tinge of sadness of missing these young vibrant students who were a part of our life here. Friday before graduation, their last day of class, was an emotional day for all. In the St. Matthias tradition, the parents and faculty made it special for them by clapping these seniors out, with the band playing. The parents wrote names and messages on the ground for the students to read.

My hope – as is that of everyone else – is that these graduates will carry the torch of St. Matthias wherever they go, in the way they live out the motto of our school: FAITH, CARING AND EXCELLENCE. My prayer is that the seeds of faith the Principal and Vice-Principal have sown in these students, with the help of the caring teachers, will keep them faithful to Jesus Christ and His Church. I wish to single out our Fr. Joe for special appreciation for his good will and initiative in imparting faith and religious practices to the whole school during the pandemic year.

As the school year is ending, Mrs. Elena Malinconico, our present principal, will be leaving us for another assignment. Everyone will agree with me that this year was the most challenging for every school principal and it is no exaggeration to say that Mrs. Malinconico did an excellent job in keeping our school open, offering both in-person and remote learning, and keeping all our students safe though this past uncertain and anxious year. Thanks to her vigilant leadership, St. Matthias did not have to close the school for any prolonged period, as many other schools had to do. As we thank her for her short but dedicated service to our school community, I wish her all success in her next assignment.

As already announced earlier, as well as in my letter in last week’s bulletin, we welcome Mrs. Mary Lynch as the new principal of St. Matthias. St.
Matthias School is an integral part of the mission of St. Matthias Parish, and all of us have a stake in its well-being and progress. Thank you to all who have been supporting our school in various ways. May our desire to pass our faith to the next generation bear good fruits.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Feast of Corpus Christi (Feast of the Body of Christ)

Dear Friends,

The Catholic Church has a rich heritage of traditions and practices many of which are enshrined as annual celebrations. Today’s feast of Corpus Christi (also known as the Feast of the Body of Christ) is a case in point. Corpus Christi is unique in
several ways. The feast was not instituted within the Church until the 14th century AD, and its principal advocate for inclusion in the Church roster of holy days was a woman: St. Juliana, an Augustinian nun in Belgium. She looked upon the Holy Eucharist with great reverence, and desired to have
a feast within the Church devoted specifically to its honor.

We know that Holy Thursday is generally associated with the institution of the Holy Eucharist. However, Holy Week was often seen as a time of great sorrow and repentance, and so Juliana felt that the celebration of the Eucharist should be a time of rejoicing. After receiving a vision concerning the Church and its lack of devotion to the Eucharist, she petitioned Robert de Thorete, the Bishop of Liege. The Bishop convened a synod in 1246 and decreed that the celebration should take place the following year. In 1264, Pope Urban IV issued the bull transiturus, a declaration ordering the Feast of Corpus Christi extended throughout the entire Church. The date was set for the celebration to be held on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday.

When I came to the US, I was quite amazed and impressed by the cities named after the Holy Eucharist: Corpus Christi and Sacramento. My reading of history tells me that the Franciscan missionaries originally named the Gulf of Mexico the “Bay of Corpus Christi,” and gave the mission there the same name. While in California, the mission at Sacramento and its corresponding river were named in honor of the Eucharist.

Many visitors have commented positively about the Sunday worship here at St. Matthias. Some of their comments to me are:

Attending Mass at St. Matthias is very experiential;
This community is very welcoming;
People are very alive, everyone participates even by clapping.
Is different and where the Lord who comes at the altar touches all of us.

We can be very proud of such comments as we try to be a Eucharistic people. I have this request to all of you: How nice it will be if all of us, when we enter the church, dip our fingers in the holy water, (that is when we restore the use of holy water) trace the sign of the cross on our foreheads and show a sign of respect (bow or genuflect) towards the Blessed Sacrament! That will be one important visible connection between last Sunday’s feast of the Holy Trinity and this Sunday’s feast of Corpus Christi.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Feast of the Holy Trinity

Dear Friends,

The dramatic events of Holy Week and Easter came to a conclusion, liturgically speaking, with another dramatic event of Pentecost last Sunday. The Acts of the Apostles narrated the Pentecost story as a stunning, incredible and ecstatic experience with the sound of a violent wind, fire appearing over their heads and 3,000 new members as the result of one sermon. But the drama subsided, for the very next verse says, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42). Not much drama here. Worshiping together, eating together, learning together. Yes, a big segment of our life consists of the ordinary. It is in living the gospel values in the ordinary time that we truly become extra-ordinary!

Thus we are now in the “Ordinary Time” according to the Liturgical Calendar. The fact that Ordinary Time refers to those periods that fall outside of the major liturgical seasons could give us the impression that there is no excitement and so this is an unimportant time. The Latin word ordinalis, which refers to numbers in a series, stems from the Latin word ordo, from which we get the English word order. Thus, the numbered weeks of Ordinary Time in fact represent the ordered life of the Church—the period in which we live our lives neither in feasting (as in the Christmas and Easter seasons) or in more severe penance (as in Advent and Lent), but in growing in fellowship with all, using our talents to serve our families, communities and sustaining ourselves with our daily chores. The weekly sustenance for this comes from our regular Sunday attendance at the Lord’s Table. The obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, which was suspended during the pandemic, will be lifted from Saturday June 5, as per the Bishops of New Jersey. They also said: “This obligation does not apply to those who are ill; those who have reason to believe that they were recently exposed to the coronavirus or another serious or contagious illness; those who are confined to their home, a hospital, or nursing facility; or those with serious underlying health conditions.”

This is one of the reasons why I decided to continue live-streaming our Masses – at least one, if not all. From the St. Matthias YouTube analytics, we are very delighted to know that we have so many people attending our Masses not only from different states of the US but also from many countries. To date, 66% of our viewers are from New Jersey, 23% are from other states — NY, FL, CA, TX, PA, IL, NC, OH, MD, MA, VA, KY, MI, MN, and AZ, and 11 % are from the following countries: Philippines, India, United Kingdom, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Bolivia, Colombia, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Poland, Sweden, South Africa, Peru, Singapore, Guam and Japan. We have indeed become a “Parish without borders”!! Praise God!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Happy Feast of Pentecost

Dear Friends, Happy Feast of Pentecost!

Most Churches – Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches as well as many Protestant churches – view this as the watershed event in Christianity, the birthday of the Church in many ways. The Acts of the Apostles recounts the story of the original Pentecost when the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary, gathered in the Upper Room, were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in different tongues (Acts 2). Peter’s speech that day brought about three thousand people to the way of Jesus. (Acts 2:41). And the Church began to grow.

But what is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives? I would compare it to the role of a coach. There is no game or sports without a coach! Why? Left to themselves, even the best are prone to make mistakes. No matter how good they are, coaches are essential to their success. The truth of the matter is that we all can do better with someone else’s wisdom. And yet, there are some people who think that human beings have the natural ability to fulfill our human destiny just by using our abilities and that we do not need help from anyone else – be it from the community of faith or from the grace of the Sacraments. Experience and history show us that fewer mistakes would have been made with proper guidance. That’s why Jesus said he would send us the Spirit to be our Helper, Comforter, and Guide (John 14:16). Let us call upon this Spirit: “Come Holy Spirit, come into my heart and fill me with your grace and power.” Repeat it like a mantra and see what happens to you!

Congratulations to 35 of our children receiving First Holy Communion this weekend! Dee Nann, Sr. Marie Derecola OSF and others, especially the parents, have been preparing these kids for this important step in their faith formation to receive Jesus for the first time. Last Sunday these children, with one of their parents present, had a wonderful retreat given by Colleen Kelly-Rayner. Everyone enjoyed that retreat as we can see from what one parent, Jennifer Hill, wrote to Dee: “I just wanted to reach out and thank you for such a wonderful retreat today. It was such a gift to spend time with my son and share this experience with him. Due to COVID, this past year has been challenging and isolating and it was very special to come together as a community to prepare for his First Communion. You said that Mrs. Colleen was outstanding and she more than lived up to that! She was phenomenal – hilarious, engaging and powerful. Thank you for putting this together for us!” And her son Dylan’s reaction was: “That was way more fun than I thought it was going to be”

Let us pray for these children of our parish and encourage them with our example that attending Mass and receiving Jesus in Holy Communion are the primary ways we nourish our souls and enrich our lives. May the gifts of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Ascension of the Lord

Dear Friends,

This year, the Feast of Ascension (Thursday May 13) is postponed to Sunday May 16 which is today. After the resurrection, Jesus taught his disciples about God’s kingdom for forty days (Acts 1:3) “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). Two angels then tell the disciples that Jesus was “taken into heaven” (Acts 1:11). But the ascended Jesus is still with us through his indwelling Holy Spirit as he has promised, “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”  What is celebrated is Jesus’ exaltation and the end of his earthly existence as a prelude to the gift of the Spirit. Hence this feast is a celebration of Jesus’ final glorification after his suffering, death and Resurrection – a glory in which we also hope to share.

And yet, humanly speaking, the concept of bodily Ascension is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. Pope Francis doesn’t shy away from explaining mysteries of our faith. In his catechesis on Ascension, he says: “Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven thus allows us to know this reality that is so consoling on our journey: in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity has been brought to God. He has opened the way. He is like the leader of a mountain climbing party that is roped together. He has reached the summit and pulls us to himself, leading us to God. If we entrust our lives to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain of being in safe hands.”

It is this assurance that allowed multitudes of Christians to follow Jesus, even to the point of martyrdom. St. Matthias, our parish patron, is one such. The Apostles felt that they had to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus. They nominated two men: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. They prayed and drew lots. The choice fell upon Matthias, who was added to the Eleven. (Acts 1:15-26). What happened after that? No exact historical details are available. According to Greek tradition, Matthias preached and converted the people of Cappadocia in central Turkey, and was martyred in the region about the Caspian Sea around the year 80 AD.

Every year, we used to have our great Carnival around the feast of St. Matthias. All of us are sad to miss that week of fun, games, food and celebration  This year, we have been praying a Novena to St. Matthias for the past nine days leading up to his feast. Today as we celebrate our parish patronal feast, what is of importance is to remember that Matthias was chosen to be an apostle because he was with Jesus and was a witness to his resurrection. That means, following his example, we need to make greater efforts to know Jesus personally by our familiarity with God’s Word and by talking to Jesus daily in prayer or meditation. Thus we become witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus who is God-with-us always.

Happy Feast of St. Matthias!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal