From the Pastor – January 26, 2020

As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. (Mt. 4:18-20) One afternoon while I was in seminary, I was having lunch with some classmates, and we were joined by another seminarian who was a member of a religious community.  He was younger than my classmates, and pretty “gung-ho” about being a seminarian.  With eager eyes and enthusiasm, he turned to my classmate, Mike Woods, and asked “So when did you get your call??!!” Now, you’d have to know Mike, but suffice it to say that Mike was about 10 years older than the other seminarian.  He’s from Pittsburgh, … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – January 12, 2020

After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:16-17) This weekend we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord. For centuries, Christians have celebrated the season of Christmas as twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany.  The season ends with our celebration of the Lord's baptism. The public life of Jesus begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan.  John hesitates, but Jesus insists. Then the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes upon Jesus and a voice from heaven proclaims, “This is my beloved Son.”  Similarly to the visitation of the magi, this is an … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – January 5, 2020

“And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was.  They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.  They prostrated themselves and did him homage.” (Mt. 2:9-11) Why were the “wise men” wise? Were they wise because they knew the movements of the stars in the sky?  Perhaps.  Were they wise because they understood the seasons of the year or the mysteries of nature?  Maybe.  Or were they wise because they knew how to navigate according to a star.  All of that might be true.  But the underlying truth is that they were wise because they were searching for God. Their desire for Him meant that they could detect his coming appearance on earth in the … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – December 29, 2019

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Col. 3:16 ) Although the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph asks us to examine whether we’re being good family members.  When we contemplate the Holy Family, we note the fact that when Jesus became man – when the Word became flesh – He became flesh as a little child within a family. That was a divine choice; because Jesus could have chosen any way he wanted to manifest Himself.  He could have arrived on earth as a 33 year old adult or an 80 year old man. But Jesus was conceived and began his existence in Mary’s womb, and was born as a baby in a family.  Mary became the Mother of God (as we … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – December 22, 2019

Therefore, the Lord himself will give you this sign:  the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,  and shall name him Emmanuel. (Is. 7:14)  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,  because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt. 1:21) In William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, the two lovers have a dialogue about their own names.  It begins with Romeo hearing Juliet call his name: “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?”  Later in the dialogue, Romeo responds: “It is my soul that calls upon my name:  How silver-sweet sound lovers’ tongues by night, Like softest music to attending ears!” This quote has been paraphrased to something like: “there’s nothing so sweet as the sound of one’s own name.”  And even if we don’t read Shakespeare or understand poetry, … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – December 15, 2019

“Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again:  rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all.  The Lord is near.” (Phil. 4:4-5 ) This third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday” from the Latin St. Paul uses when he tells us to “rejoice in the Lord always”: gaudete in Domino semper!  The spirit of the Liturgy in Advent is one of expectation and preparation for Christmas and the Second Coming of Christ, but our penitential attitude is suspended on Gaudete Sunday so that we might focus on the joy of our Redemption, which should never be far from our hearts. To highlight the importance of Gaudete Sunday, the priest wears rose vestments and lights a rose candle on the Advent wreath. Why do we mark this day by focusing particularly on joy?  It’s because … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – December 8, 2019

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  (Mt 3:1-3) The Christmas Season can often be a time of anxiety for us.  There’s so much to do, so much to prepare.  We have cards to write, homes to decorate, presents to buy, parties to attend, year-end reports to finish, etc. etc. etc.  And when it’s all over, we let out a big sigh and enjoy ourselves.  Then we clean up.  And then we prepare for the next holiday, whether it’s New Year’s, Mardi Gras, or perhaps a Superbowl party…  Sometimes it seems like it never ends. Surely, we know that we’re called to … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – December 1, 2019

Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.  Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into. So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. (Mt 24:42-44) A lot of times, the analogies of Jesus are just that – analogies.  But sometimes they hit closer to home.  At times, we have had problems with security at St. Stephen Church.  We have had incidents where people have tried to get into our church by breaking door handles and even using pry-bars.  Every time we put up our pro-life signs in front of the church, someone steals them.  We’ve had chalices and even a collection bag stolen.  And then … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – November 24, 2019

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine, they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.” (Lk 23:35-38) How many times have we gazed at a crucifix and seen that inscription: “I.N.R.I.”  We know it means something about Jesus being “King of the Jews,” even if we don’t remember that it comes from the first letters of the Latin inscription meaning “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews:  Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum.  The key is understanding what’s behind that inscription.  Is it just a “mocking” inscription provided by Pontius Pilate?  Was it … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – November 17, 2019

“They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.  It will lead to your giving testimony.” (Lk 21:12-13) What does it mean when Christ tells us that “they will persecute you”?  We can easily look at the history of the Church, and see persecution.  The first persecutions began in 1st century Rome, and were conducted by the Emperor Nero.  Those early persecutions led to the Great Persecution of the 3rd century by the Roman Empire, persecutions that didn’t end until Christianity was legalized in 313 A.D.  We can look at the persecutions of Christians by Moslem invasion in North Africa, which led to the Christians Crusades to reclaim the Holy Land.  Skipping ahead, we recall … [Read more...]