From the Pastor – December 18, 2016

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 11, 2016

Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing. (Is. 35:4b-6) The coming of the Messiah was something eagerly anticipated by the Jewish people.  His coming was to be a time of great rejoicing (Gaudete!)  It represented the intervention of God into the affairs of men.  No longer would they be hungry or thirsty or oppressed or crippled.  They would be delivered from the difficulties of this life and live in a new reality without fear.  God would be with them, according to the promises of His Covenant. However, the appearance of the Messiah was disputed.  Would he be a great … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – December 4, 2016

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 prepare … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – November 27, 2016

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 20, 2016

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 placed … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – November 13, 2016

“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...]

From the Pastor – November 6, 2016

“That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called out ‘Lord,’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” (Lk 20:37-38) By tradition, the Church dedicates November to prayer for the Poor Souls in Purgatory, those faithful Christians who have died and gone before us but who still must atone for their sins. The time they spend in Purgatory cleanses them so that they may enter Heaven free from the effects of the sin they might have committed in life. Church doctrine on purgatory is based on the Old Testament reading in 2 Maccabees 12:40-46, where prayers were offered for those who had died in battle. Praying for the dead has been a constant practice of … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – October 30, 2016

“Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.  For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Lk 19:9-10) I love the story of Zacchaeus.  It reminds me of two things.  When I was little, it reminded me a little of Mardi Gras.  In the parable, it sounded like a parade was rolling by, and Zacchaeus wanted to see it!  But instead of Rex, it was the King of Kings!  As a young, small boy, I remember not being able to see Mardi Gras parades because of the crowd.  Often, I resolved myself to looking for spare doubloons. The second thing that the story reminds me of was a visit I made to Rome in 1994, before I entered seminary.  I was fortunate to be able to attend a Papal Audience in the Paul VI Audience Hall.  As the audience was … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – October 23, 2016

“God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” (Lk 18:11) I recently heard a quote to the effect that “there are only two types of people in the world:  saints who think they are sinners and sinners who think they are saints.”  That pretty much sums up the two characters in today’s Gospel.  The Pharisee has justified his life, and the Publican has condemned his own.  In truth, each of these men was a sinner in some way.  As the Evangelist John said:  “If we say that we have not sinned, then we make God a liar, and His word has no place in our hearts” (1 Jn 1:10).  So what separates the two men?  One simple fact.  One acknowledged the reality of his life and the reality of his sin, and the other didn’t.  And having … [Read more...]

From the Pastor – October 9, 2016

“Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?”  Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you..” (Lk 17:17-19)   This Gospel this weekend concerns gratitude. The story is simple. Jesus cures ten lepers, and only one returns to thank Him. The word gratitude is interesting. It’s usually defined as “a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation.” And we might experience gratitude for many things. If we’re late for work, we might feel gratitude that we make it through all of the stoplights. We might wake up and see a beautiful sunny day, and feel gratitude. We might experience gratitude for any of the amazing little things that happen to us during the day – a rainbow, a sunset, a butterfly … [Read more...]