Over the next four Sundays, we will continue our consideration of five virtues suggested by the Sunday gospels that are needed for the journey of faith. While last Sunday it was the virtue of faith, this Sunday we hear about the virtue of gratitude, and next Sunday we will reflect on perseverance.
Let’s be sure we have an idea of what a virtue is. A virtue is a disposition to do good, which is reinforced by constant actions to help the good disposition become a habit. A virtue will ultimately involve both the mind (the intellect) and the will (the faculty that decides). The important lesson of virtues in our journey of faith is that they enable us to be expansive in our outlook. A virtuous life avoids the reduction of our religion to a quick assertion of an intellectual ‘yes’. Rather, when we seek to grow in gospel virtues, our faith is made dynamic. We can truly be hopeful that Philippians 4:8 may be ‘live’ in us: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”.
To grow in a virtue, we need to pray and practice it. Let’s think of this Sunday’s virtue of gratitude. Every time we celebrate Mass well, we display the virtue of gratitude. Our word ‘Eucharist’ comes from the Greek, ‘to give thanks’. It is the sacrament of thanksgiving and gratitude. We give thanks when we say Mary’s canticle, the Magnificat, each night in our evening prayer, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Reflecting on the Eucharist, the Magnificat and other prayers can help us become more grateful.
How might we practice gratitude? One simple answer: Aways say ‘thank you’ with the intention of meaning it when people help or serve you in a store or restaurant. Another would be to write cards, emails and texts of gratitude when some service, organization or event goes well and moves us humans forward. Those skilled in the virtue of gratitude can even at times be thankful at times of loss.
Lord, increase our faith.
As we continue our journey with Jesus to Jerusalem, we are going to explore five virtues that we need to help us along the way. The first virtue is faith.
“The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’” That is the start of the gospel this Sunday. The apostles want a greater trust, a better relationship, and deeper communion with Jesus. How do we interpret the reply he gave them? “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Are these words of Jesus accusatory? Is the implication the apostles don’t have faith? The apostles did show a shortage of faith at times, and certainly their faith needed to grow in understanding. However, their request to Jesus for an increase in faith was itself an act of faith. And travelling around with Jesus means they were living that faith.
If we were to ask ‘increase our faith’, what would our request of Jesus be asking for? I suggest there are three answers to that question. First, our request would be asking to have faith to walk with Jesus, to live a life where we step into the future in trust and obedience to Jesus. Second, ‘increase our faith’ is a desire to grow in understanding – prizing the body of beliefs that Jesus left us and the content of the belief of the Church. Third, an ‘increase in faith’ is a desire to trust the power of God to act now in the world and achieve things that are miraculous and extraordinary. It is a faith where mulberry bushes do move, where people have demons cast out of them, and where the poor are cherished in charity and not cast out because of competitive indifference. We gather each Sunday as a faith community, and we know we have faith. Each Sunday, we profess the creed which is our understanding of what Jesus revealed – it is a body of belief, and we hold it dear.
Are we, however, open to allowing our faith to do extraordinary, miraculous, and transformative things in the world? Let us ask for an increase in such faith and to say in humility, in the words of the gospel, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” Lord Jesus, increase our faith.
The virtue for next week is gratitude.
October 6th, 2019, is Respect Life Sunday. Saint Joseph Catholic Community will join other churches in the Carroll County area and beyond in prayerful participation in the National Life Chain to be held from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. Please join us as we stand outside the parish alongside Liberty Road, peacefully holding designated signs and praying for a deep respect for the sanctity of human life. If folks can attend for only a half hour, that would be great. Information can be found by going to the website: http://www.nationallifechain.org.
Our parish has been involved in this national endeavor for several years, and we hope you will join us at this particularly challenging time, when human life is being attacked at every stage of life, placing the most vulnerable among us in grave danger.
We have invited other churches in the area to join us here at our parish on Sunday October 6th. Showing solidarity with churches across Carroll County, and indeed the nation, in peaceful prayer will be a powerful witness to the Gospel of Life.
Other Respect Life activities in October include:
Every Monday, the Rosary for Life will be prayed in the chapel at 7 p.m.
The intention at the four Friday daily Masses in October, at 8:30 am, will be for a life issue.
On Saturday, October 26th, join fellow parishioners praying outside Hillcrest Abortion Clinic from 10 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Let us pray for and witness to the sanctity of human life.
Journey Together with Christ
Our journey with Jesus that we are speaking about these Sunday’s as we read St. Luke’s gospel arrives at a really difficult parable this Sunday. Jesus says, “The master commended the dishonest steward for acting prudently” and also, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” How are we to be people who live in the midst of the world’s busy, often duplicitous machinations while retaining the values of the gospel? The answer, ultimately, is to decide on what to focus: our worldly needs or our life in Christ.
Lyle Peters, our Pastoral Associate for Liturgy and Music, recently introduced the parish to a new hymn (well new for us!) ‘Look to Christ’. When I heard it a few weeks ago, I was thrilled. In some way, this text sums up much of what the recent gospels have been telling us. The hymn helps us to keep our focus on Jesus Christ. I hope others made the connection – the words of what we sing on Sunday often reinforce the scriptures we hear and rituals we are enacting. Faced with a difficult parable this Sunday, it will be good to sing together this hymn, the refrain of which is:
Look to Christ to be your light; follow,
Leave behind your former self and live.
Don’t look back, don’t be afraid; follow,
Come to Christ, walk with Christ, and live.
Christ’s light shines on the terrain ahead of us to help us find the right path to walk. The light might not shine too far ahead of our stumbling feet, but His is a constant light. In following Him we are asked, frequently, to leave former ways behind; to shed values that aren’t of the gospel, to relinquish those things we unnecessarily cling to, including our possessions. We are not to live a Christian life that is full of regret and sorrow for what is behind us; we face God’s future with hope and we follow Christ – the Son of the living God! The Water of Life and Love! The living Light of God! The resurrection and Life for all!
Let’s sing out well this Sunday (and every Sunday!).
As Jesus journeys to Jerusalem, he offers in chapter 15 of St. Luke’s gospel three parables about losing things. First, he offers the parable about the shepherd who loses one of his 100 sheep and, extraordinarily, leaves the 99 to look for the one. Such is the desire of God to rescue us. The second parable is that of the lost coin and how the housewife searches extensively, and when she finds it, she celebrates. Again the excess seems disproportionate, but that is exactly the point of the parable. Thirdly, Jesus tells the beautiful parable of the two sons, the younger who wastes his inheritance, and the other who is unable to welcome his brother on his return home. There is a major difference between the first two parables and the third: the sheep and the coin have relative worth to the owner, but the young son has absolute worth to the Father.
The connection I see to the theme of journey in the last parable is the need in our lives of faith to ‘get over’ our pride and self-sufficiency, and to be in a new place of accepting our forgiveness and our dependence on God. The Father knows our absolute value, even if we seek to relativize it. What is needed is to cross the chasm between the old self to the new self. The younger son, having squandered his inheritance, is left caring for and feeding pigs. Then, Jesus says, he came to his senses. He faced his situation, and he decided to cross over from pride and his supposed independence, and to face his father with a humble apology. He is received with open arms.
The older son struggles with the fact his father has welcomed the young son home. He is bitter. He accuses his brother of immorality that is not mentioned by anyone else. He has seemingly been counting up all the things he has done for his father over the years and is wallowing in his need to be affirmed on his own terms. His father comes out to him and reassures him of his regard for him. But, by the time the parable ends, we don’t know if he follows the request of the father and crosses over from his old preoccupied self to one where he can enjoy the party of God’s mercy and begin to dance.
The teaching of Jesus is that the journey of faith requires us to become more like the Father; we have to cross over from being focused on ourselves to being immersed with his ways.
These days at Saint Joseph, we are reading St. Luke’s gospel using the key Journey Together to help us understand the journey of Jesus to Jerusalem. This Sunday, we are called to be aware of The Cost of Travel. Jesus teaches his apostles that there is a cost to following him. Those following him must carry their own cross.
As Jesus traveled to Jerusalem, he taught the people in the towns and villages. Being taught well and learning are essential for growth. We recognize this every September when schools, adult education programs and churches offer courses for people to learn and grow. At St. Joseph, some of the learning opportunities coming this month are:
Faith Formation programs for children begin Sunday and Monday, September 15th and 16th. We are still accepting registrations; you can register on our website. There are three programs being offered:
- Faith Formation Classes: The Sunday session is at the new time of 9:15 a.m., and the Monday session starts at 4:45 p.m. There is a new exciting trimester program on Monday’s for middle school age students.
- Faith and Family Formation: In this format, the entire family comes to the group sessions, the first of which is next Sunday.
- The Home Study Program: Here parents or guardians teach the topics to their children using the resources supplied and reviewed by the Faith Formation Team.
Formation for Confirmation begins today with a retreat at the Franciscan Friary, and a second group of teens have their retreat on September 22nd.
Sharing Christ begins on September 19th. This program is for all those who have completed the two preparatory programs: Discovering Christ and Following Christ.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) begins on September 15th for those who wish to enter the Catholic Church by means of either Baptism or Confirmation. We can also cater for older children who are not baptized and want to receive this sacrament.
Festival of Praise: While this may be less about the mind and more about prayer, it is a way to learn how to praise God and intercede for the missionary activity at St. Joseph. The first festival will be held on Friday, September 20th, at 7:00 p.m.
It is not too late to sign up for these events. If you are wondering about participating, it is best to visit our website at saintjoseph.cc or phone the parish office to find out more. Let’s Journey Together as a faith community and spend time and energy allowing Jesus to teach us about faith, hope and love.
The Journey Begins.
In Chapter 9 of his gospel, Saint Luke tells us: “When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.” The journey of Jesus isn’t that of a pilgrim who goes up to the Temple to fulfill his religious obligations. No, he is going to Jerusalem in obedience to the will of the Father. On his way, Jesus goes to the towns and villages ‘teaching’. Here at Saint Joseph Catholic Community, we will creatively use the theme Journey Together in the months ahead as an invitation for all of us, children and adults, to grow in following Jesus and allowing him to teach us.
Lighten Your Load for the Journey.
Experienced hikers realize they need to carry a minimum of clothes and accessories in their backpacks, so that essentials, such as water and basic foods, can be easily carried. If the pack is too heavy, the walker will move slowly and will hurt himself. The teaching in this Sunday’s gospel is: We need to lighten the load of ‘stuff’ we are carrying in our lives if we want to accompany Jesus on the journey to fulfill the will of the Father. If our lives are full of opinions we consider so important that only those who share them may travel alongside us; if what is essential to us is our job, career and how our resume looks; if we are proud about what are in fact gifts from God, then we have to lighten the load. It is necessary to be humble and shed some of these opinions, achievements and pride if we are going to be free to follow Jesus. As Jesus says, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Bring Along Humility.
To be a disciple, we need to have the ability to be free of baggage. The values we aspire to result, when we are invited to a party, in our taking the back seats, and when we throw a party, in our inviting the poor. Rather than lots of opinions, achievements and accomplishments being in our backpack, we take along humility – it is lighter and leaves us freer.