Am I Coachable?

So, my favorite sport is basketball. I love to watch basketball as much as. I like to play it. One of the funniest evenings over the past year was during March Madness. Fr. Tony came back in the evening, and saw another college basketball game on the TV. He said jokingly with a tone of seriousness, “Seriously man, again? Basketball again? Do you watch anything else?!?”

But anyway, I love basketball and one of my favorite players is Stephen Curry. Early on in Stephen Curry’s career, he was no where near the player he is today. And he asked his coaches this question: What do I need to do to become a better player? His coaches gave him two things specifically. They said, become a better defender, and a better ball handler. If you do that, you will be great. Today, he is maybe one of the most crafty ball handlers in the league, and he has become an above-average defender. His improvement in his dribbling skills enabled him to become the MVP caliber player he is today.

Ok, why I am talking about all of this? I think coaching is so important in sports. In professional sports, having the right coach can make the difference between having an average team and a contending team. So, what is that one quality that all excellent coaches share? They know how to give challenging and constructive feedback. They do not tell their players that everything is fine. Sure, they affirm the good, absolutely! But they also, challenge and demand that their players change bad habits, strengthen their weaknesses, so that they can reach their potential.

This is what Jeremiah is talking about today. Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture. In other words, woe to those shepherds, who are like bad coaches. Who do not tell their flock what they need to hear. Worse yet, they cause confusion and cause their flock to scatter. A good example of this is a friend of mine from high school. He was good basketball player and had the talent to play on the high school team. Time and time again, his coach would say, “Great job!” And yet, my friend’s frustration would grow because he never really got a chance to play. Why? Well, really, because his coach did not tell him what he needed to improve. He was only told you’re doing well. You can see why he was frustrated… He needed his coach to help him see his weaknesses so he could improve. Shepherds are called to be good coaches. And that means good shepherds both affirm well and challenge well.

One question for us to consider this weekend is, “What do I expect of my parish priests?” And, more specifically, “what do I expect in my pastor’s homilies?” “Do I expect him to both challenge and affirm?” Before I go any further, I am not saying that priests should never preach on God’s love, or preach in uplifting ways, but if a priest is always giving homilies that are uplifting and proclaim God’s love, but never challenges his people, something is out of balance… He is called to both affirm and challenge. At times, homilies should point out bad behaviors that all of us can fall into. And homilies should challenge societal errors. Just like Stephen Curry, who needed his bad habits and weaknesses pointed out, we to need our spiritual leaders to do the same. If we as your priests don’t do this, then we are the people Jeremiah is talking to today. And then Jesus, does look down at all of you with pity, for the good people of God are [like] sheep without a shepherd.

With this in mind, I think we can consider two important things in our spiritual lives. First, I encourage all of us here, if we have ever heard a homily that was challenging, or that bothered you a bit, and it maybe left you a little angry with the priest, I invite you to reconsider that homily. What was it about that homily that bothered you? Is the Holy Spirit possibly convicting your conscience through that homily? And maybe, after considering this we will have a new admiration and respect for our shepherds, “Thank you Father, that you love us enough to challenge us even if its uncomfortable.” This is not easy for priests to do. Its much easier to avoid difficult topics, or topics that call people on to holiness. But here’s the thing, none of us should every feel like my friend from high school who couldn’t get playing time. None of us should never have to say, “I didn’t know that was a sin, or that this was wrong… Why didn’t someone ever tell me?”

The second thing for us to consider is this: Am I coachable? Am I, like Stephen Curry, willing to hear that I am not perfect, that I have flaws, and that these are being pointed out in my life so that I can do be better? Am I willing to hear that I have things I need to change, and that my pastor is called to point those things out for me.

This analogy works so well. All of us need good shepherds in our lives. All of us need people who are willing to say, “you know what, I love you, and I love you enough to tell you that you need to change this behavior, or bad habit.” If you do this, you will grow tremendously in your spiritual life. For this reason all priests are required to have a spiritual director, someone who challenges us to grow in virtue and to be more accountable. We can’t hold you to this standard if we don’t do it ourselves. Much like a player cannot become better unless he listens to the constructive feedback of his coach, we too cannot grow if we do not listen to out “spiritual coaches”; our good Shepherds.

So, friends, are you coachable?

In Christ’s love and friendship,

Fr. Stephen

You are a Prophet!

I feel a particular closeness to Christ today… I’m happy to be home, here at Holy Family Parish where I grew up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some people here are thinking like our people in the Gospel, where did he get all this… Isn’t he just Mary’s son?   And so, no prophet is welcome in his native place!  I certainly do not feel that way when I come home.  All kidding aside it is great to be here.  But something important for us to notice is that just because the people were unable to hear the Good News from Jesus didn’t stop Jesus from teaching.  Nor did it stop Ezekiel.  Though the generation he preached to was rebellious, he was still called to be a prophet, to speak God’s word, so that regardless, they will know a prophet was among them…

Who is a prophet? Biblical prophets are those who literally speak God’s words to his people.  Biblical prophets from the Old Testament usually addressed the bad behavior and infidelity of the Israelites.  Often they predicted that if they continued this behavior, these bad things will happen.  Often, they did not listen and the bad things did happen to the Israelites; hence, the reason people think of fortune-telling as the function of a prophet. But, the real function of a prophet is to speak God’s words to His people—often words that incited conversion.

Most of us here are baptized Christians.  This means that all of us have received three fundamental characteristics at our baptism; priests (one who prays to God), king (loving service to others), and prophet (one who speaks God’s words).  This weekend, we are invited to consider our identity as prophets. So, I invite all of us to reflect on this question: Are we responding to our call to be a prophet in our world today?

Two reasons that we avoid our prophetic task. The first reason we avoid our prophetic task is illustrated in our second reading from Saint Paul.  He confesses to us, I, Paul, might not become too elated, because…, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated.  Paul is experiencing some battle with sin and the evil one.  He knows his weakness. All of us are like Paul, we are very familiar without weakness and capacity to sin.  This can be a deterrent for us when we feel called to prophesy.  We think, “how could I say something to that person when I myself have struggled with something similar?!?”  We feel like hypocrites Saint Paul tells us that is precisely in our experience of weakness, and our recognition of our need for God, that makes us qualified to prophesy.  This is what prevents us from pride.  Instead, we say to another out of love, and because of our own similar experiences, that he/she needs to change.

The other reason we avoid our prophetic task is that it puts us in the middle of conflict.  It’s easier to avoid the difficult conversations than to have them at all.  But here’s the thing, God might be using our voice to poke at the consciences of others.  As a priest, this is the most challenging aspect of preaching: “When should I challenge bad behaviors, sins, or societal sins (societal acceptance of abortion, deterioration of marriage, immigration policies etc.) in my homilies?”  There is a tension that exists here.  Some people in the pews want every homily to be about these issues.  Some people in the pews would rather that the homily never discusses these issues.  So the challenge for me is to discern, when does it make sense, in light of the Scriptures for that Sunday, for me to talk about these issues? The short answer is, there will be times when God will convict my heart and ask me to do this, and it will take courage to do so. 

Another example of how our prophetic task puts us in the middle of conflict is when we feel the need to challenge someone close to us.  For example, when someone in our family is struggling, maybe with substance abuse, they need someone close to them to say, “hey, we want to help you, because if we don’t address this, your life will continue to unravel.”  How sad it is when we don’t do this, and someone does spiral out of control. Or, another example that some parents experience.  A parent is disappointed that their child has decided to cohabitate with his/her significant other.  I have had many parents say to me, they are too afraid to say anything because they fear they will push away their child. This is the time to say something.  Too often we let the threat of conflict discourage us from prophesying to those in our lives.  

Friends, all of us, because of our baptism, are called to be prophets. We always have to do this with love, of course… But maybe God plans to use us and our own experience and relationship with a person, to help that person get back on the road to salvation.

And finally, not only are we called to be prophets for others in our lives, but we are also called to listen to the prophets sent into our lives.  Ezekiel shares with us in our first reading, Thus says the LORD GOD! And whether they heed or resist, for they are a rebellious house, they shall know that a prophet has been among them. These are some haunting words for us to consider from the prophet Ezekiel.  But the point is clear. We have been sent prophets, it is our duty to listen, no matter how challenging it may be.

So I close with this question for us to consider, How are we prophets for others, and are we listening to the prophets in our own lives?

 

In Christ’s Love and Friendship,

Fr. Stephen

Saint John the Baptist, a model to follow in the Christian life?

This weekend we have the privilege of celebrating the nativity of Saint John the Baptist on a Sunday.  Most often when a feast day for a saint happens to be on a Sunday, the celebration for that Saint is bypassed. Very few saints would actually “trump” the normally scheduled Sunday liturgy.  This, however, is one such weekend. And if we want more proof to just how important this day is, consider this:  Saint John the Baptist, is the only other person, besides Mary and Jesus, where we commemorate their births into this world.  For all other saints, we celebrate the day they died or their birth into eternal life

Today’s celebration of the nativity communicates something very important to all of us this weekend: that we are all created out of love by God, that we are to live confident in God’s love for us, and that the experience of God’s love calls us to respond; we are to do something!

Saint John the Baptist, thought precursor to the Lord Jesus, models for us how to live the Christian life. 

First, Saint John lived a life of relationship with his creator.- He knew his identity as a son of God and one who was made with intentionality and purpose by his creator.  **Sunday: The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. He made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me. ** Saturday: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. Our first readings speak to us about the intentionality by which God has created each of us.  Look at the details: ‘a sharped edged sword’, ‘a polished arrow’, ‘before I formed you I knew you’.  Thus, we joyfully pray the psalm: I praise you, Lord, for I am wonderfully made.  Friends, God wanted each of us here.  Each of us in an unrepeatable example of God’s creative love in the world.  Just like John, he created us too with intentionality and purpose.

Two scenes from the Gospels highlight Johns intimate relationship with God. In the Gospels, John identifies himself as the one crying out it in the desert.  Before he began his mission he spent time in prayer and fasting.  John had a mature relationship with his creator.  Do we have this intimate relationship? Many of us would say we desire a more personal,  more intimate relationship with our God.  Today, in the busy-ness of our lives and all the distractions (esp. technology) we can neglect our time for personal prayer.  And so, for all of us who desire this deeper relationship with God, we can imitate John the Baptist – Go to the desert – retreat from the world of distractions, busyness, and technology, and make a space for God in our hearts. Commit to some time of silent prayer and meditation each day.

The other scene of importance is when Mary comes to visit Elizabeth, and John leaps with great joy in Elizabeth’s womb.  It is this experience of life-giving joy that indicates an authentic relationship with our God.  Pope Francis does not mince words on this, paraphrasing he says, ‘If your not living your Christian life with joy, you’re doing it wrong.’

Finally, Saint John knew that his life was not about him. As you all know, today we are celebrating the nativity of Saint John.  But what you might not know is how much meaning is behind the date we celebrate this feast.  The other day was the Summer solstice, and now, every day going forward the days will get shorter until December.  Then Christ will be born, just after the winter solstice, and every day afterwards will get longer.  When people wanted to over glorify Saint John, he responded, I am not worthy to unfasten the Sandals of the feet of the one who is to come – He must increase and I must decrease.  Everything about Saint John’s life was meant to prepare the world for Jesus. It wasn’t about him. 

Friends, we are called to imitate Saint John the Baptist. Just as he pointed out Christ in a world that so badly needed him, so too we are called to point to Christ in our world today.  The only way we can show others to Christ is if we believe that we are sons and daughters before the Father, and have a relationship with the God we hope to make present.   

May we follow Saint John the Baptist’s example, and be Saint Johns among the world today, and proclaim, “Behold, that is Jesus.  He is the one who has saved you and loved you.  Go to him.”

 

In Christ’s love and friendship,

Fr. Stephen

The Graces of my first year as a Priest

“I can’t believe that this day is here.”  I remember, vividly, thinking this very same thought last year on Saturday morning June 3rd, 2017.   Then it happened.  I was ordained a priest and it truly was the happiest day of my life.  I remember the hugs from all the priests of the diocese welcoming me into their brotherhood as one of their own. I remember being challenged by one of my priest heroes to wake up every morning and pray “Lord, help me to love your People as Christ loved us.” And finally, I remember my first Mass, the smiles, and joy visible on the faces of my family and friends.  It was one of those moments that no-one would deny the presence of the Holy Spirit.  And yet, I find myself thinking these same words this weekend, “I can’t believe that this day is here.”

This weekend marks my one year anniversary as a priest.  One year that really is filled with a lifetime of memories.  When I arrived here I was filled with both the excitement and nervousness at beginning priestly ministry.  I arrived and felt immediately welcomed.  Fr. Tony in his joy and good humor and by all of you in your open hearts to receiving a baby priest. I remember looking out over the hill at the city of Rockford, smoking a cigar with Fr. Tony in late July saying, “I am so happy to be here as associate pastor.” Then July ended, and the marathon began.

In August I met a man from the parish who would teach me more about priesthood than I ever learned in the seminary.  He was a young married man with children, and for some reason, he was very sick.  Over the next 4-6 weeks he and I would chat about sports, pray, and laugh.  But we would also worry, cry and wonder why he had to suffer and why he wasn’t getting better?  I didn’t have the answers.  All I could tell him, was that “no matter what, God would never leave him; God would never allow him to suffer alone.” And eventually we would celebrate his funeral.  It seems odd now to say that this was one of the highlights from my first year as a priest. But it was. I saw in this young man the face of Christ. I was with his family as they said goodbye.  I watched as his Mom, Dad, sibling and wife all kissed him on the forehead and said, “we love you.” I remember being thanked by the family for being there, and I thought, “where else would I be. You all are my family. This is what priests do.”

I’ll never forget this young man, but since his funeral, I’ve often wondered, “Why Lord?” And, as it so often happens with God’s grace, but at times we least expect, months later I received an answer.  Barely two weeks ago our parish said goodbye to a lifelong parishioner, and one of her daughters spoke after Mass saying, “My mom lived a life in loving service modeled after Christ’s love, and so it is fitting that she would experience a death like his.” We may never understand why we have to say goodbye to people we love before we are ready, and I certainly do not think it is God’s perfect will for us to experience this. But I think God uses even their ‘deaths’ to be wellsprings of grace for us.  They are moments of great suffering, confusion and pain, but they can become also great memories of God’s never failing love and proximate presence in our lives.

And then it was October. I was walking up the hill to the rectory while the kids from the school were outside playing during recess.  A couple of the young ones ran toward me and with great joy shouted, “Fr. Stephen! Fr. Stephen!  Will you play with us?!” This was one of the best moments. From an outsiders perspective, it may have looked like I had given those kids a great gift that day, but I can assure you it was the other way around.  At that moment, I felt at home.  Our Lady had transitioned from being “my first assignment as a priest” to the place that I now call home. 

The amount of families who have opened their homes to me and invited me over for dinner is impossible to count.  This is not a highlight because of the great food; although my waistline would say otherwise 😉, but it has been a highlight as it has allowed me to come to know many of you on a more personal level. I look out now at the congregation as I begin my homily, and I see all the familiar faces.  I see the people who I have shared a meal with, talked and prayed with. It truly is a beautiful thing to stand up there and see the person that I know needs prayers right now, or the person that I know has received the happiest news, or the person that I know needs God’s comfort and peace.  Getting to know all of you has been one of the best highlights.

Finally, it cannot be overstated how much I love celebrating the Sacraments.  I find myself in awe as I come down the hill most mornings. “How can it be that I have the great privilege of celebrating Mass for and with God’s people today?!”   I am equally in awe as I think about the people I have anointed over the past year.  Upon reflection, I think these moments have been so powerful because I have the privilege to witness people’s trust and hope in God.  Hope that God will make us well, and trust, that whatever the outcome, God is with us no matter what.  Reconciliation, there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the joy on one’s face after receiving God’s forgiveness and assurance that one is loved unconditionally by our Father; who indeed is rich in mercy.

Friends, the priest’s vocation is to imitate Christ’s loving service completely. The life of a priest is a shared gift.  It has been a great gift to me as I have encountered God in so many people and experiences this year.  But, the life of a priest is a gift for God’s people as well.  May we rejoice with grateful hearts this weekend for the gift of the priesthood.  Especially as our Diocese ordains three men this weekend; including our beloved Fr. Michael Steffes. Much more can be said here, but I end with this, some days I fear I am receiving much more from all of you than I could possibly give to you.  But isn’t that what’s truly great about Christian friendship, we become icons of God’s goodness, grace and love for each other.

With great love and joy,

Fr. Stephen

Our Pilgrimage of Love

The movement of the Ascension will be complete only when all the members of his body have been drawn to the Father and brought to life by His Spirit.

The latter had gone forth as the only Son; now he returns in the flesh, bringing the Father’s adoptive Sons [and daughters]” (Wellspring of Worship, 65).

A couple thousand years ago, our Heavenly Father in sent his son Jesus on a pilgrimage of love.  The purpose of this journey was to seek us out and bring us back to the Father. And so, this pilgrimage of love began a couple of months ago when we celebrated Christmas. 

The pilgrimage continued six weeks ago when we celebrated Easter, Christ’s victory and the gift of our salvation.  Today we celebrate the completion of that pilgrimage of love.  Today we celebrate the Ascension, the final act of the paschal mystery.  The Paschal mystery is Christ’s death, His Resurrection, and His Ascension.  Each is important to the salvation event.  In His death, Jesus enters into the depths of our human condition, takes on our sins, suffers with and for us.  In His resurrection, Jesus conquers the powers of evil; sin and death, raises us to new life, and gives us freedom and peace.  Now today, we celebrate the final act of salvation; The Ascension.  Today is the day that we celebrate, “The eternal joy of the Father at the return of his beloved Son.” But today, we also celebrate our journey to the Father.  Because at Jesus’ ascension he lifts us up as well, and brings us back to Father and says, “These too, are your sons and your daughters.” But the pilgrimage does not end here.  Jesus’ earthly pilgrimage might have ended but now its time for the Church’s pilgrimage of love to begin.

A couple of weeks ago I suggested that all of us pray with the Book of Acts.  This is because the Book of Acts is how the early church proclaimed the Father’s love by remaining committing to love as Christ loves, to bring reconciliation to sinners, and to bring God’s peace and comfort to the suffering. The early Christians and how they responded to Christ’s paschal mystery are a model for us. They show us how to be Apostles.  They too were sent on a pilgrimage of love and responded. 

Jesus has completed his earthly mission.  He came down from heaven to proclaim the Father’s love to the world.  Now he returns to heaven, bringing with him, all of us.  Now it’s our turn…

Jesus says this much to us this weekend: Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.  And then we are told that we have apostles,  prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, to equip [us] for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. And finally, we have what sounds like a sarcastic comment from the men in heaven, why are you standing there looking at the sky? And now, It is our turn to go on a pilgrimage of love. 

So here’s the question for us to reflect on this week, who are you bringing with you to the Father? Jesus has brought us to the Father, now he asks us for help.  Who will we bring with us?

 

In Christ’s Love and Friendship,

Fr. Stephen

First Communions – A Reminder of the Joy that God Gives Us

Alright boys and girls how many of you are excited for your first holy communion tonight?  Why are you excited?  Did you know that you are giving a precious gift to the rest of us here this evening?  You are!  Boys and girls, your joy, your joy in receiving Jesus, is a gift for all of us to witness.  It is a reminder for all of us present, how joyful of an occasion receiving our Lord in the Holy Eucharist truly is.

As I look at these young faces getting ready to receive Jesus for the first time, I am reminded this evening, of my first time celebrating Mass.  It was an awesome and beautiful day that I will never forget.  Something that was passed on to me at my ordination I want to pass on to all of you.  There is a saying offered as encouragement for newly ordained priests: Priests of God celebrate each Mass as if it was your first as if it was your last, and as if it was your only Mass.  This saying is meant to encourage priests to celebrate Mass with the same joy as if it was their first, the same love as it was their last, and with same gratitude as if it was their only Mass.

This is my encouragement for all us present this evening; and especially for the first communicants!  Whenever you receive communion, receive Jesus as if it was your first time, your last time, and your only time! In other words, may we receive Jesus with great joy, love and gratitude!

How do we know that Jesus loves us? Jesus says, love one another, as I have loved you. The cross shows us that Jesus loved us so much by offering his life for us. Not only that, but Jesus gave us the Eucharist, his body and blood, as a constant reminder of his love for each of us. Through Christ’s action on the cross and the Eucharist, he tells us that we are valued, precious and loved by God.  This is why we have Joy.  Not because we loved God first, but rather because he loves us and has loved us first! Friends, we can learn a lot from these little ones this weekend.  Jesus proclaims to us this weekend that my joy may be in you and your joy might be complete.  In a special way, Christ’s joy is on the faces of these little ones, may we too be filled with joy and the knowledge that we are loved tremendously by God.

This weekend, may the joy of the first communicants be our joy, a joy that reminds us that Jesus came so that we might have joy and that our joy would be complete.

 

In Christ’s Love and Friendship,

Fr. Stephen

Remain in me – Jesus is the source of our Life

The image of the vine and branches is a vital union. Without the vine, the branches will die.  In Jesus’ final I Am statement of the Gospel of John, Jesus claims I am the vine, which is the constant source of life for the branches.

And so, what is Jesus saying to us this weekend other than, I am your source of life. I am what gives you life!  A question I wonder is how does Jesus give us his life today?

Jesus gives us his life today through the Eucharist.  Our seminarian, Danny, loves to compare the spiritual nourishment we get from the Eucharist to the physical nourishment we get from food.  Our bodies, need food and water to survive.  Without food and water, we would die.  We need both in order to live.  The same is true in the spiritual life, all of us need the Eucharist in order to live spiritually.  We need the graces of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, to be filled with God’s life and love, and to be nourished by Jesus who gives us life.  He is the vine, we are the branches, we draw our life from our Lord.

With this in mind, I want to focus for a moment on how important weekly participation in the Eucharistic Liturgy, that is, the celebration of the Mass, is for each one of us. A couple of months ago,  I was giving a talk to the parents of the kids receiving their first communion this year.  One of the young Mom’s asked, “Father, is it really a “grave sin” to miss Sunday Mass?” I said, nervously (because I knew there was a reason she was asking) well yes, but let’s think about the reason.  And so first I clarified, there could be a just reason to miss Mass such as your son/daughter was sick with the flu and you were taking care of him/her.  An example where it wouldn’t be okay to miss Mass would be staying home to watch the Lions play if the game is on in the morning (which could happen if they are playing in London. The church certainly doesn’t want to overburden us with guilt.  So, why does the Church encourage us to go Mass?  The answer lies in our Gospel.  Jesus said he is the source of life! Thus, it is participating in the weekly celebration of the Mass that fills us with the life of Christ. And so, I think the best way to encourage people to commit to Sunday celebration of the Eucharist, is by reminding them exactly what Jesus tells us today -that this is the place to remain with Jesus – the source of our life.

And this is how we are to remain with Him. Our lives need to hear the Word of Christ proclaimed and preached in our lives.  Our spiritual lives are nourished both in the hearing of the Word of God and in reception of the Holy Eucharist. And then Christ sustains what we have heard and received at Mass in our prayer-life throughout the week.  Our prayer life is an essential element to remaining with Christ.  This allows us to reflect on and give God thanks for what we have received each Sunday.

But it can’t stop here.  Something else needs to happen.  Christ says, whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.  A couple of weeks ago I was discussing the importance of the Eucharist with a young man, who is Protestant.  He is interested in the Catholic Faith and has asked to meet with me periodically to answer some of his questions.  And one of his questions, about the Eucharist, specifically was, “why do Catholics seem hyper-focused on the Eucharist”?  And I said, “can you explain what you mean by that?” He said, “I just feel that Catholics say the reason they go to Mass is all about receiving the Eucharist, but not as much about Evangelization.”  And I said oh man you hit on a very important point.  Yes, Catholics absolutely have a sense of the importance of the Eucharist, but it cannot end with receiving Jesus.  There is a response!

I said to the young man, look when Mass on Sundays begin, often we process in with the Book of the Gospels, then we are nourished by Christ’s Word and by Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist.  When Mass is over we do not process out with the book of the Gospels, because we are now called to literally be the procession of the Good News into the world.  Our lives are to be so filled with Christ’s life and love, and even transformed, that the experience of Christ love from the liturgy bears fruit in the world.  In other words, as Catholics we have been called to bring the very Jesus we have received into our bodies into the world. And this is why we as the branches must remain close to Jesus through the Mass (the living Word and the Eucharist); “for [we are the] branches to bear fruit, [we] must stay attached to the vine. If the [we] are to produce works of love,  [we] must remain in communion with Jesus: Remain in me, as I remain in you.

 

In Christ’s love and friendship,

Fr. Stephen