Deacon’s Corner, January 26 2020

WE ARE CALLED FOR MORE! 

PLEASE READ

Bishop Boyea has invited Sacred Heart Parish to participate in a parish survey about discipleship conducted by the Catholic Leadership Institute.  We need your help.

Please help us by participating in a 10-15 minute survey from Saturday, February 8 through Sunday, March 1.  The survey will ask you to reflect on your own spiritual growth and enable you to provide feedback on our parish’s efforts to help you grow.  All responses will be confidential and the parish will only receive information about the community as whole.

There will be two ways to access the survey.  It will be available to take online at www.disciplemakerindex.com.   However, if you don’t use a computer – there will be opportunities to complete the survey after Sunday Masses or at home.  If you are unable to obtain a paper copy after these Masses, you can contact Tammy Houser at 517-448-3811 and one will be mailed to you.

We are trying to get the highest survey response rate possible.  This information will be invaluable to Fr. Todd and our various ministries as we plan for the future and strive to be the best disciples we can be.  We will receive the results this spring/summer at which time we will share what we have learned with the entire parish.

Thank you for helping with this important project!

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, January 19 2020

WE ARE CALLED FOR MORE! 

 

Bishop Boyea has invited Sacred Heart Parish to participate in a parish survey about discipleship conducted by the Catholic Leadership Institute.  We need your help.

Please help us by participating in a 10-15 minute survey from Saturday, February 8 through Sunday, March 1.  The survey will ask you to reflect on your own spiritual growth and enable you to provide feedback on our parish’s efforts to help you grow.  All responses will be confidential and the parish will only receive information about the community as whole.

There will be two ways to access the survey.  It will be available to take online at www.disciplemakerindex.com.   However, if you don’t use a computer – there will be opportunities to complete the survey after Sunday Masses or at home.  If you are unable to obtain a paper copy after these Masses, you can contact Tammy Houser at 517-448-3811 and one will be mailed to you.

We are trying to get the highest survey response rate possible.  This information will be invaluable to Fr. Todd and our various ministries as we plan for the future and strive to be the best disciples we can be.  We will receive the results this spring/summer at which time we will share what we have learned with the entire parish.

Thank you for helping with this important project!

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, January 12 2020

Today, we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus.  But, sometimes I wonder why Jesus was baptized in the first place.  After all, He is God.  He is already sinless.  He has no reason to repent, change His ways, or ask forgiveness.  Perhaps Jesus came to be baptized as a representative of the sinful human race to foreshadow His death and resurrection three years later?  Or maybe to set the example for the rest of us for what it means to start fresh with a clean heart and follow Him.  After all, John’s mission was to prepare the way for Jesus to come, not to take away sin.

Scripture doesn’t say why Jesus was baptized.  But, the Gospel does tell us that when John the Baptist asked Jesus why He wanted to be baptized, Jesus said it was fitting to fulfill all righteousness.  So, perhaps Jesus asked John to baptize Him simply as an act of obedience to God’s purposes. God had given John the promise of a coming Messiah and the way to identify Him. Jesus fulfilled that promise. His Baptism was simply the right thing at the right time: the last act of Jesus’ private life before beginning His ministry to show us the path to righteousness so we can grow closer to God.

So, what about us?  Why were we baptized?  Because, our Baptism is not a rite of passage into a special club.  Our Baptism is an entry into a covenant with God where we dedicate our life to following His plan for us.  Baptism initiates a lifelong commitment to live, as St. Paul says, in the Spirit, not in the flesh – rejecting godless ways and worldly desires – to live moderately, justly, and devoutly.  That’s what our Baptism is all about: emptying ourselves of material wants, then loving as Jesus loved.

Our Baptism is about bringing the Light of Christ into this world.  When we can do that – when we can bring Jesus into the lives of other people – we will be able to clearly see the plan God has for us and His creation.

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner, January 5 2020

Today is The Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is one of the oldest Christian feasts we celebrate.  Webster defines epiphany as an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure; a manifestation of a divine or supernatural being; a moment of sudden revelation or insight.  But as Christians, the Epiphany is much more than that.  Epiphany comes from a Greek verb meaning “to reveal.  So, the “epiphany” of Jesus, is God revealing Himself to the world – not just to a chosen few, but to every person from every nation for eternity.

God’s Epiphany happened through men from faraway lands.  Human beings filled with wisdom and seeking peace.  They brought gifts symbolizing different aspects of the divine, infant Savior’s life.  The gift of frankincense – the sign of divinity –  is offered to Jesus, the Son of God, His eternal Word made Flesh.  The gift of gold – the gift for a king –  is offered to Jesus the King of the Universe.  The gift of myrrh – used to anoint the dead – is offered to the little divine but human savior of the world who will suffer and die for the salvation of all.

At that first Christmas, the magi sought and found God, then brought Him gifts fit for a king.  What about us?  Do we seek God?  Do we find Him around us?  What meaningful or valuable gifts do we bring Him?  The answers to these questions lie deep within our hearts.  Because the best gifts we can give God come from our heart – our gratitude, our humility, our will, our mind, and our love.  The best gift we can give God today is ourselves.  After all, it’s the gift the Lord longs to receive from each of us.

Deacon John

 

Deacon Corner, December 15 2019

Two weeks ago, we piled into the SUV with our kids and grandkids to go see the Nite Lites display at Michigan International Speedway.  It was a beautiful evening, and the 30-minute drive through the display of lights with music was a great way to kick off the Christmas season.  But, decorating for the First Christmas didn’t happen with electrical cords, colored lights, trees, or glitter.  Nor were Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra singing the Christmas classics. There could have been snow; after all, it was winter.  Most likely, it was just another very chilly night in the desert region of Israel we know today as Palestine.

No one baked holiday cookies that night, and no tourists flocked around to see what was happening.  Just a few simple shepherds out in the field witnessed that awesome event of the First Christmas as “the glory of the Lord shone around them” and an angelic choir sang “Glory to God in the Highest.”  Those shepherds went to Bethlehem to see if what the angels said was true.   What they saw filled them with so much joy, they hurried off to tell others what they had heard and seen.  They saw, and they believed.

Advent is the season to have our faith strengthened.  To be reminded of the power of Jesus to work miracles, both in the Gospels and our daily lives.  To grow in faith is to grow in joy because the Lord we come to know is the source of our joy.  Today begins the 3rd week of Advent.  The candle to be lit on the wreath is rose (pink).  That’s because pink symbolizes joy: the joy that Jesus is almost here.  What better time than this week to gather the family around, dust off your Bible, and experience the joy of reading the story of that First Christmas?  (You can find it in the first chapters of Matthew and Luke.)  Then afterwards, go share your joy with others that Jesus – the light of the world – is coming.   Relive this Great Story, and relive the joy it brings.  May you have a blessed week preparing your heart to receive our Savior.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, December 8 2019

Over the past three months, our Confirmation students have been working hard preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation in May.  As you may remember, our two parishes joined together again this year with a combined class of young adults to learn about their Catholic faith and how the Holy Spirit works within them to fulfill the plan God has for their lives.

This year’s class has 14 students: 10 from Sacred Heart and 4 from St Mary on the Lake.  Back on October 19, they attended a one-day retreat at the Judson Collins Retreat Center in the Irish Hills.  The Confirmation classes from St. Joseph Shrine, Holy Family (Adrian), and Light of Christ parishes also joined in.  Fr. Todd and I spent the day with the group, prayed Mass with them, and finished the evening with Eucharistic Adoration.  I am always so impressed by how much the kids enjoy these retreats every year, especially spending quiet time with the Lord during Adoration.

Jen Loar, a catechist from St. Mary on the Lake, has graciously volunteered to lead our combined program this year.  The following is an update from Jen on what the class has been doing…..The Confirmation students have been busy with their service and mercy work! We had lots of fun helping at the Sacred Heart Gala and bowling and social time afterwards was really good time together.  We also spent a few hours at the Catherine Cobb Shelter organizing boxes and PILES of donations. The kids worked SO hard and we all wished we could have done more, but they really appreciated our many hands of mercy!

Keep these students in your prayers as they discern their Confirmation Sponsor. If you are asked, please keep your heart open to saying YES! It means they look up to you as a person of faith in their lives. They are also choosing a Patron Saint name.

On Sunday, December 15, we will Christmas Carol to a few of our parish shut-ins after we help prepare cookies for the Kiwanis food baskets. If your family would like to join in the caroling as well, please meet us at St. Mary on the Lake at 5 p.m. I am also in need of a few helpers to get some hot cocoa and food ready for us when we return at approx. 6 p.m.

Please contact me if you would like to help in this night of caroling around the lakes! God bless you for your prayers and support of our youth!   Jen Loar – 517-673-1185  or email me:  jenloar@yahoo.com.

Thank you, Jen, for all that you are doing to serve our parishes.  Please keep our young adults in your prayers as they prepare to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.  Please also consider joining us to celebrate their Confirmation Mass with Bishop Boyea on the evening of May 28th in St. Dominic Chapel at Siena Heights University.  Thank you!

Deacon John

Deacon’s Corner, December 1 2019

If you are like me, you may not have realized today is the 1st Sunday of Advent until you saw the wreath in the front of the church. I write every year how Advent sneaks up on me, and this year is no different.  Today marks four weeks until Christmas.  But, before we rush ahead and think about everything to get done by December 25th, let’s take a look at why we celebrate Advent and what the wreath is all about.

“Advent” is from the Latin adventus for “coming” or “arrival.” It originally described the whole mystery of the Incarnation – the Word made Flesh – or Jesus, God with skin, as I like to think.  Once Christmas became a popular Christian feast in the 4th century, Advent evolved as a distinct liturgical season to help people prepare for the second and final coming of the Lord with a joyful theme of getting ready to celebrate His first coming.

The Advent wreath tradition originated among Lutherans in Germany in the 16th century.  It was probably adopted from a Germanic pagan custom of burning festive lights at the end of November and beginning of December as the darkness of winter set upon them.  The Advent wreath was brought to America by German immigrants and became popular among Catholics in the mid-1900s.  Wreaths have always symbolized victory and glory.  So, the lighting of one wreath candle each Sunday of Advent represents the Light of Christ increasing to push out darkness, until all four candles are burning.  The Advent wreath represents the long time when we lived in spiritual darkness, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, the Light of the World.

Each year during Advent, we wait in darkness for the coming of the Lord – His historical coming in the mystery of Bethlehem, His final coming at the end of time, and His special coming every time we accept God’s grace.  This year during Advent, don’t just write a letter to Santa, but say a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the gift of Jesus’ birth.  May you have a joyful Advent preparing for the coming of Our Lord.

Deacon John

 

Deacon’s Corner, November 24 2019

From crucifixes to candles to the Sign of the Cross, symbols are deeply woven into our Catholic Faith.   These symbols are not pointless items to take lightly.  They exist to enrich our prayer life and help us grow closer to Christ.  We can study our Faith, talk about our Faith, listen to CDs, and hear great homilies.  But the symbols of our Faith provide another layer of teaching to help us understand what we believe.

For example, the Stations of the Cross displayed along the walls of our church allow us to use our imagination to share in the suffering of Jesus on the way to Calvary.   The fourteen stations each portray a different image inviting us to meditate on His Passion and death.  The Stations of the Cross are “symbolic” of that first Good Friday to help us appreciate exactly what Jesus endured for us.  As with all of our Catholic symbols, they touch our whole self:  mind, will, emotions, and body.

A symbol is something that stands for something else.  It literally “re-presents” an idea to us in a different form so we can take it in more fully and deeply.  Some symbols are images, such as the lamb representing Christ as the Lamb of God.  Other symbols are abstract, such as the initials IHS, an abbreviation of the Greek name for Jesus.  Color can be symbolic.  Blue is usually associated with the Blessed Mother, white with purity, and red with martyrs.   Gestures also carry a symbolic meaning.  Genuflecting before the tabernacle, with Christ present inside in the consecrated hosts, represents our reverence and allegiance to Him as our Lord and King.  In each case, the symbol points to something more significant beyond itself.

One important distinction to understand is the difference between a symbol and a sacrament.  A symbol represents something, while a sacrament is something.  The Eucharist is not a symbol of the body and blood of Jesus.  It truly IS the body and blood of Jesus.  The water used in Baptism is not a symbol of the cleansing of original sin.  It IS the means by which we receive God’s cleansing grace of the sacrament.  However, holy water at the entrance of church is a symbol which reminds (re-presents) us of the time we received the Sacrament of Baptism.

Our rich Catholic tradition has many symbols so everyone, no matter their personality or preference, can experience God through their body, senses, emotions, and minds.  All these symbols have something in common:  they remind us of our Faith.  Every time we dip our hand in holy water, make the Sign of the Cross, genuflect, light a candle, or look at the crucifix, we are reminded of our Faith and invited to deepen our reverence and draw closer to the Lord.  What are your favorite symbols of our Faith, and do you know what they mean?  Understanding the meaning of our symbols can have a positive influence on our attitude towards prayer and being in the presence of our loving and gracious God.

Deacon John

Adapted from Catholic Answers Magazine, January-February 2018

 

Deacon’s Corner, November 17 2019

Last week, I wrote about how Fr. Mike Schmitz explained why we don’t drink coffee at Mass.  Essentially, he said that through our baptism, we share in the priesthood with Jesus when we were anointed with Sacred Chrism as “priests, prophets, and kings.”  That makes us “kingdom priests,” while Fr. Todd and Fr. Tomy are consecrated (ordained) as “ministerial priests.”  As kingdom priests, we do not go to Mass to watch and drink coffee.  We go to actively participate in the worship of God.  This week, let’s look at what “active participation” at Mass really means.

 

The Second Vatican Council called for “full, conscious and active participation” in the Mass by the people.  Changes were made to the Mass to help make this happen.  Among those changes were:  turning the Altar so the priest faced the people, praying the Mass in the native language instead of Latin, using non-ordained people such as lectors and Eucharistic Ministers, including a dialogue of prayers between the priest and the people, and receiving Communion in the hands.  All of these changes were designed to encourage and allow active participation of God’s people to come together in worship to celebrate God’s presence among us.

 

But active participation is more than these changes.  Active participation means both our heart and mind are awake, alert, and engaged.  It means on the inside, we participate with all the powers of the soul in the mystery of Christ’s sacrificial love.  On the outside, we say and do things with sacred gestures, postures, speech, and song.  Active participation develops the relationship between our soul and body to unite us with what is taking place on the altar.  All of this so we can bear witness to our faith and share that experience with others.

 

Pope Benedict wrote that active participation in the Mass means being a part of something bigger and more awe-inspiring: that God dwells among us.  If we truly believe God’s divine presence is everywhere, then why wouldn’t we actively participate as kingdom priests in the Mass?

Deacon John