Pastor’s Perspective – April 4, 2021

* Easter Sunday: The Lord Has Been Raised! Alleluia!!

God has raised Jesus from the dead. This breaks open the natural cycles of the world. The Resurrection of Jesus is a unique, once-for-all, universe-shattering event that could not be predicted or explained by any simply material or natural process. It is an utter gift of God to the universe and there is no way to truly embrace its meaning other than accepting it as a gift for our daily lives. Because Jesus has been raised, we need fear nothing and can trust in God in all circumstances. Because Jesus has been raised, all the sufferings and limitations of this life can never claim to have ultimate power, and so we can live as people of hope. Because Jesus has been raised, we can risk loving others, even when that love is not reciprocated. Jesus has been raised. Let us live in faith, hope and love. Alleluia!

* The Resurrection of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark

Mark’s gospel originally ended with Mark 16:6-8 “[The young man clothed in white] said to the women, ‘Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.’ Then they went out and fled from the tomb, seized with trembling and bewilderment. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” A very odd ending, isn’t it? No appearance stories. No interaction between Jesus and the disciples. Only the announcement of the Resurrection from an angelic-type being, the commissioning of the women to tell the others and their failure to do so.

Throughout the Gospel of Mark the failure of the disciples to understand the mission and ministry of Jesus is highlighted. Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s three-fold denial, and the fleeing of all the male disciples as Jesus is arrested, convicted and led to crucifixion marks the absolute lowest point to which those disciples could sink. They did not want a suffering Messiah. They did not want to suffer themselves. They wanted the glory without the cost.

But at least the women disciples remained nearby and steadfast. Even if their Lord and Messiah had to suffer and be put to death, they would still care for his body, and so come to the tomb to anoint the body in a more complete way. But no corpse is there. Only a young man telling them that Jesus has been raised and is expecting them in Galilee.  They are to share this good news with Peter and the other disciples, but in the end fear gets the better part of these more exemplary women disciples. They fail in the task given them, at least according to the original ending of Mark’s gospel. They could handle the suffering but could not conceive what it meant to live a new life connected to the risen Lord.

Mark is quite intentional in wanting to end his gospel in such a way. In the end, only God is ultimately faithful, and it is only by God’s action that salvation and new life can come about. Because that original ending did not sit well with the early Christian Church and other gospels included more hopeful endings of appearances of Jesus to disciples, a later editor of the gospel added a coda, or extra ending, to the gospel of Mark. It is patched together from events that the other three gospels talk about and it tries to harmonize Mark’s account with the others. It is a more hope-filled ending for sure. But we should not minimize Mark’s concern and the reason why he originally ended the gospel the way he did. We Christians (of Mark’s day as well as in our times) are too quick to assume that the Resurrection of Jesus somehow comes about automatically for us without cost. Mark is insistent that there is always a cost—the suffering and death we endure on behalf of others and for the sake of others. Yes, we can share in the Lord’s Resurrection, but we first must share in his suffering and death.

* “Year of the Family”: Fifth Anniversary of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“Joy of Love”)

On March 19th, the feast day of St. Joseph, Pope Francis kicked off what the Vatican is calling a “Year of the Family” with a special focus on embracing the fruits of the two Synods of Bishops on the Family (in 2014 and 2015). In particular, the Pope is encouraging Catholics to reflect on and embrace more deeply some of the insights from his 2016 Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“Joy of Love”) which focuses on the beauty and joy of love in the family, and looks at how we might better accompany those who do not fit so easily into the Christian vision of family. The year will conclude on June 26, 2022 with the tenth “World Meeting on Families” in Rome. On our website, under “News/News Briefs” I will post links to the Vatican’s monthly videos focusing on this year, as well as a link to Amoris Laetitia itself. It is not a short or easy document to read, but it is well worth the effort to do so.

Right near the beginning Pope Francis reminds us of an important principle which will guide his reflections on the family, and gives an insight into many of his other speeches and writings: “Since ‘time is greater than space,’ I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. This will always be the case as the Spirit guides us towards the entire truth (cf. Jn 16:13), until he leads us fully into the mystery of Christ and enables us to see all things as he does.” One of the ways that Pope Francis confounds his critics on the right and the left is his willingness to both re-affirm Church teaching but admit that we do not have a lock on the fullness of truth, and that our attempts to define that truth and invite people to live that truth have to be tempered by the fact that we are imperfect people. On the right some, accuse him of heresy, because in the Apostolic Exhortation he considers it possible to accompany persons who are not able to live in a Church-recognized marriage but are doing the best they can and might find themselves in need of the sacraments or the protection of civil law. On the left some, accuse him of being too traditionalist because he refuses to budge on the Church’s Tradition that authentic marriage will be between a man and a woman or that gender is not primarily a social construct. What is the Pope’s solution?  Re-affirm the Church’s Tradition where necessary, but be willing to accompany all human persons, no matter where their lives have taken them, showing everyone the face of God as mercy.

It is not weakness to admit that we do not have all the answers for emerging, complex personal and social concerns. It is a proper humility. Nor is it arrogance to affirm the heart of the Church’s Tradition on marriage, family or other issues. It is faithful witness. Together it provides a framework for what Pope Francis has called elsewhere, ministering as though we are a field hospital in the midst of war. You treat everyone with respect and mercy. You judge no one as outside of or undeserving of care and mercy. You prioritize and treat people on the basis of what is most important and life-giving in the specific situation, rather than making some theoretical judgment based on principles that fail to take into consideration the specifics.

As space and time permits I will unpack some of the key insights from Amoris Laetitia and occasionally do a “Faith Byte” video on some aspect of this “Year of Amoris Laetitia Family.”

* Re-Claiming St. Joseph

During these upcoming months Pope Francis has also encouraged us to turn to St. Joseph and ask him to intercede for us during this pandemic. Like Joseph, so many workers have done quiet, unseen but heroic work to protect, serve and care for people during this pandemic. In writing his letter on devotion to St. Joseph (Patris Corde, “With a Father’s Heart”) Pope Francis says: “The aim of this Apostolic Letter is to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.” The pope lists seven qualities that Joseph shows in being the foster-father of Jesus. I will list them here but the pope’s paragraph on each of them is worth reading, and I will put a link to the letter on our website under “News/News Briefs.” Joseph is described as

1) beloved; 2) tender and loving; 3) obedient; 4) accepting; 5) creatively courageous; 6) a worker; 7) in the shadows/hidden. These are qualities that would serve all of us well, especially at critical times.

A side note: a number of people in the parish, including myself, have signed up for a 33 day consecration to St. Joseph with daily reflections and prayer which will end on May 1st, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. You can be part of that by going to the website and clicking on the weekly event listed as “Consecration to St. Joseph.”

* Next Parish Leadership Night

Please mark your calendars for Tuesday, May 11th, 6:45 – 8:30 p.m. Our next leadership night will look at the upcoming year which is the parish’s 60th anniversary year as a parish, and we will brainstorm ways to celebrate that year in all that we do. Once again it will be a virtual meeting with a link provided on the website under “Events.” Just click on the May 11th event and register for that evening. Start thinking about how to make our anniversary year fun, joyful and community-building. I am putting this in the Easter bulletin in the hopes that a number of St. Regis-connected families, who might no longer be as active in the parish as when they had children in the school, might consider helping to make this year representative of all sixty years of St. Regis Church and School life.

* Catholic Services Appeal for 2021

Due to the pandemic we had to run a modified 2020 Catholic Services Appeal in October/November. I want to thank all who participated for making it a huge success in spite of the pandemic. We were only down about 5% from our pre-pandemic year. However, this year we will be back to our usual C.S.A. time slot in May and June. I know it might seem unrelenting, but please think about how your support of the 2021 Catholic Services Appeal will not only help the Archdiocese (by reaching our mandatory goal),  but is a big part of what the parish counts on for its own use during the fiscal year. Many parishioners use the C.S.A. to give the parish significant gifts because 100% of the money helps the parish. We are required to give the diocese the mandatory amount, even if we do not reach the target. Because we ordinarily exceed our target by a significant amount, we count on that overage coming back to the parish 100% for its own use. This allows us to keep scheduling important projects such as roofs (to the Faith Formation office), upgraded lighting (a project we would like to do next fiscal year with the lights along the center axis of the church), parking lot repair, and more, as well as maintain all of our parish areas of ministry and support. A reminder to school families: some type of C.S. A. gift is part of the commitment to receiving active in-parish tuition status.

Letters with more information, pledge card, and return envelope will be mailed to all parish members in a couple of weeks. Your support is both appreciated and vital for the financial health of St. Regis.

Fr. Buersmeyer

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