Pastor’s perspective – September 11, 2022

* Ministries Sign-Up

We will take a few minutes next week to review all the areas of parish life that need increased help and support through time and talent. The effects of the pandemic continue to be felt in the parish, both in terms of people’s financial commitments to the Sunday Offertory, as well as to involvement in the various areas of ministry which are necessary for the parish to truly be a thriving community. Thank you to all who are involved in some way. We survive and thrive because of you. For those who are not yet involved, please consider helping in the area of Worship (help with liturgical environment/plants/flowers, lectors, ministers of hospitality, choir and cantors and instrumentalists, Communion ministers, Funeral Ministry, Sacristans, Worship Commission); Faith Formation (now called Discipleship Formation, as Monday evening children’s catechists, Sunday Liturgy of the Word for Children catechists, help with the Christian Initiation of Adults, the Faith Formation Commission, Play ‘n Pray for toddlers); Christian Service (now called Evangelical Charity, as Young at Heart Seniors or New Dawn Grief Support planners, Stephen’s Ministry, Communion to the Sick and Homebound, South Oakland Shelter, Christian Service Commission); Welcome and Engagement (expanding the welcoming ministry, Card Ministry); School (Advancement Council Event chairs, C.Y.O. sports); or any other area of parish ministry toward which you could direct your energy and talents. Look over the areas we are most in need of (published on page 6 and 7), fill out the form this week or next, and you will be contacted in the areas of interest that you mark. St. Regis Parish needs you.

*Protecting God’s Children

This past week, Pope Francis once again reiterated that a priest cannot remain a priest if he is shown to have abused a minor or vulnerable person. The headline was “Zero Tolerance Policy Re-affirmed.” The scandal and shame of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is something that has deeply affected the Church leadership’s credibility in all areas of moral teaching. I am sure that in my lifetime priests will always live under that stigma. It is a small price to pay for the abuse our brother priests perpetrated over the years. If a priest cannot be trusted around minors, how can he credibly lead a community in its faith development, worship, and service outreach to the world?  If anyone has experienced such abuse at the hands of a bishop, priest, deacon, lay pastoral minister, Catholic school teacher, or anyone who is employed by the Church, please report it to police and the civil authorities, as well as to the Archdiocesan office handling such matters: Michigan Attorney General’s Office (toll-free reporting hotline 844.324.3374), or Archdiocese of Detroit Victim Assistance Coordinator (313.237.6060).

As a result of this crisis, the Archdiocese of Detroit has been committed to doing background checks on all adults, paid or volunteer, who work with the children of our parishes and schools. In addition, all volunteers in parishes are asked to take, at least one time, the “Protecting God’s Children” workshop, which helps people identify potential signs of abuse, what to look for and what to do. If you have not taken this workshop, please try to do so as soon as possible. We will be hosting such a workshop this Thursday.  There are many other options as to time and place, but you need to pre-register. A link is provided on our website.

*Sunday Gospel

The story of the “Prodigal Son” in Luke’s Gospel, which we hear proclaimed today, is one of the better-known Gospel parables. In meditating on it this week, I was struck by how similar the two sons are, despite their very different choices. In both cases, the sons seem to think that they have to earn the father’s love and so are not able to be transformed by the father’s ever-present, always-offered love and mercy. The younger son in essence tells the father he is valuable to him only because of the inheritance, as he goes off and squanders that money. Even when he is contemplating a return to his father’s home, he says “treat me like one of your hired servants” so that his work will get his father to feed him. Nowhere does the younger son simply acknowledge the father’s overwhelming, generous love and mercy that is always available to him. Similarly, the older son dutifully toils and obeys everything asked of him by his father, but he does so thinking he would not be loved by his father unless he was so good. Like his younger brother, he has not been transformed by that ever-present, always-offered love and mercy that is available to him. The epitome of that inability to be transformed is his rejection of his younger brother. He refuses to acknowledge a relationship with him. “Your son,” he says, not “my brother.” He thinks he deserves to be rewarded for how good he has been; he thinks he has earned it.

How sad for both of them and how sad for us, if we refuse to be transformed by God’s ever-present, always-offered love and mercy. We can be the greatest of sinners or the most outwardly upstanding person. (continued on page 4)But as a sinner, if we think of God’s mercy and love as something we can access only if we prove to God we deserve it or because we want to feel good about ourselves, we will miss opportunities for true conversion of mind and heart. If as people of faith trying to live righteous lives, we think we have thereby earned God’s mercy and love, we are liable to becoming very self-righteous, judgmental of others, and very embittered, non-joyful people. Many scholars have re-labeled this “prodigal son” parable as the “Parable of the Prodigal Father.” The Father’s love is excessive to the extreme. It does not operate on the principle of fairness but on that of mercy. To experience that “amazing grace” moves us out of our of self-righteous pity or entitlement, humbling us, and inviting us to a deep joy in showing mercy toward others.

Fr. Buersmeyer

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