Christ the King
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this last Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe. The Gospel will present Him seated in his glorious throne assisted by the angels, where He will judge the nations. I would like to reflect on this event with you this weekend.
Today society judges facts by its own truth, distorting the truth, so that lies and evil may seem good, and it is convinced to find life there is none. We know from the Gospels, that Jesus is the only Truth, He is the only Way, and only God is good (all the time). Here we already have to decide who we want to follow. We cannot follow both the world and Christ. They were already opposites in the past, but nowadays, it is becoming more and more polarized. We know that this world is passing, with its power, glory, and richness. However, the kingdom of God will never pass. His love will never end. If we look at history, mankind changes its values all the time. What in the past was right, today may be wrong and vice-versa. Pope Saint John Paul II has a famous quote in this regard, “Choices once unanimously considered criminal and rejected by the common moral sense are gradually becoming socially acceptable” (1995, Evangelium Vitae Encyclical #4). However, we know that the commandments of God have never changed. The values of the Gospel remain the same. It is based on them that Christ will judge. Some saints say that the Final Judgment will be based on how much people loved, which is the summary of all the law, love of God and neighbor.
Another element worth our reflection is the power of Christ. If we were to judge the power of Christ in the world today, it seems very weak and feeble. It seems that the voice of Christ is disappearing from the public square. We barely hear anything out of the church. Besides some common expression from our colloquial language that still remains, everything else is being eliminated. Lately, and soon we will see again, even Christmas disappeared and holiday wishes are given. Sunday is no longer the “Day of the Lord,'' but it's sports, NFL, shopping days. It may seem that way, but we know that Christ’s power remains with us. If we were able to look deeply in society, we see Jesus’ love in many places. Whether it is through kindness to strangers, people going out of their way to help others, compassion towards the needy, forgiveness to each other… Recently I heard two cases of people who passed away recently with “fame of holiness.” One of them, Fr. Damian, a priest who shortly after his ordination, was diagnosed with cancer. He was very much loved by all those who were on the floor of his hospital, both patients and health workers alike. The church was not able to hold everyone who came to his funeral. Many of those who met him in the hospital converted and became Catholics. After his death, there was a young man who cracked his skull in a terrible accident. His mother, who did not want to give up on his life when the doctors were waiting for his passing, prayed through the intercession of Fr. Damian. The following day, not only was the young man still alive, but his head was completely healed. There was not even a scar where the injury happened. This and many other cases show that Christ is still very much present in our daily lives. Even though stories like this don’t make it into the headlines, there are many out there.
Lastly, another element of Christ the King worth considering is that Jesus wants us to be with Him in his Kingdom. He is willing whatever it takes to bring us to heaven. He is willing to forgive our sins, fill us with His love, give us how many chances we need to start again, He does not hold our past against us if we ask Him, and so many other things. However, we must be willing to surrender our will to Him. If we want to be where He is, then we must follow his steps. Do not be afraid of what the world says or what people think of you. Christ as the true king has already won this war as we read in the book of Revelation. He is close to us to assist us in our battles, so that those who remain faithful to Him, will also enjoy His kingdom. Finally, let us remember that our kingdom is not from the world. We are only passing by, like Jesus. Let us set our eyes towards Heaven, and work towards the real, eternal, awesome prize!
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This weekend we will hear the Gospel about the talents. We have already heard this story many times. However, I hope that this year it may strike us in a different way.
The other day someone said that the parable of the talents should be read in the light of the widow’s mite (the widow who puts her two coins in the temple and Jesus says that she gave her whole life). It is very easy to give our leftover time and talent to what is or fits comfortable in our schedule/lives. What we hear in the Gospel is that people go “immediately” to trade those talents. They did not wait for anything. Therefore, in light of this thought, do we do the same? Or do we act like the third person who buries his talent and gives it back to the owner later?
Today’s world teaches that we are on our own, and if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one will. However, we forget a few details of life. First, life is a gift of God, and it does not belong to ourselves. Second, God created us to live in community in this world, and not alone and fending for ourselves. Third, the gifts that God has given us are complementary with those of other people. This way, if each of us contributes with those gifts to each other, our lives will reach its peak. Lately I am exhorting the whole parish to discern what is our calling to serve the parish. Surely some of us are not gifted with singing, but some are!!! (I’m not one of those…) But then there are other gifts that we have. Whether we have a gift for welcoming people, helping those in need, cooking/baking, teaching either children or adults, etc., there is a place for us in the parish, which no one can replace us. It takes a village to keep our parish running and growing. Therefore, I urge you to listen to what God wants to tell you. It takes a bit of a risk to trade your talents. The same is to serve other people. There is always a risk to reach out to others. However, LET US NOT BE AFRAID OF LISTENING TO THE COMMAND OF GOD AND PUT OUR TALENTS TO WORK!
Having said that, there are three important things that I would like to call your attention:
1) Conmen have always taken advantage of people in the most creative, deceitful, evil ways. Nowadays it’s no different. However, with the progress of technology, and social engineering, con artists study our lives to come up with very convincing stories. Many of you are very generous, and, facing emergencies, you have helped me caring for needy families. In light of recent scams, I WILL NEVER CALL or TEXT YOU ASKING FOR ANYTHING. Please do not believe whatever is asked of you on my behalf. If you are asked something, please call the office to confirm the veracity of the request.
2) At the end of the month, we, priests formed at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary (myself, Fr Kevin, Fr Israel, Fr Francesco...), are hosting an appreciation dinner in benefit of the formation of new priests here in Boston. Once a parishioner here told me, “Father, if we want priests, we need to invest where priests come from.” There will be three nights, Tuesday, Nov 28 in Spanish, Thursday, Nov 30 in English, and Sunday Dec 3 in Spanish. It will be a fun event with a great meal, the seminarians playing music, and more. Anyone interested in attending, you can purchase the tickets at convivence.org and where it says seat me with, please write IC Marlboro. This way we will try to seat everyone together. Lee Ann can also facilitate the purchase of the ticket for anyone who needs help.
3) Next weekend we will host the annual mission appeal and we will welcome Fr. Sean McGillicuddy, C.SS.R. He will be preaching about his brother Pat’s ministry in Brazil, Fr. Patrick McGillicuddy, also a Redemptorist priest, works with and for the street population in Brazil. He and those who work with him run a spiritual and social center, a fully accredited school, a learning center for adults, and a drug rehabilitation center. There will be a second collection to help his brother’s mission. Please keep them in your prayers as well.
Finally, remember the Gospel of last week! Let’s stay vigilant and have our flasks full of the Holy Spirit by our good deeds. Lest we should not have enough oil and miss the coming of Christ.
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
Please see the letter below from Fr. Kevin.
This week Father Steven has asked me to write a column about the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Whenever I think about the sacraments, I cannot help but remember what Christ told his disciples in Mt 28:20, “And Know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” The sacraments are a visible sign of this invisible reality; that Christ has never and will never abandon his people. Jesus Christ established his Church for the purpose of our salvation and endowed her with the seven sacraments that sustain us and provide us with grace at the different moments of our lives. The sacraments are not only a ritual that we are mandated to do; they are means through which we can experience the love of God in this world as attested by Scripture and the Tradition of the Church.
We have the Sacraments of Initiation which are Baptism, Holy Eucharist, and Confirmation; they introduce us into the Christian life and enable us to live a life of virtue according to the will of God. The Sacraments of Service, Matrimony and Holy Orders give us the grace to help others get to heaven. Lastly, the Sacraments of Healing, Reconciliation (Confession) and Anointing of the Sick help us to heal when we reject the grace God by sinning against his commandments. The Sacrament of Reconciliation reconciles us to the Father by receiving his forgiveness and heals our soul when it has been wounded by sin. The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick bestows on us another form of healing. When we are suffering from an illness or old age, we can ask the Church for an outpouring of grace that help us to be certain that Christ is with us in our physical infirmities. It also heals our souls from any sort of doubt or resentment that might arise against God or others on account of the suffering.
Like all the sacraments, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, was established by Jesus Christ himself as he went around preaching and healing during his earthly life. We can read in Scripture that Christ healed many who were sick, and this was a sign of the full spiritual healing that he intends to bring to humanity. The Anointing of the Sick is not merely a ritual remembering what Christ did in the past; it is Christ himself coming to give us the bodily and spiritual healing that we all need during the time of illness. The Catechism explains, “The special grace of the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick has as its effects: the uniting of the sick person to the passion of Christ, for his own good and that of the whole Church; the strengthening, peace, and courage to endure in a Christian manner the sufferings of illness or old age; the forgiveness of sins, if the sick person was not able to obtain it through the sacrament of penance; the restoration of health, if it is conducive to the salvation of his soul; the preparation for passing over to eternal life” (CCC 1532).
There are some misconceptions regarding the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick and Last Rites. Some think that they are both the same thing, and this leads them to wait until imminent death to receive the Anointing of the Sick. Some might also think that receiving the Anointing of the Sick will trigger death. This is NOT the case. Last Rites are the set of prayers and sacraments that occur when a person is preparing to die, when it’s evident that the person is in the process of dying. When we talk of Last Rites, we are talking about Eucharistic Viaticum, which is the receiving of Communion and last Confession as a person is preparing to enter eternal life. A part of Last Rites, a person may also receive the Anointing of the Sick, but it is IDEAL that they should have received it long BEFORE they began the process of dying.
The Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament that is administered for the bodily and spiritual healing of a person who is seriously ill of any age. That person may not be dying but may be at serious risk from illness. The purpose of Anointing of the Sick is to bring about a healing and if its God’s will a bodily one, but most certainty a spiritual one with the hope that a person may then go on to live life and recover. The Catechism says, “The anointing of the sick is not a sacrament for those only who are at the point of death. Hence, as soon as anyone of the faithful begins to be in danger of death from sickness or old age, the fitting time for him to receive this sacrament has certainly already arrived” (CCC 1514).
The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is truly a gift from the Lord. In my ministry, I have witnessed how the sacrament helps the elderly and the sick go through their sicknesses united with Christ and filled with hope. I encourage you or anyone that might need to receive it. Father Steven and I will be holding an Anointing of the Sick service in the Upper Church on Saturday, December 2nd at 5:00 PM. See you there!
Dear Brothers & Sisters,
We are currently looking to expand our ministries here in the parish. Besides the ministries we have had for years (St. Vincent De Paul, Bible Study, Knights of Columbus, Cenacle, Adult Choir, Neocatechumenal Way), we are working to add a few more to the list. We are in the process of creating a Task Force to respond to the needs of the community, Hospitality ministry, youth group, talks for parents, series of lectures, and expanding our adult faith formation, among other things. However, this cannot be done without prayer. It is important to pray both for God to guide us, but also to ask God what our place in the parish should be.
Throughout the Bible we see stories of the characters who place their desires before God. Even Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane tells God, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mt. 26:39). In the prayer of Our Father we always pray for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven. The Virgin Mary replies to Gabriel the Archangel, “May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38). Therefore, our first step is to place these desires we have in the hands of God. Lord, if it is your will, please open the door and help us to develop these ministries so that your love and mercy reach out to other people. It is important to understand that everything has its time according to God’s plan, not ours. How many times can we get frustrated that things just don’t work, regardless of our dedication and time? Then, all of the sudden, it just happens? Surely things won’t fall from the sky, but in everything we do, it is imperative to ask God if what we are about to do is His will. Then, I urge all of you to please add these intentions in your daily prayer. It will be like starting a campaign with God, so that the whole parish prays for the same intention. If it is the will of God, and all of us intercede together, then the ideas will come out of the paper and God will make them fruitful in due time.
Now, there is a second element to the whole project. The first step is to find out if it is the will of God for us to do all these things. The second is what will be our personal role in all of it. What we are doing is not Fr. Steven’s project or something alienated from our lives. God has led you to this parish to be part of everything that is happening. For some people their role will be praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament for the youth every day. However, this is not up for us to decide. Maybe God has planned that you will help with the hospitality ministry or something else. As the two quotes above say, let it NOT be what we want. The Virgin Mary in the sentence before the quote says, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” This is a way of saying, “Lord, I’m your servant command me to do something and I will do it.” In this process of discernment, we will start praying and you will feel an inclination to join one group or another, whether something new or already existing. Sometimes it can get tricky to discern between our desire and the will of God. That is why I’m encouraging you today to ask the Lord what He invites us to do. “Be done to me according to your will.” We can all try to start a campaign to PRAY THE ROSARY DAILY for this intention. If you already pray one, maybe pray a second one asking the Lord specifically for this. Only when we open our hearts is when the Lord can enter and speak to us. Remember the story of Samuel, who woke up when he heard his name called and he thought that it was Eli? (1 Samuel 3). Scripture says that Samuel didn’t recognize the LORD, because “the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.” (3:7). Then Eli, recognizing this, instructs the young man to reply to the Lord when He calls by saying, “SPEAK, LORD, FOR YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING.” (3:9). LET US ALL PRAY THESE WORDS, IN ADDITION TO THE ROSARY, FOR THE NEXT MONTH UNTIL THE FEAST OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION. Let’s ask that the Lord may speak to our hearts and guide us in this time of discernment. Please pray also for us priests that we may follow the will of God faithfully and steadfast.
Father Steven Clemence