Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 1-2, 2019
From Fr. Anthony Ligato
An eternal bond of unity made possible by Jesus!
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Have you noticed what has been happening over the past several years with Clubs, Fraternal organizations and other civic groups, they can’t get people to volunteer to join and help further the mission of these organizations. These clubs and organizations are sadly disappearing from our civic communities. Look what has happened with the Flag Day Parade in Troy or the Uncle Sam Parade in Lansingburgh, they are no more because they could not get volunteers or support. Even some of our Veterans organizations can not find enough support for their Posts and organizations. This is the sad reality of today.
We are not immune to this in the Church, organizations such as Altar Rosary Societies, Women Guilds, Church Men Clubs, Knights of Columbus Councils and other such organizations, are finding it increasingly difficult to attract new members. As a matter of fact, the church as a whole is finding it increasingly challenging to attract new parishioners and when we do it is difficult to get parishioners to join these important and venerable organizations which help further the mission of the church. These are the groups that do the backbone of the work in all our parishes. If they are not there, who will do the work? These organizations help people to feel connected to the entire Body of Christ, through volunteering for ministry or through the ministry they provide to others. They visit the home bound keeping them connected and reminding them they are not forgotten. They social services such as food, clothing and other needed items to the poor, the impoverished and marginalized. Without these organizations what happens to these people?
What is the cause of this? Sociologist will point to many different reasons for this shift in the need for people of like mind and values coming together in mission and support. Here are some of the reasons, a shift in values. People today do not feel the organizations of past generations speak to their values and concerns. Social Media, people have found a community in cyber space, whether or not this community is real or perceived it has affected how people interact with one another. This has caused us to be more isolated from one another and even from ideas. We can comfortably only expose ourselves to the ideas, morals and values that do not challenge us. And when we don’t like the beliefs or values someone else shares on Facebook, twitter or other social networking sites, we can attack them from the safety and comfort of our homes. But at the end of the day when we put the smart phone down or walk away from the computer, we are alone!
As Roman Catholics, our Christian world is defined by the Eucharistic. Everything we profess in faith proclaims our union with the Father, made possible by the union we have in the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our union with our Lord Jesus Christ
which brings us into union with the Father means at the end of the day we are never alone. As a matter of fact we are brought into union with everyone through Jesus Christ, that everyone who has gone before us from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to the Prophets of the Old Testament to our Blessed Mother, the Apostles, Martyrs and all the Saints; we as the faithful are caught up in God’s unfolding plan of salvation which we experience each time we come together in communion to receive the Eucharist. We are definitely not alone!
Through our participation in the Eucharist we experience in our lives today the future promise of God’s glory. “Lifting his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying, Holy Father, I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.” (John 17: 2021) Jesus’ union with the Father is seen in our own union with Jesus Christ and with one another. The cross becomes a contradiction, it is sign of suffering and death as well as being a sign of hope and new life. When we look at the cross we see beyond the cross to the empty tomb and to the Ascension. What Jesus has done for us in the past, we remember in this Eucharistic celebration. We are in union with this past event because it is not happening in the past but rather it is happening in the present moment and we are in union with the event in this present moment. That is why having the crucifix of our Lord Jesus Christ always before us reminds us of what has brought us into union with the Father, this great sacrifice of the Son. It is made present to us today through the power of the Holy Spirit. It conveys for us today the future promise and glory of the resurrection. Our union with God for all eternity.
The knowledge of union lived out and experience by St. Stephen who was the first martyr of the Church, gave him the courage and faith to know that even as he was being martyred, he was not left alone. “As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Act: 7:5560) Stephen prayed to Our Lord Jesus Christ in the same way Christ prayed to the Father when he was on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Stephen forgave Saul (Paul) who instigated the stoning. His ability to forgive was because he was in union with Jesus Christ. If we could all only be in union with Christ in the same way Stephen was and is, how much more we could forgive. We just have to remember; we are not alone!
Yours in Christ,