Thursday, March 31, 2016

Open Windows

Baxter had a treat last week. The spring temperatures were delightful, and for two days, he was able to sit on the window sills with the windows open. Although there are screens keeping him securely indoors, the open windows give him a sense of being outside. He hears the sounds of the birds chirping. He feels the warm sunshine on his back. He smells the first aromas of life returning after the long winter. He loves the sense of being outdoors on days like these, free and refreshed, after being locked in and confined by the winter cold and darkness.

The Risen Christ opened the tombs of those who were dead. The power of His resurrection introduces a spring time to our human living. Like the rebirth that comes with warmer temperatures, the resurrection is meant to bring us to life anew as well. Witnessing the dedication, joy and enthusiasm of those newly baptized or received into the church at Easter, should encourage all of us to reinvigorate our faith by reaching deeper into its meaning and reaching out with generosity to serve others. The winter of selfpity, loneliness, and selfindulgence can lock us into our own little worlds with petty concerns. Easter opens these tombs we shut on ourselves, and calls us to go forth with the news that God has conquered sin and death in Jesus, the Christ.

Easter Sunday Masses were filled to capacity. Many people attended then who don’t return again until Christmas or next Easter. We are tempted to blame them, to think they are lazy or don’t care, but maybe we should turn the mirror on ourselves. What do they see in the regular attendees when they come here for the holiday? Do they see dedication, joy and excitement for being here? Do they encounter hospitality, personal interest and an invitation to come back? Is our first reaction one of being glad they are back, or is it an arrogant judgment against them for being away? Christ’s resurrection is a warm welcome to beginning a new life. Is this what we witness to others?

We were all blessed with surprisingly warm temperatures on an early Easter. Nature didn’t ask who deserved to have the sun shine on him or her. All were invited to come out into the uplifting light. Resurrection works the same way. Instead of a window sill, anyone can hop into a pew and hopefully find light and warmth, signs of new life, and the beginning of a new season in their lives. It can happen, if the warmth of God’s love touches them through disciples who show His love.

-Monsignor Statnick

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Saving the Light

A couple of weeks ago we began daylight savings time. We moved our clocks ahead one hour. It creates evenings because we shift the hours of light to later in the day. It means that at first we may have to awaken in darkness until the sunlight on the earth extends itself, but it gives us those long early summer evenings when we can be outside until after nine and still see our way about. We may lose a little sleep when this change of time first happens, but most people seem to adjust quickly and enjoy the light that comes with the new time scheme.

Baxter seems disconcerted by daylight savings time. As we know, he is a creature of habit, and his habits have to adjust with the change of time. I think this runs counter to his biological clock at first and his psychological equilibrium. While he gets his breakfast an hour earlier on daylight savings time Sunday, the interval between breakfast and dinner is the same length of time, but it looks differently with the extended daylight. There’s no evening twilight dinner for Baxter during daylight savings time. Perhaps he wonders why I can’t keep shrinking the period between meals, until his life becomes one continuous feeding frenzy. Whatever he thinks, Baxter gets confused and uncertain about what’s happening when the time change first occurs.

Christ saves the light for us. He doesn’t change any time measurements, but rather He becomes the source and measure of light for our lives. This is what He won for us at Easter. He overcame darkness at its root in all its forms of sin and death. Seen in the light of faith in the Risen Lord, sin is now forgiven and its damning effects reconciled by healing the separations and divisions it creates in our relationships - our relationships with ourselves, each other, all creation, and our God. Seen in the light of faith in the Risen Lord, death appears differently. It is not a dead end but a passage wayto new life. The grief and loss we feel are meant to lead us forward as believer’s in eternal life to find a deeper meaning in what we experience.

In the light of the resurrection, we come to appreciate and acknowledge the mystery that undergirds all that we think, feel and do in life. Its character is Love, unconquerable and unending, Divine Love which transforms our thinking into understanding, our feelings into reflections of its manifestations, and our actions into service. This loving mystery is the source of our hope, for it transforms all of our relationships into a great communion of life. We see ourselves as God’s children. We see each other as saints in communion with God. We see creation as God’s handiwork. In Christ’s resurrection, we see God differently, as the powerful, loving, Fatherly mystery embedded in all the relationships that make up our lives, shaping them to be loving, and carrying them into eternity to be with Him forever.

Like Baxter, living with the extra light may confuse us at first. We too are creatures of habit, and what we expect from life often gets stuck in shadows where we can’t see a way out. This Easter, look to Christ to extend the light by which we live.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Love A Parade

Baxter never leaves the house unescorted. Given his naivety about the big, bad world, I am afraid that, if he would venture out on his own, he would be prey to forces that would harm him. He lives the pampered life with his food provided without charge and many warm spots to bed down rent-free. In fact, Baxter doesn’t try to leave the house any longer. When he was younger, he yearned for the great outdoors. Now, he is curious, but not brave enough to step out. He enjoys looking out the door or window, but he soon turns and runs when there is any temptation to pass over the threshold. Baxter has made staying home a way of life.

Jesus’ life style is just the opposite. “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head,” we read in the gospels. Jesus is on the move throughout the story of our salvation. Between Judea and Galilee, among the towns and villages of Israel, from private houses to public buildings, in both rural and ancient urban settings He comes and goes, all the while preaching, teaching and working to bring about God’s Kingdom in our midst. Finally, He comes to Jerusalem for the last time on Palm Sunday. This is the final entrance to the Holy City during His earthly life, and it begins with a parade.

Parades are travel with spectacle. They occur for many reasons—celebrations, commemorations, acknowledgements, community participation. They usually involve some costumes, music, various groups moving together and spectators to watch or maybe join the parade. “Hosanna, to the Son of David!” was the theme of Jesus’ parade on Palm Sunday. It brought Him into Jerusalem with honor and acclaim, fanfare and special recognition. His way was laid out with palm branches because He earlier walked on water and cured the sick. It was a hero’s welcome for this itinerant preacher who held the promise of a messiah.

Yet, in a few days, He would be stopped in His tracks arrested, imprisoned, tortured, tried, sentenced to death and executed. The hero of the parade was soon recast as the criminal to both religious and civil society, and He was commanded to make one last journey to Calvary.

What a dramatic turn of events! Maybe Baxter has it right. Stay home; avoid danger; remain comfortable and safe. Too much movement and spectacle draw too much attention. It’s a dangerous world out there. We could get hurt, or worse, die, if we venture too far away from home.

But remember Jesus’ final journey to the Father. He had to pass through pain, suffering, rejection and death, but it didn’t end there. After the Good Friday procession in silence,there is the Easter parade in praise and thanksgiving for God’s victory over sin and death. Don’t be afraid to go out and spread the good news, to serve others in His name, and to seek out the lost and forgotten. Step out into the world with the Spirit of Christ, and you will cross a threshold to a new life with God.

-Monsignor Statnick

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Getting Your Way

The other day I was eating graham crackers with milk. It is a throwback I enjoy from my childhood. Baxter got a whiff of the graham crackers, and he was obsessed with getting some. He jumped on a chair next to the one I was in at the table. He kept eyeing me and meowing. Finally, he began to grab my arm and pull it in his direction, hoping to get a morsel of cracker close enough for him to have a bite. He was persistent. Finally, I had to get him off the chair and tell him to settle down. He still continued to wait on the floor next to my chair, until finally I let him lick the crumbs from the plate after I was finished. Thank God for sterilizing dishwashers! We get this way sometimes, don’t we? Probably we’re not obsessed by graham crackers and milk, but by something that we set our heart on getting or achieving. Maybe it’s a person who catches our fancy. Maybe it’s a job we think is our ticket to success. Maybe it’s a car or house or boat or bike or some other thing that we can’t get out of our mind, can’t live without. We have our mind set on having it, and we can’t rest until we figure a way to get it.

That’s why we fast during Lent. We can get carried away by our desire for something or someone, and we lose perspective on our lives. We begin to see everything from the point of view of how we can get what we want, and we begin to lose sight of how we can give what we have. Fasting clears our vision, and helps us to focus on what matters.

We come to see how much we have been given - from our country of birth or adoption to our talents, family and friends. We realize that we did nothing to deserve these gifts. They came to us with the gift of life itself, and they are resources we can call upon for the rest of our lives. We have added to these gifts by our education and training, the social networks we’ve developed, and the opportunities that have come our way. Of course, we had to invest time and effort in all of these, but they all began with many happy coincidences, chances to set out anew, invitations to broaden our worlds with new people and ventures. This is the hand of God’s Providence caring for us and beckoning us to help Him shape our lives to better reflect His image.

Rather than grab for what He has, as Baxter does with the food he likes, God gives from the store of His boundless goodness, so that we might learn how to do the same. It’s the lesson hidden in our fasting. Reach for less so that we can realize how much we have been given. Want less so that we can appreciate all that we have. Give more of our time, talent and treasure so that others  and our world grow richer through us. Fasting may make us hungry for a short while, but if we learn its lesson, we will feel more satisfied with the many blessings that fill our lives.

-Monsignor Statnick

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Messy Living

Living with a pet is messy. It’s not that everything is out of order and in chaos, but a person has to accept a certain amount of untidiness, if he or she is going to have a pet. With Baxter, I sweep up grains of litter from the bathroom floor once or twice a day. They fall from his paws when he jumps from the box. He isn’t the neatest diner either. He splashes his water, getting it to move before he drinks it, and he throws his kibble on the floor. (He takes too much into his mouth at one time, and when he chomps down on it, the excess spews out.) Then there is the cat hair.

The extent of this problem is seasonal. During shredding time, there are fluffs of cat hair in various corners and under numerous pieces of furniture. At other times of the year, the hair blizzard diminishes to a sprinkle of strands here and there. Although he is brushed vigorously daily, Baxter will never totally overcome his problem of loose hair dancing through the air and clinging to clothes.

This messy picture is the cost of having a pet. Most pet owners pay this fee without them, but it would also be lonelier, duller and less interesting.

God works in the same way. He accepts the messiness of our lives because He loves us so much and doesn’t want to live without us. He realizes that this involves Him in our sin, but He has a way to handle the situation. Jesus is the Way, the way to the Father through the dirt and litter that lines human life. His cross characterizes our lives as stricken by the effects of sin and evil in the world, but also as redeemed by the power of His Spirit to forgive and heal. It’s a messy journey, marked by suffering, rejection, doubt and fear, but in the end, we all discover that it is worth it. Joy, peace and gratitude come when we live in communion with God who lives with us.

The Sacrament of Penance is how we celebrate this reality in our lives now. The conversation between priest and penitent sets the path for God’s grace to be disclosed. There is no room for harsh judgments here. If God accepts the messiness of the human condition as the arena for His salvation, how can we demand something else? Our struggle to speak our sins clearly and completely in this sacrament is the cross where we kill our egos and their arrogance. In turn, God lays out His mercy as the tomb to receive our sins and  complaint. They do the cost benefit analysis and decide that the companionship, joy and satisfaction that come from beloved pets are worth the mess. Life would be neater without bury them. Finally, we depart this sacrament with a resolve to try again, because we appreciate more fully the power that forgiveness and healing can bring. Both priest and penitent are touched with grace in this sacrament, because we rise to a better life every time we forgive and are forgiven.

As long as we have a pet, we will live with some mess. As long as God claims us as His people, He will also have our messes on His hands. But in Christ He has a way to handle them. Sacraments of Divine Mercy touch us and sweep them away.

-Monsignor Statnick