From the Pastor’s Desk

Now Known as Chardonnay W(h)ines!

January 26th | Third Sunday In Ordinary Time

As you know, in the year 2000 when Pope John Paul II canonized St. Faustina, he established the Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday. On September 30, 2019, on the memorial of St. Jerome, Pope Francis announced that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time will be celebrated as The Sunday of the Word of God. This year, the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary time falls on January 26th. In Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter “Aperuit Illis” instituting The Sunday of the Word of God, he writes: “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Lk 24:45). This was one of the final acts of the risen Lord before his Ascension. Jesus appeared to the assembled disciples, broke bread with them and opened their minds to the understanding of the sacred Scriptures. To them, amid their fear and bewilderment, he unveiled the meaning of the paschal mystery: that in accordance with the Father’s eternal plan he had to suffer and rise from the dead, in order to bring repentance and the forgiveness of sins (Lk 24:26.46-47). He then promised to send the Holy Spirit, who would give them strength to be witnesses of this saving mystery (Lk 24:49).

The relationship between the Risen Lord, the community of believers and sacred Scripture is essential to our identity as Christians. Without the Lord who opens our minds to them, it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in depth. Yet the contrary is equally true: without the Scriptures, the events of the mission of Jesus and of his Church in this world would remain incomprehensible. Hence, Saint Jerome could rightly claim: “Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ”.

We as Catholics have a history of ignorance of the Sacred Scriptures. I suspect the “older” crowd reading this article, like me, were taught that reading and interpreting Sacred Scripture was the job of the bishops and priests. They would tell us what the Scriptures meant. So personal study of the Scriptures was not encouraged. Many of you, like me, probably had a decorative family bible with our family tree inscribed in it sitting on the coffee table in the living room as a decoration, but was never opened and read. All of us probably have protestant friends who can put us to shame by quoting chapter and verse passages from the Bible.

Since Vatican II, Catholics have been encouraged to study and discuss the Sacred Scriptures and incorporate them in our spirituality and daily life. Many programs and bible studies have followed. Many Catholics seem not yet to have made the connection between being disciples of Jesus and devouring the Word of God. It is Pope Francis hope that: “The Sunday of the Word of God help his people to grow in religious and intimate familiarity with the sacred Scriptures.”

Have a blessed week!

Fr. Don

January 22nd | Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord

Last Sunday ended the Christmas season and I have not yet taken the opportunity to express some words of appreciation. Fr. Mark and I want to extend our appreciation and acknowledge all the time, energy, dedication and efforts that went in by so many of you to make our Advent and Christmas celebrations visually and musically joyful and prayerful.

The Art & Environment Committee consisting of Jeanne Daill, Linda Eichoff, Marty Kadzelia, and Karen Schwartz spent many months and hours reading liturgy documents, developing ideas, planning and procuring materials. They implemented their plans with the help of many volunteers. Those who helped set-up decorations indoors or outdoors for Advent and Christmas at the church and rectory include: Therese Tyk, who designed and made all the festive outdoor pots displayed at the entryways to church and the rectory. Others who helped in various ways with making bows, floral arrangements, moving trees and nativity figures, setting up and taking down, and various other tasks include: Len Eickhoff, Claudia Molina, Soledad Diaz, Jim Fisher, Phil Zwick, Anne Clark, Phyllis Anderson, Jessica Guajardo, Luz Rivero, Georgina Rodriguez, Cristina Ramirez, Rosy Pina, Maria Galvez, Veronica Manzanares, Daniela Molina, Jessica Molina, Jordan Young, Kurt Daill, Aaron & Ryan Woods, Cristina Ramirez, Ruben Manzanares, Miroslava Manzanares, Lucera Manzanares, Ruben Manzanares Jr., Imelda Orig, Shirley Staples, Elise Flagg, Chris Harvey,John Shea, Doug Tyk, Mary Orvino.

Unfortunately, the squirrel families that live in the trees behind the rectory played Christmas grinches! Mr. Feldman provided lights on the trees and bushes surrounding the outdoor Mary shrine, but the squirrels chewed the wires and the lights went out! They did it also to the colored LED lights on four large bushes outside the rectory. Shame on them!! They better watch out if I turn Chardonnay loose on them!!

The music, under the direction of our Director of Music Ministries Frank Sauter, was especially outstanding! The choral and orchestral music prior to midnight Mass was truly inspiring. Thanks to all who played instruments in the orchestra and to the guest conductor, Shaun Schaefers and to Ben Gruman who played cello in the trio version of “O Holy Night”. Thanks to our Adult Choir for their voices leading us in prayerful song and to soloist Emily Brink. Thanks to our Children’s Choir, Mercy Singers, and all the musicians and cantors who provided music for our Masses during the Advent and Christmas season. Thanks as well to all the liturgical ministers who served for Advent and Christmas Masses.

The parish staff thank all who dropped off goodies in the office for us to share. Fr. Mark, Deacon Senovio and I wish to extend our deep gratitude for all the personal gifts and cards we received. We are humbled by your generosity and kindness! We truly feel the love and support of the wonderful parishioners at Our Lady of Mercy.

Our 2019 Christmas collection through envelopes, cash, and on-line giving totaled $64,400. This is approximately $12,000 less than the Christmas collection last year. Thank you for your generosity.

Have a blessed week!

Fr Don

January 12th | Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord

Today’s feast of the Baptism of Jesus ends the Christmas season in the church liturgical calendar. I suspect that the vast majority of you have long ago taken down Christmas decorations. If you have waited until now to take them down, good for you! Some people leave their Christmas decorations up until February 2, which is the feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. Nevertheless, back to today’s feast.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus was baptized? He was sinless, so why did he submit to baptism? Matthew tells us in the gospel today that Jesus requested John to baptize him. First, unlike the baptism we received, John’s baptism was a Jewish ritual to prepare for the end time, which John said was coming quickly. In addition to changing one’s life in a positive way, this kind of baptism was also an entry rite for those who wanted to follow the teaching of John the Baptist. Jesus was portrayed as being attracted to John the Baptist and his message. Matthew makes it clear that the situation is awkward, which both Jesus and John recognize. But as soon as Jesus emerges from the waters of baptism, the real meaning of the event becomes clear. His identity as God’s beloved Son is confirmed by the Holy Spirit and proclaimed by the voice of God, declaring that Jesus is God’s beloved Son. In a real way, Jesus’ baptism can be seen as inaugurating Jesus into a ministry that will begin immediately. This confirmation of Jesus’ divine ministry fulfills the Old Testament prophet’s proclamations. The next step for Jesus will be his confrontation with the devil in the wilderness. There, he will be challenged to prove his identity.

While Christian baptism we have received frees us from original sin, it does much more than that! Quoting from the baptismal ritual book: “Baptism is, above all, the sacrament of that faith by which men and women, enlightened by the Spirit’s grace, respond to the gospel of Christ….Further, baptism is the sacrament by which men and women are incorporated into the Church, built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit, into a holy nation and a royal priesthood.” In other words, our baptism is our entry rite for those who want to follow Jesus and his teachings. And, as Jesus commissioned his apostles to “Go make disciples of all nations…” at our baptism we are commissioned to do the same.

The vast majority of us were baptized as infants and likely do not realize that making disciples of Jesus isn’t just the calling of priests and religious. ALL who are baptized Christian are supposed to be making disciples! The feast of The Baptism of Jesus is a wake up call for all of us to be about doing what we are commissioned to do!

Fr Don

January 5th | Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

I hope you still have your Christmas decorations up! After all, today we celebrate the Epiphany, known in many cultures as “little Christmas.” Christmas celebrates the birth of the long awaited for messiah of the Jewish people. This good news is revealed by angels to a group of shepherds abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night. Epiphany celebrates the birth of the savior of all nations. This good news is revealed by a star followed by gentile magi to the place where the child lay. When the wise men came to Herod in Jerusalem inquiring about the child whose star they had followed, the scribes Herod called together were able to explain where the messiah should be born, but they remained quite unperturbed about the news. Although they were familiar with visions like the one in today’s first reading, they seemed impervious to the possibility that Isaiah’s promised caravans and gift-bearing royalty had, at long last, arrived on their doorstep. For whatever reason, they did not accompany the travelers from the East on their journey to Bethlehem. Similarly, many my know the whole of Christianity but make no movement. The power that forever altered heaven and earth leaves many people completely unmoved. But what a difference! With only a rumor to go by, the visitors from the East traveled a far distance in search of One whom they thought would make a difference in the world. Obviously, that “rumor” that good news, has spread throughout the world, and today’s feast attests to the universal scope of Jesus’ mission and God’s all-inclusive plan of Salvation. The various ways in which this feast is celebrated by believers everywhere also witnesses to the international character of the church.

One of those traditions, not too familiar in the United States is marking of the church doors with chalk, which we are doing today. Epiphany, also known as Twelfth Night, Theophany, or Three Kings Day marks the occasion of a time-honored Christian tradition of “chalking the doors.” The formula for the ritual — adapted for 2020 — is simple: take chalk of any color and write the following above the entrance of your home: 20 + C + M + B + 20. The letters have two meanings. First, they represent the initials of the Magi — Caspar, Malchior, and Balthazar — who came to visit Jesus in His first home. They also abbreviate the Latin phrase, Christus mansionem benedicat: “May Christ bless the house.” The “+” signs represent the cross, and the “20” at the beginning and the “20” at the end mark the year. Taken together, this inscription is performed as a request for Christ to bless those homes so marked and that He stay with those who dwell therein throughout the entire year.

Have a blessed Christmas Season!

Fr Don

December 29th | Feast of the Holy Family

If I were to ask you if yours was a holy family, what would your response be? I suspect the vast majority of you would roll your eyes and say “my family? No Way!” It seems that every family has a “black sheep” or is dysfunctional in some way. Many families have secrets they prefer to keep in the closet about a living or deceased relative. Family life is not always easy! But, we can all help our families to be better, even if they cannot be perfect. And, let us not confuse perfection with holiness. One does not have to be “perfect” to be holy! Today’s feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph can give us some ideas of how to become of holy family.

The beginning of the Holy Family was not easy! The angels singing and the shepherds adoring sound great. But in a sense Mary and Joseph were “on the road.” They had to leave their current home to register for the census. There was no place in the inn when Mary’s time to deliver came. Many of you mothers can imagine what that was like. Even a motel today is not where you would want to give birth and a barn isn’t even imaginable! In spite of all the hardship Mary and Joseph experienced, they were outstanding parents. Think of Joseph listening to the angel in his dream and taking Mary and Jesus to Egypt to keep Jesus safe from Herod. Before they were merely “on the road,” but now they are refugees in another country. Even when they are able to return to their own country, Joseph still had to settle them in a different part of the country to be safe.

Our first reading tells us how God sets a father and mother over a family and how the children are to treat their parents – with honor. Our reading from Colossians spells that out for us. Because of Jesus we are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. That means that we must live in a special way as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did. It means we must have compassion for one another and be kind, gentle, and patient with one another. Just as the Lord is forgiving of our faults, we must be forgiving of one another. But, most of all, we must be loving with one another. None of this is easy for sure, but it is necessary.

Something else is necessary as well. We must have gratitude in our hearts to God. Our mother and father gave us life or we would not even be here today. That in itself is a wonderful miracle of love and one that calls for gratitude.

Family life isn’t easy – but with a little more respect, kindness, patience and love, our families can become holier. Celebrate your family today and do so with gratitude for each member – even the one(s) who are a challenge to your patience!

Have a blessed Christmas season!

Fr Don

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