20th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Dear Friends,

Last Sunday you heard four members of our youth ministry SMYLE address us after Holy Communion. (You must know by now that SMYLE stands for St. Matthias Youth Living Evangelization.) Thank you to those who responded to their invitation to volunteer some time to help with our youth ministry. One thing that all of the four teens – Abigail Joseph, Emily Chavez, Isabel McGuire and James Nonaillada –told us was very significant: “Youth Ministry is a safe place to be ourselves. It is filled with real people from different backgrounds, ages, experiences, and issues. With the help of God, this diverse group thrives as a family, and every youth deserves to be a part of this family.”

Yes, though diverse, we are one family. That is also the theme in the readings of this Sunday. The vision God has put forward in Isaiah was something unthinkable for the Jews of that time and may not be easily acceptable even for us: that the foreigners or pagans are welcome and their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on the altar of God because “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah 56:6-7).

This was the experience of the incredible number of young people at the World Youth Day two weeks ago in Lisbon, Portugal. This largest Catholic event surpassed expectations with 1.5 million pilgrims joining Pope Francis for the closing Mass on August 6. Can you imagine such a mammoth crowd of Catholics in one place – singing, praising, praying, dancing and celebrating with Pope Francis and other leaders? It was an electrifying experience for them, suffused with so much joy, excitement and spiritual fervor. Young adults from different parts of the US have shared their experience on various platforms. Here are just two:

Stacy Escobar, 26, from Arlington, VA, said that one of her favorite moments from the trip was during an outdoor Eucharistic adoration event set up specifically for travelers from the United States: “That was probably one of the most beautiful moments of Eucharistic adoration I have ever seen. The host was glowing in the monstrance. It was beautiful. The sunset was amazing. And just seeing everybody and all the international flags, the diversity was just beautiful.”

Savannah Dudzik, 22, from Tampa, FL, said that one of the most memorable moments was seeing Pope Francis up close: “We were within a few feet of him. Seeing Pope Francis was incredible because in what other situation do a million people get so excited to see a man who’s in his 80s? It’s because it has to be something more … He’s witnessing to the word of God. That’s why we’re so excited.” Then she added: “World Youth Day showed the Catholic youth that the Catholic Church is truly universal.”

I have asked our own parishioners who attended the WYD 2023 to share with us their insights or takeaways from this unforgettable event. May we become more of a welcoming community, respecting and celebrating our diversity.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Ascension of the Lord


Dear Friends,

We know from the Bible that the Ascension of Jesus took place forty days after the Resurrection: “[Jesus] presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days.” Acts 1:3. The 4th day after Easter Sunday will always be Thursday, therefore the Church, from very early on, celebrated Christ’s Ascension on this day.

But with the declining number of attendance on a weekday, many US Ecclesiastical Provinces as well as some countries, decided to transfer the feast to Sunday. You may remember that last year, our bishops of New Jersey decided to permanently transfer the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord from Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter to the following Sunday, the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Hence we keep the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord today.

Ascension does not mean that Jesus disappeared, because even as he ascended, his assurance was, “I will be with you always, even to the end of times” (Matthew 28:20). What is celebrated is Jesus’ exaltation and the end of his earthly existence as a prelude to the gift of the Spirit. Hence this feast is a celebration of Jesus’ final glorification after his suffering, death, and Resurrection – a glory in which we also hope to share.

And yet, humanly speaking, the concept of bodily Ascension is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. Pope Francis doesn’t shy away from explaining the mysteries of our faith. In his catechesis on Ascension, he says: “Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven thus allows us to know this reality that is so consoling on our journey: in Christ, true God, and true man, our humanity has been brought to God. He has opened the way. He is like the leader of a mountain climbing party that is roped together. He has reached the summit and pulls us to himself, leading us to God. If we entrust our lives to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain of being in safe hands.”

Next Sunday is the great Feast of Pentecost. We are who we are because of the power of the Holy Spirit whose indwelling is within each one of us. Remember, what happened to the Apostles and the Blessed Mother after the Ascension? They gathered in the Upper Room and began to prepare themselves for the next nine days for the coming of the Holy Spirit just as Jesus told them (Acts1:4; Lk 24:49). They were anointed by the Holy Spirit and were totally changed. They became as new persons with a new life that even the citizens around them could see it so clearly.

As a parish community, we can be proud that we are becoming a spirit‐filled people not only when we gather to worship in church, but also as we volunteer to serve the community through the various ministries we have. At our Ministry Fair this weekend in the cafeteria, we have an opportunity to become familiar with many of those ministries. As you move from table to table, and hear more about each of those ministries, the Holy Spirit will prompt you. Listen to the Spirit and see if you are called to join any of those ministries. Do pray about it these days that the gift of the Holy Spirit will be “fanned into a flame “, “rekindled”, and “kept alive.” May the Spirit bless us as we prepare for the Feast of Pentecost.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

Happy New Year!

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year! The New Year’s Eve Mass is an opportunity for us to thank God for the blessings we received in 2022. We usher in the New Year not only watching all the celebrations across the world including the dropping of the ball in Times Square, but also by celebrating the Eucharist in God’s house and beginning 2023 with His blessings. Many will make this first day of the New Year a time of reflecting, resolving, and beginning again.

It is only understandable that most New Year’s resolutions are about personal health like eating right, losing weight, relaxing more, avoiding smoking, drinking etc. But Christianity reminds us that we are more than our bodies. Jesus says: “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes” (Luke 12:23). Hence our New Year resolutions should address every aspect of our self ‐ physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. I came across some simple but profound ideas that the International Catholic Stewardship Council published. I wish to share these with you:

Practice gratitude – Cultivating a grateful heart is the hallmark of a Christian steward. Every day, express thankfulness. Seeing the good in your life will allow you to keep your heart compassionate and loving. Encounter the Lord each day – Find time to be with the Lord each day, whether it be for an hour or ten minutes. Have a conversation with the Lord. Give your joys and worries to Him as well. Allow God’s love to transform them.

Be present to others – There is much celebration and mourning, joy and sorrow in peoples’ lives. What a blessing it is to be able to share those times
and not let others experience them alone. The gift of your presence to others is much more valuable than you realize.

Resist overwork – There is a pressure to produce, meet goals, be successful. But activities that lead us to overwork, constant fatigue and worry do not give glory to God. What God calls us to do, we can do well. Be mindful that life requires balance, down time and letting go of unrealistic goals.

Give more – Good stewards realize that everything they have is entrusted to them as gifts to be shared. There is no better place to begin than sharing with the community that gathers around the Lord’s table at Mass.

Make a difference in your parish community – Believe it or not, your parish community can use your talents. Offering your talents to your faith community is one of the most effective ways to feel useful and connected to others, and it is a potentially life‐changing New Year resolution.

Consider living more simply – We cannot find fulfilment in possessions. They add nothing to our self‐worth. Jesus blessed the “poor in spirit” in his Sermon
on the Mount; and Saint Francis of Assisi urged us to live with only what was necessary, for that is how we begin to find God.

Don’t give up – People give up their New Year resolutions because of perfectionism and unrealistic expectations. So take it slow, be kind to yourself and keep trying. Resist the urge to throw your hands up and quit. You succeed through small, manageable changes over time.

May the Blessings of Baby Jesus stay with all of you for the whole of the New Year 2023.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal