12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

Tomorrow, June 24, is the solemn feast in honor of the birth or nativity of John the Baptist. Usually, the feast days of the saints are celebrated on or around the date of their death. John the Baptist is an exception due to his uniqueness as the Forerunner, the Voice crying out in the Wilderness, in the history of salvation. At the same time, the Church wants to be more conscious of the witness of John’s character as a model for us to grow in holiness.

It is enlightening for us to know a little church history and tradition associated with the birthday celebrations of John the Baptist. This is one of the oldest feasts on the Church calendar. In the early Church, as in medieval times, this was one of the biggest feasts of the year. As was done on Christmas, three masses were offered, one at midnight, and two in the morning. All over Europe, fires were lit on mountains and hilltops on the eve of this feast. The people had parties and lit bonfires in honor of John because our Lord called him a “burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35). These fires, sometimes called St. John’s fires, were lit on St. John’s Eve and burned until at least midnight. These fires were also a sign of Christ the Light, and a reminder that we, too, are called to be a light for the world. In Catholic sections of Europe, people prayed together to Saint John for his intercession that the summer might be blessed in homes, fields, and country. Finally, they performed some of the traditional folk dances, usually accompanied by singing and music. In addition to celebrating around outdoor fires, other customs included decorating one’s home with flowers, making floral wreaths (which were sometimes sent down a river as a symbol of Jesus’ baptism), placing sprigs of St. Johns wort around the house much as we do Palm Sunday palms, and eating strawberries. This feast placed three months after the feast of the Annunciation, and six months before Christmas served the useful purpose of supplanting the immoral pagan feasts of the Summer Solstice. St. John the Baptist was highly honored throughout from the beginning. Proof of this is, among other things, the fact that fifteen churches were dedicated to him in the ancient imperial city of Constantinople.

William Shakespeare in his play Romeo and Juliet wrote, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.” Actually, Biblical names have often a rich meaning. When the time came to circumcise this child, neighbors and relatives expected him to be named after his father, Zechariah. But his mother insisted, “No, he is to be called John.” “The name, “John,” in Hebrew is “Yehohanan.” It means, “The Lord is gracious,” or maybe better, “The Lord shows favor.” The birthday of John Baptist relates to the birth of Jesus. The Church selected the time of the winter solstice to celebrate the birth of Jesus because from that time the days gradually grow longer; the amount of daylight increases. But the Church selected the time of the summer solstice to celebrate the birth of the Baptist because from this time the days gradually grow shorter; the amount of daylight diminishes. This symbolizes the words of the Baptist in speaking of Jesus, “He must increase while I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

May we too allow Jesus to increase in the way we witness to Him and His teachings.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

 

SCAM ALERT

 

Like many pastors, I too have heard from our parishioners who received emails or text messages, seemingly from me, asking for donations.  Please exercise the utmost caution when receiving these types of communications. I have not asked nor will I solicit donations. Please be suspicious of any such communication. Please call the parish office directly to verify its legitimacy.  Anyone who feels that they have been the victim of this type of fraud is urged to contact the local police department.

-Fr. Abraham

Join Us For A Farewell Mass

 

Sr. Marie Therese, who has been serving our parish community for the past 17 years, has decided to retire from active ministry.

Please join us at the noon Mass on June 30th for her farewell Mass. After Mass, we will have the opportunity to meet with her in the cafeteria to offer her our good wishes as she starts the next chapter in her life and ministry. Sister has been an integral member of our parish and will surely be missed.

Part-Time Parish Associate for Faith Formation Needed.

 

The responsibilities include coordinating religious formation programs for families with children K-8. Manage preparation for Baptism, First Reconciliation/First Eucharist, and Confirmation. Adult faith formation through parish small groups.

The candidate must be a practicing Catholic, with excellent communication and organizational skills. Computer proficiency especially in Microsoft Office, Google Suite, and other digital tools employed in catechetical ministry.

Experience in parish or related pastoral ministry.  A degree in Theology, Catechetics, or Religious Education is preferred.

Please send your resume to: Mary Pat Burke-Grospin, Business Admin. at mpburke-grospin@stmatthias.net

 

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

After honoring mothers last month, today we honor fathers. For children, it is a day to show appreciation and gratitude for their fathers and father-figures. For adults, it is a day to recall and appreciate the hard work of the fathers and husbands in their lives. We offer our dads, living or dead, on the altar of God during the Holy Mass and invoke our heavenly Father’s blessings on them.   At a time when the Fathers’ role in the family and in the society is not fully appreciated, it is good that today we can celebrate, congratulate and pray for the men who continue to reflect the Divine qualities of fatherhood as they lovingly establish, nourish and maintain their families.

Many studies have demonstrated how important a father is to his child’s development.  Children with fathers present have lower rates of delinquency, drug and alcohol use, teen pregnancy, and so on, than those with absent fathers.  The father’s presence is also a significant positive factor in children’s getting a college education, finding a satisfying job, and making a lasting marriage. Psychotherapists today are saying that both parents are vitally important to the stable development of their children; the mother’s input is invaluable in the formative pre-adolescent years but the father’s most important influence is at adolescence.  Most single mothers, who do an excellent job of parenting, say that it is very difficult to teach their children about the meaning of God the Father who seems so impersonal because their children have been abandoned by their natural fathers.  Adolescent daughters long to hear from their fathers that they are beautiful and loved.  In fact, a girl’s choice of partner and satisfaction in marriage is often directly related to the relationship she has had with her father.

While we honor our earthly fathers, we, as Christians, look up to God as our model of fatherhood. So what does the Bible say about it? Check out these verses on the fatherhood of God: Matthew 5:456:9, 32Romans 1:715:61 Corinthians 8:6.

There are many instances that speak of Jesus Christ, the Son, honoring His Father and honoring the will of His Father (e.g., John 17:1 and John 17:5).

The apostle Paul taught that to honor one’s earthly father is not only a commandment but the first commandment that, when obeyed, has a promise of things going well and living long on the earth. “Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise—that it may go well with you and  that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:2-3).

I invite us all to have a look at a few more Biblical references to fathers: Exodus 20:12, Sirach 3:1-16, Matthew 19:16-22, John 1:14, 2 Cor. 6:16-18, Ephesians 6: 1-4, 1 Thessalonians. 2:11 – 12.

The most important lesson that a father can inculcate in his children is to develop a loving relationship with God. All fathers can heed this advice of

St. Paul: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4). When fathers take this responsibility seriously, there will be more unity, love, peace and harmony in families.

Happy Father’s Day!

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

 

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

Dear Friends,

We are in the month of June dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion that began in the 12th century, and gained popularity after Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 1670s.  This month is an opportunity for us to deepen our devotion to Jesus Christ and reflect on His teachings through prayer, reflection, and acts of charity. One popular devotional practice is the daily recitation of the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This litany is a prayer of intercession that asks for the mercy, love, and protection of Jesus. Here at St. Matthias, we pray this Litany every First Friday of the month, during the Holy Hour after our 8 am Mass.

We all are familiar with the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Have you wondered why it has flames, thorns, a cross, and open wounds?

Flames: In the Gospel, Jesus says that He has come to set fire on the earth—the fire that He longs to set is the fire of divine love, the fire of the Holy Spirit, in each human heart. In Jesus’ first apparition to St. Margaret Mary, after revealing His Heart to her, he said to her, “My divine Heart is so passionately fond of the human race, and of you in particular, that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning charity any longer. They must burst out through you.”

Rays of Light: The Sacred Heart of Jesus is surrounded by rays of light, as if rays of light are emanating from it. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says He is the light of the world. Jesus brings the light of God’s love into the darkness of our sin and suffering, our fear and doubt.

Crown of Thorns: In one of His revelations to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus told her that the crown of thorns symbolizes our individual sins, which prick His heart.

The Cross: In the image of the Sacred Heart, the Cross stands atop the Sacred Heart, as if to say that the Heart of Jesus is what supports the Cross and what supports us when we have to bear a cross. It is the Divine Love that transforms the Cross into the most powerful act of redemption.

The Open Wound: After Jesus died on the cross, a soldier pierced His Heart with a lance and blood and water flow out—the mercy of God floods the world. The open wound in the image of the Sacred Heart shows us that the Heart of Jesus is always open to us, His mercy is always available to us, and He never closes His Heart to us.

Such insights from these symbols make us realize the infinite love of Jesus for us. Pope Francis has said that it is easier for us to believe in our own love for God than it is for us to believe in God’s love for us. In this month, the Church invites us to contemplate the Sacred Heart of Jesus and let ourselves be convinced of God’s passionate love for us. One prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus we all can pray is: “Oh Heart of Jesus, burning with love for us, inflame our hearts with love for You.” More and more people are attending our First Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart on every month. If you have not experienced it, why not try it once?

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal

 

Come and See!

This coming Friday, June 7th, on the Solemnity of The Sacred Heart of Jesus, we celebrate World Day for the Sanctification of Priests. Established by Pope John Paul II, this day is dedicated to fostering the spiritual renewal and holiness of Catholic priests. It underscores the essential role of priests in the Church and the need for their ongoing personal and spiritual development.

On this special day, our priests are encouraged to reflect on the importance and dignity of their vocation. All of us are invited to support our priests through prayer and expressions of gratitude for their service and sacrifices. We pray for Father Abraham’s and Father Lancelot’s spiritual well-being as we ask God to grant them the strength, courage, and wisdom needed to fulfill their priestly duties.

Related to The World Day for the Sanctification of Priests is our upcoming Morning of Prayer for Vocations to the Ordained & Consecrated Life to be held on Saturday, June 8th from 9:30 to Noon in the John XXIII room here at St. Matthias.  All are welcome! Please join us as we pray for our priests – current and future!

Until then we can pray: O Jesus, eternal High Priest, who, in your incomparable love for humanity, allowed Catholic priesthood to issue from your sacred heart, continue to pour out on your priests the life-giving streams of your infinite love. Live and act in them so that they may perform in your name and by the strength of your Spirit the works which you have accomplished for the salvation of this world.

For more information on the St. Matthias Vocations Ministry feel free to email Joe Percoco at percoco@rutgers.edu

 

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

 

Dear Friends,

Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ – the very presence of Christ that we are fortunate to have each time we gather to celebrate Mass. ‘Corpus Christi’ is the more popular Latin name, meaning the Body of Christ. We receive the Body of Christ in Holy Communion. That’s why we bow our heads and say Amen to the words of the Communion Minister: “The Body of Christ.” But receiving this body of Christ will not be meaningful unless we love and respect the larger body of Christ – the people of God, who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

This week has been very special for one group of this Body of Christ in our parish: our 8th Grade students who just had their graduation on Friday. It was an exciting day for them and their families as well as for the teachers and administration. In my message in the 2024 St. Matthias School Year Book, after my words of appreciation to Mrs. Mary Lynch, our Principal, all our teachers, staff, and most of all, parents and families who have guided them along the way, I wrote this to the students:

My dear Graduating Class,

 While blessings and congratulations will be showered upon you, the question I wish to ask you is this: Are you prepared to face the challenges of life as you move on from our loving, protective and nurturing environment of St. Matthias? The challenges that teens face are many: anxiety, stress, depression, social media, bullying, cyber bullying, eating disorders, peer pressure, desensitization to violence, low motivation, temptation to drug, alcohol etc. It is only when you make the right choices, you will experience success, fulfillment and happiness, giving you good health in mind, body and soul.

We have tried our best to inculcate in you the values of discipleship in Christ Jesus to help you make the right choices. The regular sight of Fr. Lancelot McGrath in the school has given a much needed priestly presence both to the faculty and students. Attending Mass on a regular basis, holding prayer services on important occasions, highlighting the daily practice of prayer and other practices have given you a good spiritual foundation that should be of great help in dealing with difficult times ahead.

 Be assured of our love, prayers and support, for “You are the Body of Christ,” as the Year Book theme reminds us. Do continue your friendship with Jesus and your association with this faith community of St. Matthias. Remember this message from the Bible: “Be strong! Be fearless! Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared by your enemies, because the Lord your God is the one who marches with you. He won’t let you down, and he won’t abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

As St. Matthias School is part and parcel of the Catholic Community of St. Matthias, I wish to thank the entire parish community for the constant support and encouragement to the school. Without your generous financial support, it would have been very difficult to run our school that has received lots of awards both as an institution and as individual students. God bless our parish and our school.

 

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal