From the beginning at Samaritan Hospital in Troy
to this moment standing here today at St. Kat’s
I have been blessed.
I have been blessed with models
that have given me hope,
that have provided light on the journey.
My parents, especially my mother —
who instilled the importance of Faith early
through prayer, commitment to the Sacraments,
and teaching us about the Saints,
which included many summer trips to Auriesville
to walk the same grounds as did St. Kateri and St. Isaac Jogues.
I have been blessed with a Brother
who served as a mentor to me in challenging early days
and who instilled in me an example
of what it means to be dedicated and committed
to the priesthood.
To this day, I am overwhelmed
by the fact that my brother, crippled by neuropathy and arthritis
— at 88 years of age — finds a way with the help of good people
to get to St. Vincent’s Church so that he can say Mass
and bring the Word of the Lord to the people of his parish.
I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and companion,
Debbie, who has been for me a source of strength, wisdom,
and spiritual growth.
Deborah — who grew up in St. Helen’s and went to St. Helen’s School
from Kindergarten to Eighth Grade — has spoken
of how well the school reinforced the Faith
she first learned from her parents.
She was always St.. Helen in the School Procession of the Saints.
She made her first Communion at St. Helen’s and was confirmed at St. Helen’s.
She sees it as a blessing that new generations have the opportunity
to experience in our parish school
what she experienced.
We both see this parish as a vital presence on our faith journey.
It offers us community — we love our little parish of people
we sit near in Church — and when someone is missing we feel it.
I often have the opportunity to travel with Debbie
when she brings Communion to those who can’t make
it to St. Kateri’s
and I watch how much her presence as a Eucharistic Minister
means to those she is bringing the Lord to.
In so many vital ways —
from bringing communion to the homebound
to reaching out to the poor
to consoling those who have lost someone
to providing religious education for our youth —
Our parish is doing the work of the Lord.
And so I want to add St. Kateri’s as one of those
models that has given me hope.
As Debbie says, “You can always tell people who
are struggling with the Church to come to St. Kat’s
… where you have a community with a wonderful spirit,
and a priest who clearly loves being a priest
and loves people.
And you always know when he’s arrived for Mass
because you hear his joyful laugh.”
Yes, St. Kateri’s is a pretty special place
and we can help make it even better
by our commitment and our generosity.
We can make our worship and gathering spaces
more appealing and more welcoming;
we can make our school an even more vibrant
witness of Christ-centered learning;
and we can do so much more.
By re-igniting our parish we can become
a model and a beaming light for other parishes in our Diocese.
Yes, I am blessed to be part of St. Kateri’s,
and Debbie and I are happy to be participating in
St. Kateri’s Re-igniting our Faith Program.
Richard Grant wrote an article in the March 2018 Smithsonian Magazine entitled, “Do Trees Talk to Each Other?”. He interviewed German forester and author Peter Wohlleben who says, “Some are calling it the ‘wood-wide web’. All the trees here, and in every forest that is not too damaged, are connected to each other through underground fungal networks…scientists call these mycorrhizal networks.” He cites an example of a beech stump that still had chlorophyll in it because the surrounding trees were keeping it alive. Another professor of ecology, Suzanne Simard, describes mother trees found in forests, the biggest, oldest trees with the most fungal connections. “With their deep roots, they draw up water and make it available to shallow-rooted seedlings. They help neighboring trees by sending them nutrients, and when the neighbors are struggling, mother trees detect their distress signals and increase the flow of nutrients accordingly.” They find that trees share resources across other species because they’ve learned they will live longer and reproduce more in a healthy, stable forest. “That’s why they’ve evolved to help their neighbors.”
I started to think that this is church to me, a network of trees that carry each other in this way. We are all our own tree, but we hold each other up. Holy Spirit binds us together. Church helps me to see outside of myself to the greater whole of God’s forest. I feel a solidarity with others that are struggling and celebrating with their own growth. Individual trees, but our roots are woven together. Our roots go deep into that which gives us strength, hope, wisdom, and all that is loving and good…that which is God. It made me think about these questions, which I pose for your reflection too:
Who are our mother trees?
How much do I contribute to the network, and how much do I take?
Has disease come into our forest? Are we able to overcome it?
Do we show our colors like in autumn? Do we winter well, exposing our bare selves to the elements, so new life can come again in the spring?
Do we move in the breeze together?
Do we honor our stumps? And treasure our saplings?
Do I help those that are a different species than me enough?
Do we reach for the sun and stretch our roots to the life-giving water?
For as Jeremiah reminds us,
“Blessed is the man (and woman) who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he (she) will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes,” (17:7-8).
Fr. Bob’s Pentecost Sunday homily…
I asked the Lord for more peace.
God said, “I have sent my Holy Spirit to you;
The Spirit of consolation and joy, my closeness to you.
This is your peace.”
I asked the Lord for more strength.
God said, “I have sent my Holy Spirit to you;
A Spirit strong enough for my Son to endure the cross.
This is your strength.”
I asked the Lord for more beauty.
God said, “I have sent my Holy Spirit to you;
The same Spirit that blew over the waters and created everything in its splendor.
This is your beauty.”
I asked the Lord for more understanding.
God said, “I have sent my Holy Spirit to you;
The Spirit will lead you to my will.
This is your understanding.”
I asked the Lord for more forgiveness.
God said, “I have sent my Holy Spirit to you;
The Spirit of reconciliation…
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Let us pray this Reflection by Hildegard of Bingen…
Most royal greening verdancy,
Rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.
In this circle of earthly existence
you shine so finely, it surpasses understanding.
God hugs you.
You are encircled by the arms
of the mystery of God. Amen.
On Trinity Sunday we celebrate the very essence of God – and how we experience this essence. And so, by this celebration we hope to come to experience this mystery more deeply within our real and everyday lives. This God of love, truth and life is not a puzzle to be solved, but a mystery to be loved, experienced, and lived.
From Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God, “Trinity: The Living God of Love”: Christians do not believe in three gods but in one. What is particular to this faith is the belief that this one God has graciously reached out to the world in love in the person of Jesus Christ in order to heal, redeem, and liberate…
It lifts up God’s gracious ways active in the world through Jesus Christ and the Spirit, and finds there the fundamental revelation about God’s own being as self-giving communion of love . . . This is about “an encounter with divine Mystery” . . . experiencing the saving God in a threefold way as beyond them, and with them, and within them . . .
‘Trinity theology’ too often has presented its findings as if they were a literal description of a self-contained Trinity of three divine persons knowing and loving each other. This, of course, is not the case, no such literal description is possible . . . we must think with humility. Our “God is not two men and a bird” even though artists have often depicted the Trinity this way. This art is a meditation not a photograph. (207-208)
God is love – God lives as this mystery of love. We humans are created in this image. “Knowing God is impossible unless we enter into a life of love and communion with others.” “The church’s identity and mission pivot on this point . . . Only a community of equal persons related in profound mutuality, pouring out praise of God and care for the world in need, only such a church corresponds to the triune God it purports to serve.” (223)
“The point is, with the three circling around in a mutual, dynamic movement of love, God is not a static being but a plenitude of self-giving love, a saving mystery that overflows into the world of sin and death to heal, redeem, and liberate. The whole point of this history of God with the world is to bring the world back into the life of God’s own communion, back into the divine dance of life (p. 214).
1st Reading – Proverbs 8: 22 – 31
The Book of Proverbs is sort of an ‘Owners manual for the Jewish mind, heart and hands. All the chapters tell the reader about a spirit of right living: a life of discipline, restraint, just judgment, and relational sensitivity. This passage is a poetic presentation of how Wisdom assisted in creation. The goodness of creation and of ourselves is affirmed so that we reverence and use well all of that creation. Larry Gillick, S.J., http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistr/053010.html
This passage in the Old Testament is considered typology…a foreshadow or hint of what may be understood further in the New Testament. Trinity is not a concept that was revealed well in OT, but this is a prefigurement: the idea that the Father had company in creation.
2nd Reading – Romans 5: 1-5
Paul insists that standing firm in the midst of trials yields to endurance and a firm hope. For Paul, the assurance that salvation was a free gift for all inclusively was based on his belief in God’s love shown to us through the power of the Holy Spirit. It was Paul’s firm belief in the triune nature of God that would later be the foundation upon which theologians based the doctrine of Trinity. For Paul it was the Christian anchor: hope and endurance come through faith in the Triune God’s transcendent power! (Birmingham, Word & Worship, p. 554) How has hope and endurance helped you in the midst of trial?
The Gospel – John 16: 12-15
This passage continues the Farewell Discourse of the Last Supper that Jesus has with his disciples. Note how gentle Jesus is in not wanting to overwhelm them by only feeding them bits of information that they are able to understand (Think of how we teach our children!). “Spirit” in this piece of scripture in Greek is “paraclete”…one who stands by us. We have a God that stands forever with us. How does this speak to you?
Let us pray this prayer by Richard Rohr…
God for Us, we call You Father,
God Alongside Us, we call You Jesus,
God Within Us, we call You Holy Spirit.
You are the Eternal Mystery
That enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things,
Even us, and even me.
Every name falls short of your
Goodness and Greatness.
We can only see who You are in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing.
As it was in the beginning, is now,
and ever shall be.
Fr. Bob’s 7th Sunday of Easter homily…
7th Sunday of Easter C
This week we hear some wonderful and indeed startling things from Jesus in the Gospel as we “listen in” on his prayer to the Father. To begin with, Jesus is praying for us with all his soul. We are absolutely central in his life. No parent could pray with more fervency for their children than Jesus does for us. And what he says is remarkable. Jesus prays, “so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you.” Jesus promises to be as close to us as he is with his heavenly Father! “And I have given them the glory you gave me.” Ours is not a diminished grace of Christ for God does not know how to give in half measures. Jesus has given us everything he has received from God. And finally, Jesus says, “Father, they are…
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Please note: There are reading options for this weekend, so I don’t know if I picked the same readings that Fr. Bob will choose to be read at Mass. So you may be surprised by different readings than these!
The Hebrew word ruah, the Greek pneuma, and the Latin spiritus all basically mean “air in motion,” “breath,” or “wind.” The root word is power. Apart from human and animal power, wind was the main observable energy source in the ancient world. Wind was seen as the breath of God – our own breath coming from that life-giving Breath. It is also interesting to note that in the ancient understanding of wind and water and fire – and thus spirit – we find them possessing what we consider to be properties of liquids. Thus we have the idea of the spirit being poured out. (The Cultural World of Jesus, Cycle A, J. Pilch, p.88-89)
Remember, the Jewish name for God, YHVH (yod, he, vav, he), is really an unspeakable name giving us a deep sense of God’s presence and life. It is a ‘word’ that was not spoken at all, but breathed! The one thing we do every moment of our lives is therefore to speak the name of God. Our first word and our last will be God’s name – God’s essence and Spirit. (R. Rohr, The Naked Now,p 25-26)
The Acts of the Apostles 2: 1-11
Pentecost (50 days since Passover; 7 weeks since planting time) originally was an agricultural feast of thanksgiving for the 1st grain harvest. Later, it came to be also a celebration of the gift of the Law to Moses on Sinai and the establishment of Israel as God’s people. Because it was the second of Judaism’s three major feasts, Jews from all over Palestine and the Greek territories (the Diaspora) would have traveled to Jerusalem. Luke wants us to notice how this diverse group is the perfect place for the Spirit to be present in power. (Celebration, May, 2002; R. Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu)
Luke is also telling us this Pentecost story in such a way as to remind us of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist had promised that the Messiah
would baptize “with the holy Spirit and fire” (Lk 3: 16). Here we see that the fire comes in tongues giving courage, meaning and understanding to the gift of speech.
In many ways this story is the reversal of the Babel story in Genesis 11: 1-9. At Babel, sin (self-importance and false pride) had brought confusion and defeat. Now with the power of God’s Holy Spirit we see a new universal outreach characterized by mutual understanding and respect. Also where there was fear and inaction, there is now new energy and boldness that is rooted in faith in the God of Jesus. This Holy Spirit is still available today; we also need this ability to understand each other despite differences. Luke is writing to encourage us to be open to the ongoing process of transformation that is the Spirit! (Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship- Yr. A, p. 336; Celebration, May 2002)
Romans 8: 8-17
The terms that Paul uses – flesh and spirit – can be easily misunderstood today. The word translated as ‘flesh’ is sarx, our wounded, broken, attention-seeking self (little self, trapped, insecure). ‘Spirit’ is pneuma, or God’s power within us. Living through Spirit is when we come to know and trust God’s love…our true self (John Dwyer’s Themes from Romans, p. 77). Richard Rohr says, “What you seek is what you are. The search for God and the search for our True Self are finally the same search.”
Here Paul is insisting that baptism is only a beginning. Life in the Spirit is a life of freedom, but it is always a freedom struggling with constant temptation. To live in and with the Spirit of Christ means to live under the lordship of Christ. We are no longer to be controlled by ‘the flesh’ – we undergo a death to this way of living symbolized by the ‘drowning’ of our baptism. But this ‘dying’ really leads to a fuller life – but a life of struggling freedom. We must live in such a way that we continually call out “Abba, Father” even when the full experience of this new life is not quite yet . . . (Reginald Fuller, “Scripture in Depth” http://liturgy.slu.edu
John 14: 15 – 16, 23-26
One of the main points here is that the Father’s love for the disciples and Jesus’ abiding presence with and in them is the Holy Spirit. Filled with this Spirit, the disciples are able to love as Jesus loves and to keep his commandments and word as he desires. The Spirit is the power implanted within us to remember – to understand — and to ultimately fulfill the mission entrusted to us. Another Advocate will be with us – Jesus was the first Advocate to come to us. He came in the flesh to help us, defend us and plead a cause – the cause of God’s love. This first Advocate held nothing back – not even his life. But now this Word-Made-Flesh has ascended and sits at the right hand of the Father. But our wonderful God sends us another Advocate; this indwelling Advocate will remain forever. This Spirit continues the presence and the work of Jesus – in and with us. Living this paschal mystery does mean, though, that this good gift has its cost – we still must die to ourselves in order to be the true presence of Christ for others.
(“Working with the Word” http://liturgy.slu.edu and Living Liturgy, 2004, p. 140-141)
Fr. Bob’s 6th Sunday of Easter homily…
6th Sunday of Easter C
There is a rivalry, a contest that spans throughout the Gospels. It is between Jesus Christ and Caesar, the emperor of Rome. The two figures could not be more different, but both desire the same thing – the allegiance and devotion of all the world. If they were introduced as boxers coming into the arena, Caesar would be carried by his followers and the announcer would thunder, “Now entering, the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, the dominator, ruler of an empire that stretches from sea to sea, Caesar! And in the other corner, a scrappy young carpenter’s son from Nazareth, Jesus Christ.” It looks like a mismatch. All the power of Caesar is manifest in power, money and armies. So we are left with the question: how did Jesus win?
Jesus and the early church were very intentional in boldly setting up this contrast…
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1st Reading: Acts 7: 55 – 60
The Stephen narrative links his death with the beginning of the Gentile mission and introduces Saul (eventually Paul). Stephen is the church’s first martyr, and mimics Jesus’ death in how he commends his spirit (to Jesus this time and not the Father) and asks forgiveness of his enemies. Mark that Saul is one of the enemies that he is referring to, (R. Faley’s Footprints on the Mountain, p. 366). What truths speak to you in this reading? Do you feel Jesus’ presence with you when you are faced with a trial? Would you accept and surrender to persecution like Stephen did?
2nd Reading: Revelation 22: 12 – 14, 16 – 17, 20
Christ is the speaker in these oracles which bring the book of Revelation to a conclusion (Please note that the Bible begins with God creating the heavens and the earth and ends with Jesus saying he is coming…both messages of hope and newness of life.). The expectation of the Lord’s imminent return gives the words a sense of urgency. He will return as the judge rewarding and punishing according to conduct. He is the eternal One, here applying to himself the words used earlier by God himself (1:8), (p. 367).
The summons to “come” in verse 17 allude to the liturgical practice of summoning the righteous to the Eucharist. We are reminded that the summons into the liturgical assembly is an image of that final summons to the gathering of the holy ones of God, (R. Perkins’ Collegeville Bible Commentary, p. 84). Have you ever thought of Eucharist in this way? Do you feel the dynamic of being called by God and the need for a response?
Gospel: John 17: 20 – 26
This reading is Jesus’ prayer at his last meal with his disciples. For whom does Jesus pray, for what does Jesus pray, and why does Jesus pray for it? Jesus prays for those who would believe in him on the word of the disciples. He is praying that they may all be united with the same intimacy that Jesus knows with his Father. The reason for the prayer is to bring people to faith, so people will believe that the Father sent Jesus to the world. The unity that Christ desired for his disciples would be a result of the living presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit! This is something that John’s community in particular needed to hear (W&W, Birmingham, p. 312). As you reflect on Jesus’ prayer for you, what is most comforting to you, and what might you need to change in order to conform your life more closely to what Jesus wants for you?
It is easy to see the Trinity in Jesus’ prayer. We are being called to be one with God just as Father, Son and Spirit are one with each other. This oneness unites us with each other too. Jesus, as the incarnation…the Word made flesh…is the way. The cross is a symbol of our oneness…vertical connection with God and horizontal connection with each other. Michael Downey has more thoughts on this in Altogether Gift–
The incomprehensibility of God lies in the utter gratuity of life and love, in God’s constant coming as gift. God is inexhaustible Gift, Given and Gift/ing in and through love. This is who God is and how God is. Whatever may be known of this ineffable mystery, unfathomable because of the depth and prodigality of this life pouring itself forth in love, is known in and through the gift of the indwelling Spirit of God enabling us to recognize the Word made flesh whose life, passion, and Resurrection are the very disclosure of God’s mystery.
The relationality of the three bonded in the one Love spills over into a relationality with the world, thereby making it possible for human persons to enter into this communion in the one Love.
Human personhood is not something achieved in autonomy or independence or self-determination or self-sufficiency. Rather, human personhood is received in self-donation, being toward, always toward the other and others in relation.
Fr. Bob’s 5th Sunday of Easter homily…
5th Sunday of Easter C
Have you ever thought about what heaven would be like? Have you planned it out in your head? I would have every day be Niska Day (our great community celebration in Niskayuna) with everyone coming together and people calling out my name. The weather would be in the high sixties with just a bit of a breeze. And of course the Mets would win every game. It all sounds perfect except for one thing. If I had my perfect heaven, I would be all alone because it would be nobody else’s idea of perfection. After all, what would poor Rotterdamians and Glenvillites think if every day was Niska Day? And the other priests would be annoyed by all the attention I was getting. Some people like the weather a little hotter than I do. Although if you would like it much hotter, there is an…
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Just an added thought…
Have you ever noticed the chalice that is used in Mass causes a reflection? Some of the cups are colored or muted, but the gold cups in particular act as a mirror. When Father Bob holds it up during the consecration, I can see the congregation in the cup. When it is on the table, I can see the book of prayers and other vessels for Mass. And when I go up for communion and receive the cup, I see myself.
It reminds me of other mirrors. The mirror on my van reflects things as bigger than they actually are. The mirror in my hallway tells me whether I’m going to stick with the first outfit I put on or a later rendition. The mirror in the parish office is one way, so inside I can see people coming in but they can’t see me. Most of these mirrors have…
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