Greetings my good friends in Christ,
This weekend we celebrate the great Feast of the Ascension, the day the Lord was taken up to heaven. The first scripture reading gives us an account of this event and it is worth reflecting upon.
Throughout the entire Easter season, Jesus is seen preparing His chosen disciples for this event; an event that would shape the entire world mission of His faith story. You have to remember, these disciples knew Jesus just over three years, and in that time they experienced many powerful encounters with the Holy One of God. At His baptism, the Voice from the heavens confirmed that Jesus was truly the Son of God, and that all should listen to Him. On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the same message is shared, ''Listen to HIM." They witnessed the many miracles of Jesus: the raising from the dead of Lazarus, the healing of the blind man, the healing of the crippled man who picked up his mat, His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the feeding of the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish. These are just some examples that these chosen disciples witnessed which led them on a deeper journey and understanding of who Jesus was and what He was asking them to do when He called them by name and asked them to follow Him.
We know from the scriptures that many doubted His presence; Peter denied Him, Judas took his life over Him, and many more turned their backs to Him. But for the few who stayed loyal to Him, blessings came their way through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Feast of the Ascension prepares us all for the Feast of Pentecost; the gifting of the Holy Spirit upon the early disciples, strengthening them for the mission ahead. Up until the Feast of the Ascension, Jesus, from the moment of His Resurrection, kept close to these chosen disciples, challenging them and teaching them. He explained that He would not be with them much longer, that this Advocate, this Holy Spirit, would be with them and lead them on a powerful journey of faith-sharing throughout the world. We read in the first reading today that as Jesus was being lifted up to the heavens, those standing there were looking up into the sky wondering, ''What are we to do now?" Maybe the presence of the two men dressed in white with the reassuring words of Jesus that He would return to them, even though they watched Him go, gave them the ability to stay loyal to the mission.
How often in our lives we tend to look in the wrong direction; even though we are aware of the reality all around us, we still seem to look way far off to another moment. Jesus’ disciples must have felt lost at that moment, alone, and abandoned, even though Jesus told them that they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit. But at that very moment, they felt abandoned. The presence of the two men reassured them not to lose hope, that now the mission of the Lord was in their hands, and they had to take on the mission with passion, zeal, and trust.
From the moment that the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she was with child, that this Child was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, that He was special, the great presence of “God-with-us” began in human form. This entire journey of “God-with-us'' in the person of Jesus Christ, gives us an insight into the powerful presence of God who loves us all equally. With Jesus returning to His Father in heaven, we enjoy the third part of our Triune God in the gift of the Holy Spirit, a Spirit that gives us wisdom and strength to face whatever confronts us in our world today. The Holy Spirit is our lifeline to the Father in heaven. The Holy Spirit is God, like Jesus is God for us all.
May these days, as we prepare ourselves for the Feast of Pentecost, enlighten us more fully on the Spirit’s presence in our lives as we share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. Let us have the same passion and zeal the early apostles had when Jesus was lifted up into the heavens.
Let us all realize that we are never alone. The Lord is at our side, all we have to do is trust and go forward with hope and love. Amen!
There is a lot of news around the country about reopening churches on Pentecost; however, the Archdiocese has not informed us of anything at the moment. Please do not get stressed by what you hear in the media -- the Lord wants you to be at peace so that you can receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit wholeheartedly. As you well know, if we do open soon it will not be like the past, fewer people in the pews, masks on, and extreme care. This is something not to be rushed, but if you have a deep faith, you trust in the power of the Holy Spirit. I want a healthy congregation here at OLR so that we can reopen with caution when the time comes.
I would urge you all to pray for one another, pray especially for those parishioners who are stressed and angry with the reality of society today. I am totally at peace and open to the Holy Spirit. I challenge all of you to open your Heart, Soul, and Mind to the unbelievable Love of Jesus Christ. Stop getting distracted but Trust in the Power of the Holy Spirit. AMEN
Please pray for the sick and those in need in our parish community. Remember those who are in nursing homes and all who feel lonely and abandoned.
On June 5 our Eighth Graders, many of whom started here as little children, are graduating and going on to many fine Catholic high schools in the area. We pray that they will find success and happiness at their next schools, and that they continue to grow in their faith.
On this Memorial weekend let us pray for all those who died in service to our country; we are so thankful for their sacrifice. May they all Rest in Peace.
Enrollment in Faith Direct has continued to grow at Our Lady of Refuge. There are now more families participating in electronic giving through Faith Direct’s convenient tool. When combined with "bill pay" donations, total electronic giving at OLR represents about 27% of the offertory collections.
Giving through Faith Direct lowers the costs associated with our weekly collections by eliminating envelope fees and by requiring less effort to count and deposit money. Electronic giving is a secure way to transmit money while being environmentally conscious. Our parish receives your contribution when you are traveling, sick, or in a rush. Your contribution amount is flexible; as you can give by the week or month and designate donations for specific purposes. It also improves our cash flow and the ability to project our income to match our expenses.
Faith Direct enables parishioners to make contributions through either direct debit from a checking/savings account or through a credit card. Now you can apply the convenience of direct debit to your parish offerings in much the same way as you may now use it to make your mortgage, car or tuition payments. This allows you to budget with a ‘set and forget' plan, as the donations recur on a defined schedule.
Electronic giving means you do not have to stop at the bank, carry cash or checks, or remember to write a check before coming to Mass. Faith Direct also offers you personalized offertory cards (if desired) to replace your envelopes for the collection basket. You can easily track your giving and know that your donations go directly to the bank. Any time during the year, you have access to records of your donations from both the bank and Faith Direct for tax reporting purposes.
For those of you who have yet to consider online giving, enrollment will be a continuing effort. Please visit the OLR website at https://www.ourladyofrefuge.
As your shepherd, I encourage you to consider Faith Direct. Please help us make our parish financially strong again. Thanks to all of you for your continued support of our parish.
In peace, Fr. Gerard