How Do You Know Me?
By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB
It is not often that a Feast day is celebrated in place of the regular Sunday liturgy; however, that is precisely what Cardinal Collins has called for this Sunday. Since St. Michael is the patron of the archdiocese and we are soon to conclude the Year of Faith, Cardinal Collins has given us all a great gift in the elevated celebration of this Feast.
For all of us at St. Basil’s, it is also significant as we celebrate my installation as Pastor of St. Basil’s, the Collegiate Church of St. Michael’s.
The liturgy for this feast includes Jesus encounter with Nathanael in the Gospel of John. Nathanael is confused because Jesus seems to know who he is, and yet, Nathanael does not recall meeting Jesus.
I must confess that I feel a bit like Nathanael this weekend as Jesus (and the Council of the Basilian Fathers) saw something in me before I ever saw it in myself – a Priest and Pastor. Never in my wildest imagination would I imagine that I would be asked to Pastor a parish, and yet I find myself overjoyed and humbled by the confidence you have all put in me.
As I am formally installed this weekend, I hope are reminded that you are also capable of much more than you may have once thought. I hope you will be inspired by the liturgy, and allow yourself to be seen by others as a “true child” of God.
Most of all, I hope that you pray for me, that I may allow myself to be seen by Jesus and by you for who I am – a man who is better than I was because you have accepted me. Know that I pray for each of you, that you may be inspired by teachers like St. Basil and by the courage of St. Michael to go out and boldly proclaim the Good News to all you meet.
WITH WHAT HAVE WE BEEN ENTRUSTED?
By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB
In today’s Gospel, we hear of a steward who betrayed the trust of his Master, but acted quickly and prudently to regain his trust. Undoubtedly, the listener is surprised that the steward’s cleaver action earned the praise of the Master, despite the dishonesty that should have brought punishment.
Among other lessons, the parable is meant to leave us questioning our own lives: how we can be (at least at times) lazy or apathetic concerning spiritual affairs, and yet assertive and ambitious concerning the affairs of work and the world?
Such a question is not just an individual one, but also pertains to the institutions, such as the Catholic Church, and more specifically, St. Basil’s Parish.
This weekend, I have asked the Parish to begin a discussion around stewardship – that is how we use the gifts we have been given. Such a discussion begins with the recognition that we have a great many treasures at St. Basil’s. We are blessed with a beautiful church in the heart of a bustling part of the city. We are doubly blessed because of our location on a University campus, which provides a well-spring of new life and talents as well as a tradition of Catholic education and that of the Basilian Fathers.
However, it is you, the parishioners, who make St. Basil’s the witness of hope, joy and mercy that it is. Many of you carefully consider your talents, time and monies and have chosen St. Basil’s as a recipient of those. For this I am very grateful.
But times are also changing. I am now the only full-time priest assigned to St. Basil’s (Fr. Ken is moving to part-time) and I need help with the administration of the parish if I am to be attentive to the spiritual needs of the parish. These needs include the particular needs of the next generation of Catholics who attend the University, as well as the many needs of the different generations who call St. Basil’s their parish.
Many people worry because they feel there are not enough priests to meet the many needs of the people, but that is not my concern. God has given us all we need – we only need to learn how to use what we have differently. The real threat to any church is a lack of weekly contributions, which form the basis of an operating budget. If the contributions are good, then we will have the means to adapt to the changing circumstances of our time. We can create facilities and staffs that allow the priests and ministers to focus on what they are trained for – meeting the spiritual needs of you and your family.
This Sunday, I ask hope you will begin discussions about the blessings you have received and how you will pass those blessings on to others. As you consider what is important to you in your own life, I hope that you will hold up your own budget to the priorities you value as a family. Know that I am doing the same with the parish budget – asking that we put money into the areas that are really important to us.
QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR SIN & FORGIVENESS
By Maria di Paolo, Pastoral Associate
This weekends’ readings are about sin and repentance: the community of Israel in exile commits idolatry; St. Paul writes to Timothy about his past life as a persecutor and man of violence; and finally, Jesus tells the Pharisees three parables about sinners who repent. The sins of the community, Israel, and those of the person, Paul, are extremely serious: idolatry is breaking the first and second commandments, and blasphemy, violence and murder, the third and fifth.
God is so angry when the people of Israel make a golden calf and to worship that he threatens to destroy the entire nation, but Moses pleads, “remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, your servants how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” God is profligate, or prodigal, in his love for his children, Israel, just like the father in the parable is in his love for his younger son.
Paul was a real person who did truly horrible things when he was a young man: he relentlessly persecuted the early Christians, he stood by and watched while Stephen was stoned to death and approved of it, he ravaged Christian communities and threw many people into prison. He was heading to Damascus to do more of the same when he experienced a profound conversion. He explains to Timothy, “I received mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” He says that he received mercy so that he might be held as an example to others. Jesus’ love for Paul was overflowing, it was prodigal, as is Jesus’ love for us.
The three parables show us a God who rejoices when a lost soul is found, when a sinner repents. We need to know this for ourselves when we ask for forgiveness for our sins. We need to know that God will forgive us and rejoice in doing so. But I think we should also think hard about what we ask of God when we pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Is our forgiveness love-filled or begrudging? Can we let go of past wrongs done to us? Can we also love the person who has sinned against us?