Fr. Mike’s Communication for the Aug 9, 2020

“Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” – Matthew 14:28

9 Aug 2020

Brothers and Sisters,

Greetings in the Lord!

Jesus has several encounters with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Earlier in the Gospel of Matthew– an account that also appears in the Gospel of Mark– Jesus falls asleep in his boat while a storm arises (Matthew 8:23-27). In today’s Gospel, while his disciples are gathered together in one boat, Jesus ventures off on his own to pray. Once again, the disciples find themselves in a difficult position as the winds and waves toss their craft. This time, though, Jesus is not found resting in the boat alongside them to bring comfort. While some of those on the ship were fishermen (who should be less fearful), other disciples may not have been used to a waterman’s life, made more evident by their distress as unwilling passengers on a tossing ship! In 1986, a pair of fishermen discovered a 1st century AD fishing boat – if curious, learn more about the style of boat Jesus and his disciples traveled in.

As the Gospel relays, in the “fourth watch of the night,” –or from 3 am to 6 am, during the last hours of darkness–Jesus walks on water. Understandably tired and exhausted, the disciple’s fears lead them to the misidentification of Jesus as a ghost. A natural leader and at Jesus’ invitation, Peter willingly steps out of the boat and begins to walk toward him. However, when he allows his focus to shift from his Lord to the strong winds, Peter starts to sink.

In seminary, I discovered German artist and priest, Sieger Köder. Like many sacred artists, his paintings focus on encountering Christ, made apparent in his work, “Stronghold” which depicts the scene from today’s Gospel and happens to hang in my home. Playing with proportions, Köder emphasizes Jesus’ overwhelming presence with his helping hand dominating the foreground, as the waves toss the fearful disciples in the skewed and much smaller background. As I reflect upon the image of Jesus’ grip offering Peter a firm hold to safety, it’s clear, our Lord’s intent is always to save us despite our struggles, weakness, or sinfulness.

The Pandemic we are currently living through has produced a multitude of turbulent waves in all our lives, from confusion, anxiety, and sadness, to the loss of physical and emotional supports, or mourning loved ones and fearing for those facing illness. At times we feel adrift, pummelled by the waves but as Jesus declares with love to his incredibly human, chosen few “Take courage…do not be afraid.” Like his disciples in distress, Jesus remains at our sides and besides the heroes who have emerged in our current crisis: medical professionals, first responders, those who care for the sick and elderly, school teachers, professors and administrators, farmers, ranchers and food suppliers, grocery store and restaurant employees, and all who have made personal sacrifices to serve their families and the community at large. Last week, I referenced the recent instruction from the Congregation for the Clergy, “The Pastoral Conversion of the Parish Community in the Service of the Evangelizing Mission of the Church.” I encourage parishioners to review this document, particularly in light of our own vision guided by our discipleship pathway, Four: Belong, Believe, Become, & Beyond. While reviewing this document, I also recommend the Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter, “Be Missionary Disciples.” In this initiative, the efforts of strengthening our parishes as communities that form missionary disciples are central, while remaining flexible to adapt to the challenges of today, including but not limited to disengagement, limited resources (financial and human expertise), and the resistance of delegating leadership roles to others.

While presently, the “pastorate process” will not require Our Lady of Perpetual Help to partner with another parish, the process encourages deep reflection and intentionality as we continue with the ongoing dialogue. The core theme of “The Pastoral  Conversion” is the need for continued creativity–which is ultimately cooperation with God, –to remain committed to the Gospel and respectful of the tradition and guidance of the Church. Referencing the themes of Pope Francis, we are challenged, in our commitment to the Gospel and respect for the tradition and guidance of the Church, to seek creative expressions of pastoral charity. Such creativity has indeed been witnessed in our parish, most recently by the SALT Ministry’s flexibility to meet the needs of the hungry while abiding by ever-changing health and safety restrictions. 

In the coming weeks and months ahead, we will need to continue to flex our creative muscles to find meaningful opportunities to invite our neighbors to BELONG to our family of God. Our new normal does not diminish the call to meet the relational and social needs of our parishioners and neighbors, serving as beacons of Christ to our wider community. At the core of any parish’s identity, including OLPH, is the intent to build a culture that allows for us to encounter Jesus as the source and truth of endless love and then reflect that love and truth through dialogue, solidarity, and openness to others.

Some of the key considerations for this week.

▪ “Sign up” for Mass for August 15 and 16. Register here.

▪ On Saturday, August 15, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. This year, the solemnity is not a holy day of obligation, yet still a holy day worth acknowledging. To make the Mass as accessible to parishioners as feasible, Mass will be outside of Harrison Hall at 8:15 am on Saturday, August 15 as well as offered on the Live Stream.

▪ Ongoing formation for all our parishioners has remained a priority, and hopefully, the creative offerings of the parish have helped serve you and your families. Our emphasis for the religious formation of our children will focus on equipping parents and working alongside families. Our year will begin primarily with digital offerings but we remain committed to what is safe and feasible. From our Director of Religious Education, check out Judy’s announcements this weekend. Our staff is planning ways to support our families and children. Registration is available for religious education on myOLPH. Also, keep an eye out for information regarding Catechesis of the Good Shepherd the weekend of August 22nd and 23rd. 

▪ Please pray for those preparing for ordination, as well as Deacon Scott Kady, who was ordained by Archbishop Lori on Saturday. Bishop-designate Bruce Lewandowski will be ordained a bishop, to serve as Auxiliary of Baltimore, on Tuesday, August 18; and Deacons Justin Gough, Jeremy Smith, Evan Ponton, Brendan Fitzgerald, and Zach Crowley who will be ordained priests on Saturday, August 22.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us.

Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.
In the Lord,
Rev. Michael S. Triplett