But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit,
a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.
12 July 2020
Brothers and Sisters,
Greetings. Our prayer remains that you and your families may find true rest in the Lord this summer. We are all in need of rest; rest from the pandemic in which we have lost our routines, rest from fears and worries, rest from the sad news of tragedy and injustice, rest from the burdens and difficulties we bear. May you and your families find that rejuvenation that the Lord promises to those who follow him.
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us the parable of the Sower. In the context of the Gospel, the two previous chapters (Matthew 11-12) highlighted the divisions and discord between those who follow Jesus and those who do not. Tragically, we are experiencing the heavy weight of discord in our society. Politically we seem to be as divisive as a nation as we have ever been, charged and exacerbated by social media and the constant cycles of news.
Jesus’ response calls us to create the fertile environment in our lives, to hear the Word of life. The Lord, the Sower, spreads the seeds of grace and life. Our cooperation seeks to create a fertile environment, allowing God’s grace to take root and to grow. We must not simply create some space in our lives; we have to prepare the core of our lives. Offer the most fruitful part of your days to the Lord. Spend time listening to the Word of God. The solution to the division and discord is not to convince others to listen to our viewpoint or to accept the world as we see it, but to embrace the Wisdom of God that heals every division.
Now I continue my reflection on our parish and the mission we embrace to form disciples on the pathway of FOUR: Belong, Believe, Become, and Beyond. Earlier this month, the Church celebrated the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. Sadly, Thomas is often remembered with one attribute, Doubting. His moment of weakness is recalled when he questioned the disciples who had seen the Risen Lord. Yet, he is also the one who stayed. He did not believe, but he stayed with the Church, with the disciples. He kept seeking. His persistence led to an immense faith as heard in his proclamation, “My Lord and My God.” Thomas offers one of the shortest and most profound statements of faith, a faith in Jesus that acknowledged his divinity.
To Believe is not a simple choice or an act of our own will. Belief is first a gift from the Lord and our willingness to cooperate. We have to keep preparing the fertile soil to allow belief to grow and flourish. At the core of cultivating growth in the spiritual life are our liturgy and sacraments. The Mass remains at the core of who we are, our identity as the Church, the Body of Christ. Jesus invites us into this mystery by which he feeds the world. In these unsettling days, the importance of the Mass has come to the forefront. Our parish has sought to maintain access to the Mass, with our increased efforts and focus on the live stream Mass and then our safe and prudent offering of Mass in the Church and outside Harrison Hall. The need to continue offering the digital access to the Mass has been clear for many reasons. First, new parishioners and potentially new Catholics have connected with us. While a new “digital parish” is not the aim or end goal, we are realizing it is an easy way for people to connect initially. They can discover who we, OLPH and our Catholic faith, are and what we are all about. Second, this live stream offering provides an opportunity to help feed the faith of our parishioners who are elderly, homebound, or ill.
In addition to the Mass and Sacraments, our commitment to ongoing prayer and Eucharistic Adoration is a gift to the community. While disrupted due to the pandemic, our Chapel of the Good Shepherd offers Perpetual Adoration, from the end of Wednesday morning Mass to the start of Saturday morning Mass. Many parishioners and neighbors participate in prayer. Moreover, our Men’s and Women’s ministries offer great retreat experiences to cultivate faith. The monthly Festival of Praise and opportunities for intercessory prayer further encourage Worship of our Lord.
Our religious education, youth ministry, and school help cultivate the faith of our children and youth. In addition to marriage and baptism preparation, our emphasis has been on personalizing the education and growth for the young people in our parish and for families. Our youngest has access to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a wonderful approach that gives children the chance to learn about our faith and worship in a very tangible way. As they develop skills and abilities, they are encouraged to learn the stories central to our faith. Religious Education continues to emphasize the importance of faith cultivated at home. Strengthening parents as the first teachers of the faith helps to form children to recognize the importance of our relationship with God. Youth Ministry continues the goal of establishing a strong relationship with God as well as with our Church community.
Moreover, the current trends in the Church offer many exciting and innovative partners. ChristLife and Formed.org, along with many of the Catholic publishers, continue to create content to enrich our understanding of the faith. While finances will remain a concern this year, we remain committed to offering resources in the best means possible to help our community grow in love for God and love of neighbor.
The efforts to cultivate faith are most successful when our parishioners take advantage of these opportunities. You have shared with us the value of the time you have committed to deepen your faith and even suggested offerings for the greater parish community. While initially, it may seem to be a personal endeavor, the path of belief will be a blessing to the individual as well as to the parish and wider community. If you would like to take a first step in faith or your next step, and you just do not know where to begin, I invite you to reach out to me, so that joyfully, together, we may explore the fullness of life and happiness found in Jesus.
Updates, Comings and Changes for this Week – July 12-18, 2020
▪ We thank you for participating in our survey this past week regarding potential changes to our Mass schedule and your comfort in returning to Mass. Your responses and the heat of Maryland summer has led us to make two changes to the schedule. We will offer a Sunday 7:30 am Outdoor Mass (with hopes to beat the heat) and move Sunday 11:00 am inside of our Church. Your survey results proved the idea of a Sunday 11:00 am Indoor Mass as very popular. Managing this desire against our limited seating will prove challenging. You can help us with this, especially in the weeks to come as others may draw frustration with attempts to attend the 11:00 am Indoor Mass. If your health permits and you have had the chance to attend an Indoor Mass, might you consider waiting until Wednesday to sign up and therefore allow another the chance to attend a Mass in the Church? May this act of charity fill your heart with love towards our brothers and sisters. For those who are not yet ready to return to campus for Mass, we fully support this decision and honor this need with a Sunday 9:00 am Live stream Mass, rich with homily, music, and community worship.
EFFECTIVE JULY 18/19 OUR MASS SCHEDULE WILL BE:
▫ Saturday, 4:30 pm Mass in the Church
▫ Sunday, 7:30 am Mass outdoors
▫ Sunday, 9 am Mass outdoors and live stream
▫ Sunday, 11 am Mass in the Church
▪ Connect with our weekly new content for Rocky Railway, our digital Vacation Bible School. Find content for the weeks including a bible story, upbeat music videos, stories of the saints, witnesses by children living out the faith, craft, snacks, and games. Check out www.olphparish.org/vbs for our free content, and please feel free to share the link with others.
▪ Please pray for our Confirmation candidates who will be confirmed over the next month at additional weekend masses on July 18-19, July 26, and August 15-16.
Our Lady of Perpetual Help, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.
In the Lord,
Rev. Michael S. Triplett