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Love and Mercy in the Family of Christ

As this issue of God’s Field goes to press, we find ourselves in the middle of two important solemnities for the Polish National Catholic Church.  On the second Sunday of September, this year September 8, we celebrated the Solemnity of Brotherly Love and on the second Sunday of October, this year October 13, we will celebrate the Solemnity of the Christian Family.  We can see in the celebration of these important feast days and through reflection on the Scriptures that are presented to us that there is certainly a connection, especially in how we are to put these teachings of the Gospel into our daily lives. 

Within the Gospel reading for Brotherly Love, we hear our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, approve the insight of the lawyer who answered concerning the most important commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)  But of course we know that just knowing the right words is not enough; Jesus goes on to tell the parable of the Good Samaritan in an answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”  And the challenge that Jesus makes to us all is when He tells the lawyer who acknowledged that the Samaritan who showed mercy was the true neighbor, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)

So today, with our schooling within our parishes and the sermons that we have heard through the years, it would be difficult for any of us to say that we are unaware of what is expected of us.  We know that we are to be the people that show love, first and foremost to Almighty God and then, because of this love of God, to extend this love and show mercy to those around us, our neighbors.  But we also know that somehow, we are falling short of the standard that we know is the way of Jesus Christ.  We lament with St. Paul, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Roman 7:18b-19)

Because of this we must seek ways in which we can strengthen ourselves to do what is right; to worship Almighty God and then show love and mercy to those around us.  First and foremost, we seek this strength within the sacramental life of the Church.  We come to the altar of God to seek forgiveness of our past unfaithfulness and sin, through the
Sacrament of Penance.  The Sacrament calls us to be honest with ourselves and more importantly honest to God that we have fallen short of our call to follow Jesus.  In this acknowledgement and in seeking to follow more closely the ways of Christ, we will receive the forgiveness of God, which allows us to move forward in our Christian way of life.

We also seek the strength found within the presence of Jesus Christ within the Holy Eucharist.  Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ showed the ultimate love for each of us in giving His life in the sacrifice of the Cross, taking upon Himself the sins of the world.  He has given us this love and sacrifice within the Holy Eucharist celebrated within our parish churches.  In the participation of Holy Mass and in the reception of the Eucharist, we are strengthened to unite ourselves more closely to Jesus Christ and begin to model our own lives after His.

These two Sacraments are certainly a vitally important part of our spiritual journey, and it is for this reason that we are called to the worship of Almighty God each week wherein we receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance and then unite ourselves to Jesus in the Eucharist.  But there is at least one point that has been lacking here.

In everything that has been described above it could be seen that all of this is somehow just a personal relationship between that one person and the Lord.  This is something that I often hear when people say to me things like, “Well, I can pray at home.”  We certainly cannot receive the Sacrament of Penance at home and Holy Mass isn’t celebrated there either, but also this is not what Jesus intended for our worship or religious life.  We are called to gather for worship, called to partake of the Sacraments and called to live a Christian life, together as a Christian Family.  It is for this reason that the second feast of the Fall season, the Solemnity of the Christian Family is of great importance in reminding us to join with the entire Christian Family and be strengthened also in the body of Christ that is the Christian Catholic Church.  Here Saint Paul again reminds us, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)  Yes, our individual relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is important, but in another way we are also more fully the body of Christ when joined together with the Church, the Christian Family.

During the Solemnity of the Christian Family we read from the Gospel of Saint Luke, the Scripture telling of Jesus traveling to Jerusalem when He was 12 years old.  We know the story wherein Jesus stays behind in the temple and is found debating with the teachers.  When His parents find Him, He tells them, “Why were you searching for Me?  Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)  But also following this, “He [Jesus] went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them.” (Luke 2:51)

While we could see this as only concerning the Holy Family, or an individual family and its members, we can also look much deeper.  Jesus puts the things of God first and therefore reminds us to do the same.  He stays behind to remain in the temple.  This shows us that when we gather as the Christian family in our parish communities, we must be concerned, first and foremost, with the worship and works of God.  Yes, our time in joining together in social contacts is nice, but it is not the reason we gather, we gather to worship God and do His work.  The social contacts are rather a wonderful outcome of the time that God’s people spend together.

We also see in the Scripture reading from St. Luke on the Solemnity of the Christian Family that we are all in some sense responsible for and to each other.  At the end of the reading Jesus is obedient to St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary.  He accompanies them home to Nazareth and stays with them.  While He could have reminded them at this point that as God’s only Son, He had a special job to do and it didn’t entail them, rather He walked with them.  And we know that the outcome is that the Blessed Virgin Mary and other members of the family of Jesus were a part of His ministry throughout His life and were present during the ministry of the Early Church following Pentecost.

This reminds each of us that we too are to accompany each other in the journey of life and encourage each other in the Christian way.  We are to include each other in the work of Christian ministry and work together to live a life worthy of Christ.

So my brothers and sisters, during this time in September and October when we celebrate the Solemnity of Brotherly Love and the Solemnity of the Christian Family, let us reflect on these feasts together.  Let us live a life of love of God and for each other.  And then let us extend this love and live it together strongly within the Christian Family spreading it to a world which needs the love of Christ so solely.

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Phone: (570) 346-9131
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