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Engaging the Word: January 25, 2015

If a key point of exploration for last week’s readings was the reality that humans are constantly faced with the question “What ought I to do next?” and are drawn to finding a key to answering that question wisely, this week’s message is “Do it now!”

Jonah is inspired by God to announce that the people of Nineveh are destroying themselves by the way they are living and sets out at once to respond to the Lord’s call. He is struck immediately with the immensity of the task, but he perseveres, one step at a time. The people take heed and turn around their lives and truly live. Paul admonishes the Corinthians that time is short, life is short. In his counsel that those who are married should live as though they are not and that those who are weeping should live as though they are not sad and so on, Paul is reminding his readers not to stop short at the surface of the relationships, experiences, and things of this life but rather to see through them to what is eternal. This present life is not rendered unimportant in Paul’s reasoning but of the utmost importance; we just need the right perspective. Live eternal life now — enter it now and the superficial world passes away at once.

The fact that we can respond at once to the love of God in loving ways at any time and no matter what we have done in the past is the Gospel that Jesus preached. By God’s grace, the Kingdom of God – that condition in which the way God wants things to be is the way God wants things to be – is at hand, at our hands. The Good News is that at any moment we can step into the Kingdom. Let’s do it. Let’s do it now. Dropping our nets like Jesus’ first disciples does not mean that we need to change jobs or where we live but rather that we need to see through our current circumstances to the love that God offers us through this life and then put all we do, have, and are at the service of love.



Youth Group Bowling Trip!

The SFM Youth Group went on a bowling & pizza trip to Winner this past Saturday, and much fun was had!

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Our group for this event was younger – ranging in ages from 10-13 – and we were joined by two parents who helped us out! After our bowling day, we all went out for pizza!

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The next SFM Youth Group event is  February 8th at the CYO building to bake cookies for the elderly for Valentine’s day.  Following cookie baking, we’ll go on to the Digmann Hall to play games from 3-6 p.m.



Engaging the Word: January 18, 2015

“What ought I to do next?” It is the question we necessarily ask ourselves in every waking moment, and in every moment we answer. We might choose what is most immediately pleasurable. We might choose to do what is least immediately painful. We might choose to act on some principle to which we have committed ourselves. We might choose to do what we are coerced to do. To be human is to have the freedom to respond to the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

To be human is also to seek a guide for our choosing. We want to have an aim or an end, and we want to grasp the logic that will guide our path to our goal. Some argue that we each can choose our own end, that there is no set aim for human life. Those who put their faith in this view construct their end and then only seek to discover and take the most effective path to achieving it. Others recognize in themselves and in the world around them that the underlying logic to the way things are has its source in the fundamental Logic of all else that is, in a Creator, in God.

If we are among those who find our source and end in a loving God who holds us in being in every instant, then it makes sense for us to look to God for clues as we exercise our free choice. Sometimes these clues come to use as quiet calls from within ourselves, and we, like Samuel, might need a spiritual guide to help us be prepared to listen. Sometimes, like Andrew and the other disciple of John the Baptist in the selection we read today from the Gospel of John, we need the help of someone to point us toward the place where we might find the answer to how we should live. John pointed to Jesus saying, “Behold the Lamb of God,” and his disciples followed Jesus. When Jesus asked, “What are looking for?” and they responded, “Where are you staying?” Jesus responded “Come and see.”

The beauty of Christianity is that fundamentally we come to know how we are called to respond to the circumstances in which we find ourselves by looking to a person, to a human person in whom we also recognize our Creator and our end; we are graced to be able to learn from a human person who is at the same time the very end we seek. In getting to know Jesus we become more fully alive, more fully our very selves. Through our relationship with Jesus we are empowered to avoid wasting our lives and in this way our lives are saved. As our lives are saved we realize that we are joined together with one another and with God in one body and animated by one Spirit. In this Body of Christ we do not lose our freedom but rather join it to God’s freedom and truly come to life.



Epiphany Celebration

While originally postponed due to weather, the SFM Youth Group held our 2nd annual Epiphany Celebration dinner yesterday after Mass at St. Charles. The dinner included a ceremony where families who took symbols of Epiphany home last year passed on their symbols to a different family for the new year.  We hope to continue this tradition next year!

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The symbols we used (pictured below) were researched & described by the Youth Group and Deacon Black Bear. We’ve included meaning for each below!

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The Manger is the symbol of the birth of Jesus. It is an incomparable self-gift at Christmas and Easter that enables us to be a part of God’s family.

The 5 pointed Star symbolizes the nativity. Matt.2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “where is the one who has been born king of Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”

The Christmas tree as it turns out, the tradition of decorating evergreens predates the Christmas celebration; people believed that the evergreens boughs kept the evil spirits away. Legends hold that St. Boniface was the first to designate the tradition for Christianity in the 18th century.

The Circle is a significant Christian symbol used to represent eternity as it has no beginning and no end.

The Medicine Wheel symbolizes great spiritual significance for the Lakota people. The belief is that the shape of the wheel represents the circle of life and death, which is considered never ending and most importantly represents the unity in the Great Spirit or Grandfather.

The Triangle is symbol of the Trinity. With 3 sides it represents the Father (at the top), the Son and the Holy Spirit (at the bottom corners). The Catholic Church has honored the Trinity with a special feast.

The Crucifix is the image of Jesus on the cross. It emphasizes Jesus’ sacrifice for us-his death. Catholics use the crucifix in public religious services.



Engaging the Word: Epiphany!

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This week’s gospel reading foretells many events that would occur later in Jesus’ life and ministry. First, that the righteous and just would recognize him as the king of man, as the magi did. But, another response would come from the powerful. There would be those who opposed Jesus in order to keep their positions as King Herod did. We all have within us the ability to love as Jesus did and the ability to reject his message.
The first reading describes the world as being covered by a dark cloud, this cloud being made of all things that block us from viewing the love of God. King Herod certainly contributed to the cloud; yet, there are many ways God’s love can be obscured. But, the Lord came to us as one of us, as a human being; Jesus came to be a light that bursts through these clouds. We need only to follow this light. Isaiah describes an interesting effect of our following this light– we ourselves become radiant. This means we become light in this cloud of darkness that others may follow. The second reading assures us that all are welcome to participate in this process, as Paul includes the Gentiles in the same body of Christ. The Responsorial further says all nations will adore the Lord (even if its leaders do not).
The magi followed the light of a star but also followed the light Isaiah referred to when realizing the true nature of the baby in their midst. Many would follow to worship the messiah, bringing more brightness to the world covered in cloud. Then, God helped by warning them not to return to King Herod. So, in our lives, we need only to love others and we will begin to see light pierce through the dark cloud. In fact, we ourselves become light to others. And, if we do this, with God’s help, we truly follow Jesus’ teachings and message. And, we fulfill our image, as one with God, who is love.



Epiphany Celebration Dinner

The St. Francis Mission and SFM Youth group will be hosting an “Epiphany Celebration Dinner” on Sunday, January 4th at the Digmann Hall in St. Francis after Mass at St. Charles Church.

We invite the families who received the symbols at last year’s celebration to join us and bring their symbols to present to another family to keep for this New Year! If you have any questions, please call Jenny at 747-2436 or 828-1082.
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Engaging the Word: On Christmas

For the Masses of Christmas the Church turns to the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, as Mark’s Gospel has no discussion of Jesus’ life before his baptism in the Jordan and subsequent public ministry.
For the vigil Mass we hear from Matthew. Writing primarily for Jewish Christians, Matthew opens his account with a genealogy that places Jesus squarely within the Jewish family, the fulfillment of generations of faith. He then recounts the story of how Joseph on learning that the woman he planned to marry was already pregnant is inspired to set aside his pride and choose to proceed with the engagement, raising the child as his own. Choosing com-passion, Joseph helped to bring God’s love into the world in the flesh. Had he allowed anger and rage govern his response, there would be no Christmas.
The Masses in the night and at dawn proclaim the most well-known of the Christmas stories. Luke, writing for a mixed congregation of Jewish, Greek, and Roman Christians acknowledges Jesus as a descendent of David but presents the story of his birth in a broader human context. Mary and Joseph are traveling at a time not convenient to them at the direction of authorities of the Roman Empire. Like others forced to travel for the census being taken, they find themselves dealing with the difficulties of life on the road. Not finding a room in Bethlehem they take shelter in a barn where Mary gives birth to a baby boy and lays him in an animal trough. Christmas is the celebration of the Creator of all things entering into creation not on the back of a lightning bolt but in the most humble of circumstances. This is a God who is with us. How is it that a baby in a trough can be a good thing? If such an event were reported on the evening news, it would likely be seen as a terrible tragedy. Instead we are called to see what the Sheppard’s were drawn by the angels to witness, a mother’s love, a father’s care, and the hope of new life. The Sheppard’s material situation was really no different after their encounter with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, but they went back to work singing praises to God. Encountering the love of God in person and in the human condition, their lives were saved from meaninglessness.
Finally for the Mass during the day we hear the lofty message of the Gospel of John. The Reason for all that is, the Logic underpinning all creation, the singular Word that completely expresses the imagination of God, the Logos who was in the beginning with God and indeed was God took human flesh and came to live with us as one of us, shedding light on human possibility. In humbly choosing to become human, sharing our joys and sorrows, our loving God invites us to share in the divine nature, to become children of God.
This Christmas season let’s take time to ponder these mysteries. Let’s consider how our loving cooperation with our Creator brings God’s goodness into the world. Let’s recall that it is love that creates, sustains, and trans-forms creation. Let’s be grateful as well that the Word, the very Reason for our being, not only chose to give us life but also to share it with us. Let’s let the message of Christmas open our hearts to receive all the love that God desires to give us, and let’s let the Spirit of Christmas embolden us to share God’s love with all creation.



Youth Group Update!

The SFM Youth Group met on Sunday, December 14th at the Digmann Hall in St. Francis. We had 11 youth join us, including 7 who were new to the group!

The kids made arts & crafts, including gingerbread houses, Christmas trees, and ornaments for their Christmas trees! After crafts they played some basketball!

We are so proud of how the SFM Youth Group has grown and is reaching more youth in the community!

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Engaging the Word: 12/21/14

As we have made our Advent journey we have been reminded of our human condition, of how we have a desire implanted deep within in us that draws us toward the good, draws us to God.  In our nature, however, we are free and can wander off track, but if we watch and are attentive to the signs we can persevere.  We have also been reminded that when the journey seems long we can rely on our hope and trust in the Lord and the companionship of one another.  Last week, with a joy like the joy that arises on a ship when the sailor in the crow’s nest catches sight of land we celebrated those who point to and give witness for the good that is to come — Isaiah, Mary, and John the Baptist.

In these last days of Advent our readings draw our attention to the truth that it is God who chooses to dwell among us; the initiative is God’s.  We have not first     invited God into our lives, but it is God who has first   invited us into the life of the Trinity.  The readings proclaim as well God’s faithfulness and call us to focus on the glory of our true source and end, our Creator who calls us into friendship and participation in the loving plan of creation, to step into the Kingdom and live there for eternity.  The Kingdom of God is realized when God’s will is done on earth just as it is in heaven.  When we, like Mary, can utter the words “May it be done to me according to your word” or like Jesus in the garden can offer “not my will but yours be done,” the Kingdom becomes that much more a reality.

As we make our final preparations for Christmas, may we prepare our hearts to welcome our God who chooses to dwell among us, and let us dispose our wills to be joined to the will of our loving Creator, bringing creation ever more to fulfillment.

1st Reading: Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11 ~  Responsorial: Luke 1: 46-50, 53-54

2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24  ~  Gospel: John 1: 6-8, 19-28

 



Engaging the Word: Third Sunday of Advent

1st Reading: Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11 ~ Responsorial: Luke 1: 46-50, 53-54

2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24 ~ Gospel: John 1: 6-8, 19-28

As we draw one week closer to the celebration of Christmas, we are reminded in the second reading from Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians to rejoice always. If we have the eyes to see, we find that the Lord is always near, always at work among us. Sometimes, however, we need others to help us see the Creator at work, and our other readings today from Isaiah, Luke, and John each celebrate those who point to what God is doing and will do in our midst.

Isaiah shouts from the mountain top that God will triumph, calling us to faith, hope, and action. Mary’s Magnificat in Luke is used for the responsory this week in place of a Psalm. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord …” can also be translated “My soul magnifies the greatness of the Lord …” This magnification draws attention to what the Lord is doing; it points to the fact that God chooses to enter the world through a human yes. The greatness of God is that we have been created with freedom so that we might choose love. If God is the fullness of love, one might wonder how more love could be added to the equation, but God makes it possible by inviting creatures like us to cooperate freely by responding in love to God and one another. St. Irenaeus made the claim that the glory of God is the human person fully alive. Mary in her yes to the Lord points to this reality.

It is important, however, not to confuse that which points with that to which is pointed. In the reading from John’s Gospel, we hear John the Baptist adamantly assert that he is only announcing the one who is to come, helping to make ready the way of the Lord while helping to make his hearers ready to receive the Lord.

So, as we continue our Advent journey let’s be attentive to and celebrate those who put a magnifying glass on the Lord’s work among us, and let’s also remain attentive so that we might point out the Lord’s goodness to others who might be struggling to see it.

 

 



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