Pastor Column, Pentecost Sunday: June 9, 2019

Pastor Column, Pentecost Sunday: June 9, 2019

Msgr. Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish


Dear friends / Estimados amigos,

Living in the Lansdale/North Penn area has a number of perquisites that are seldom appreciated. One of these is the number and variety of supermarkets we have in our vicinity. When I was growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, there were a few supermarkets in the neighborhood (an Acme, Penn Fruit, Pathmark), but nothing in comparison to the large, spacious food emporiums that we enjoy today. Each one of them offers hundreds of choices of any food you might crave: bread, seafood, salad bars, spaghetti sauces, even prepared meals by the pound! If you have ever purchased them, you know they are good products. So why would anyone spend hours in a kitchen prepping, chopping, mixing, and baking?

I think the answer lies in the fact that good food is more than just the right ingredients, mixed in the right amounts and cooked at the right temperature. The slow-food movement has tried to counter the pickup mentality many persons have toward meals.  Slow Food is the antithesis of fast food. Proponents of the slow food movement believe food should be grown and bought locally, prepared with care and consumed with appreciation. In a world where we can get cheap, processed food and gobble it down without even leaving our cars, Slow Food seems like a throwback to a different era. Good food, regardless of the time investment it often requires, is an expression of love. Food critic and gourmet chef Craig Claiborne once wrote that “cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.”

Few items, even the best take-out, can elicit what a lovingly prepared, homemade dish can. Think of the joy when, as a child, you bit into one of your grandmother’s homemade chocolate chip or oatmeal cookies, the appreciation of a loved one cutting into a birthday cake that you spent a whole day preparing, or the sense of solidarity, safety and community as relatives and friends came to the house for a Sunday supper, featuring the sauce you tended to all day as it simmered on the stove and made the house smell like a home. When prepared by a dedicated and attentive cook, food is way more than a recipe; home-cooking is made with the respect for the traditions of the cuisine, gratitude for the Earth’s bounty, and love for those who will join together at table. Such creativity and grateful attention to detail transform a bowl of ingredients into a feast of the spirit. 

This weekend we celebrate as a Church the great feast of Pentecost, the day that the Holy Spirit of God descended into the hearts of believers. Pentecost is another of God’s promises kept: God would not leave us alone when Jesus ascended to the Father’s right side. Pentecost is the realization of God’s love around us, squarely in our midst. This love transcends words, laws and sentiments, and embraces the heart and soul of us all. The Spirit is in every act of charity and compassion; every moment of forgiveness and peace we extend; every effort we make for justice and the building up of community. It is the Spirit of God who gives us a sense of love for others and gratitude for all that has been received. Like the finest home-cook who transforms a pan of dough into the perfect expression of love, the Holy Spirit infuses our actions to build a more perfect community worthy of union with God.

 

Pastor Column, Seventh Sunday of Easter: June 2, 2019

Pastor Column, Seventh Sunday of Easter: June 2, 2019

Msgr. Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish


This week in the opening reading we celebrate Stephen, the first martyr for the faith.  The account of his death and his conduct during his actual execution is remarkably reminiscent of the death of Jesus. Remembering and retelling the stories of the martyrs is an important element of our faith. This holy group of men and women believed in something strong enough to die for it.  They not only confronted the opposing voices of society, they also confront our Church and each member as well.  They cause us to ask a very fundamental question: on what is our faith based and how strongly do we hold it?  Their witness spurs us to question whether we would be willing to sacrifice all for what we believe?

Jesus’ prayer in the Gospel, at the Last Supper, is for His disciples and for “all who will believe in me through their word.”  What we witness in Stephen’s martyrdom in Acts is the fruition of Jesus’ prayer.  Stephen has responded to the message of the disciples, and he in turn gives testimony to Christ.  And so it goes, to our present age, we who have believed the words (and actions) of those who preceded us.  Stories about great women and men in the Church give us confidence that Christ continues to act powerfully through other humans.  Jesus, as He promised, continues to reveal God to us.  These witnesses are the proof of God’s love for us and God’s ability to use our human nature in powerful ways to continue to reveal the God of love.

The primary witness of the martyrs was the strength of their faith in Jesus. Belief in Him requires us to speak and act on what He teaches us.  We cannot keep our faith tucked quietly away for special moments at Church on Sunday or in private prayer. Many Catholics find this boldness difficult for them, something strange or a practice reserved for Protestant Christian believers. Demonstrating our faith need not be “in your face.” We can do it in other ways, particularly in our attitudes, language, approach to problems, the way we bring hope to a situation, a concern for the poor and the marginalized. We have many examples of people who did these things in extraordinary ways. Whether we consider our witness extraordinary or not, we all have a duty to live Jesus in the world . . . as expressed by French priest Michel Quoist, (+1997) and incorrectly attributed to Theresa of Avila says poetically: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which He blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are His body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

It’s a daunting challenge, but with the help of the Holy Spirit we can certainly try!