Saint John the Baptist Roman Catholic Parish
Monaca, Pennsylvania

Pastor's Desk
A Message from Fr. Michael R. Ruffalo

Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [10/8/17]

On October 2, 2017 Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo,
Archbishop of Galveston-Houston, and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), expressed "deep grief" after a deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas. The full text of the statement follows:

"We woke this morning and learned of yet another night filled with unspeakable terror, this time in the city of Las Vegas, and by all accounts, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. My heart and my prayers, and those of my brother bishops and all the members of the Church, go out to the victims of this tragedy and to the city of Las Vegas.

At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering. In the end, the only response is to do good — for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light. May the Lord of all gentleness surround all those who are suffering from this evil; and for those who have been killed we pray, eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them."


Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time [10/1/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we begin October, the Church in her wisdom has dedicated this month to the
Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Of the vast array of devotions throughout the history of the Church, none can compare to the spiritual benefit of faithfully reciting the rosary.

As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of
Our Lady of Fatima and the Miracle of the Sun witnessed by 70,000 individuals on October 13, 1917, let us rediscover the power of this meditative devotion and embrace it daily. On July 13, 1917, Mary said to the three children of Fatima, "Pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace in the world; for she alone can save it." No one can deny that we need peace in the world; and so, it behooves us to listen to Mary and enact her request. In fact, for nearly one hundred years, the faithful have been completing each decade of the rosary with the Fatima Prayer that was revealed by this apparition of the Blessed Mother. "When you pray the rosary, say after each mystery: 'O Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy'."

Pope Benedict in 2008 had these beautiful words to say after he prayed the rosary with the faithful at
St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome.

"Today, together we confirm that the holy rosary is not a pious practice banished to the past, like prayers of other times thought of with nostalgia. Instead, the rosary is experiencing a new springtime. Without a doubt, this is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourish for Jesus and his Mother, Mary. In the current world, so dispersive, this prayer helps to put Christ at the center, as the Virgin did, who meditated within all that was said about her Son, and also what He did and said.

When reciting the rosary, the important and meaningful moments of salvation history are relived. The various steps of Christ's mission are traced. With Mary, the heart is oriented toward the mystery of Jesus. Christ is put at the center of our life, of our time, of our city, through the contemplation and meditation of His holy mysteries of joy, light, sorrow and glory. May Mary help us to welcome within ourselves the grace emanating from these mysteries, so that through us we can 'water' society, beginning with our daily relationships, and purifying them from so many negative forces, thus opening them to the newness of God. The rosary, when it is prayed in an authentic way, not mechanical and superficial but profoundly, it brings, in fact, peace and reconciliation. It contains within itself the healing power of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, invoked with faith and love at the center of each
Hail Mary."

Fr. Michael


Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time [9/24/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Friday, the Church celebrates the
Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. It happens to also be the day I celebrate my name saint. Although the Church teaches that there are nine choirs of angels, Holy Scripture and Divine Revelation have revealed the names of these three who belong to the choir of Archangels. As a refresher, the nine choirs are called: Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim. There are times in the liturgy where their names are invoked during the Preface of the Mass. However, more often than not, the list is truncated.

These heavenly beings were created by God before the creation of mankind and are eternal. Interestingly, although the angels are divided into nine choirs, each angel is a species unto itself. Contrary to mistaken belief, we do not become angels upon our death and entrance into heaven. We were created with human nature and not the nature of an angel who lacks the physical aspect. Angels are purely spiritual beings and do not have a body even though they may appear to take bodily form. There is only one Being who has taken on a true bodily form through the
Incarnation and that is Jesus Christ, True God and True Man.

One interesting note is that the
Seraphim are the highest level of angels, while our guardian angel is the lowest. This is because of the purpose for which they were created. The rank of Angel is to assist mankind and protect us against the wickedness and snares of the devil. The Seraphim and the higher choirs of angels were created to worship God, night and day. Next time you look at religious art, the angels that look like winged babies are the Choir of Cherubim and the angels that are only faces with wings are the Seraphim.

Archangels have a unique role as God’s messengers to the people at critical times in history as in the Annunciation and the Apocalypse. St. Michael is described as the Chief of Princes and as the leader of the forces of heaven in their triumph over Satan and his demons. The Angel Gabriel first appeared to Zechariah to announce the birth of St. John the Baptist. It was also Gabriel who proclaimed the Annunciation to Mary. The Angel Raphael first appeared in the Book of Tobit where he announced: “I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the throne of God”.

As we celebrate this wonderful feast of the
Archangels, known to us through Divine Revelation, let us pray to the angels in heaven and especially our guardian angels to help us walk behind the Lord Jesus Christ. What a glorious day it would be to stand in adoration of the Most High God in the company of the saints and the angels.

Fr. Michael


Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time [9/17/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the second reading today St. Paul exhorts the Romans to remember that when we place ourselves under the Divine Majesty of Jesus Christ, we belong fully to Him. Once regenerated in the waters of Baptism, we cease to belong to the world, the flesh, and the devil. Rather, we rise through the waters, being born again, to become a new creation imbued with the Grace of the Holy Spirit and claimed by God as one of His own in Jesus Christ. In this regard, St. Paul says, “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” He is teaching the followers of Christ that because we died to the world through Baptism, the fullness of our life here in this world and the world to come belongs to the Master.

With this knowledge, we must reorient our self-perception as belonging to Jesus Christ and no longer to ourselves. This can be extremely difficult in our post-modern world which is imbued with the philosophies of the
Enlightenment. It was the Enlightenment that taught to focus upon ourselves and see ourselves as our own masters. Although a great many good ideas and discoveries came from this time [circa the mid- to late 17th century], there was a dramatic shift in focus [away] from God [and on] to humanity. Taken to the extreme, we can wonder into dangerous ideas of 'man as creator, redeemer, and sanctifier of himself'. Sadly, these worldly teachings have become so ingrained in our daily lives that they go often unnoticed and are even touted as self-evident.

If we wish to follow Christ, we must do as He did and empty ourselves completely to follow Him. Recall when Jesus said,
“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” Although we often focus on the latter half of this command concerning the carrying of one’s cross, we overlook the crucial aspect of denying oneself. This denial of self is what Paul is teaching in today’s second reading. If we wish to follow Christ, we must first belong to Him, whole and complete and to no other, including ourselves.

This does not mean that we become puppets of God; but rather, cooperators in His will. The work of God rests on our ability to be able to say “yes” to God. That personal response to the work and will of God is indeed our contribution to the building up of His kingdom in this world aided by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. But to be able to give that affirmation, we must be docile and open to His prompting. We must never allow sin to disrupt the work of the Spirit in our lives. All this week, let us attempt to incorporate into our lives this teaching of Christ and St. Paul and see ourselves as not belonging to us, but rather to God. It will take a bit of trying, but the more we decrease, the more God can increase in us. Once achieved, we can understand the words of St. Paul who called himself in the first lines of this letter to the Romans, “a slave of Christ Jesus.”

Fr. Michael


Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time [9/3/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

First and foremost, I want to thank you for your prayers and warm wishes for my good health. Your cards and words of kindness were greatly appreciated this past week. The only grapevine faster than the one here in
Monaca is the grapevine of the priests of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. For those of you who may not have heard, last Tuesday I was unable to finish celebrating the morning Mass and was taken to the hospital.

I awoke that morning not feeling well and although I had the strength to ready myself for Mass, I was unable to continue due to shortness of breath, weakness and a mental state of general incoherence. Those who attended Mass that morning knew there was something wrong. As the Mass continued, I knew I was losing strength and clarity of thought and decided to leave the altar to keep from passing out.

I was taken to the hospital by two parishioners and was immediately admitted through the emergency room. I spent two days at the hospital while the doctors and nurses ran a battery of tests to rule out any major problems. I am happy to say that the findings showed that I have a healthy heart, good blood flow and good vital organs.

On Wednesday evening, the doctor discharged me with the diagnosis of dehydration. He believes that since I had been fighting a sinus infection this past month, the combination of antibiotics, steroids and over-the-counter sinus medication could have been the catalyst that slowly dehydrated me until it manifested itself on Tuesday. Moreover, I may have not been replenishing my fluids during that time with enough water and electrolytes.

After being discharged, I was told by the doctor to rest and not return to my normal duties until after the weekend. I 'officially' returned this past Monday. It's good to get back to the normal routine albeit with the frequent addition of water and Gatorade.

I am thankful for Deacon Tony and my brother priests who rearranged their schedules to take the Masses this past week so things could continue without interruption here at
St. John's. I would also like to thank the doctors, nurses and healthcare providers of Beaver Valley Medical Center for their kind and compassionate care. Finally, I cannot express enough my gratitude for the prayers, cards and warm wishes from the parish at large. Please be assured of my prayers for all of you!

Fr. Michael


Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time [8/20/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This coming Tuesday, we celebrate yet another feast in honor of our Blessed Mother. Although it is not a holy day of obligation, it is another opportunity to reflect upon a mystery of our faith regarding Mary, the "fairest honor of our race".

On August 22nd, Holy Mother the Church asks her children to rejoice in the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As you know, those who pray the rosary meditate upon this moment in the life of Mary when they recite the fifth decade of the
Glorious Mysteries. We believe that after her life was complete on earth and after her Assumption into Heaven, Mary was crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.

Pope Pius XII established the
Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary on October 11, 1954 with the promulgation of the encyclical, Ad Caeli Reginam (On the Proclamation of the Queenship of Mary.) Although in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the original day was to be celebrated on May 31st, the reform of the calendar of the Second Vatican Council moved this feast to August 22nd. For your spiritual enrichment, here are some quotations from that encyclical establishing this beautiful feast:

1. "From the earliest ages of the Catholic Church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother's solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen."

2. "In this matter we do not wish to propose a new truth to be believed by Christians, since the title and the arguments on which Mary's queenly dignity is based have already been clearly set forth...From early times Christians have believed, and not without reason, that she of Whom was born the Son of the Most High received privileges of grace above all other beings created by God...And when Christians reflected upon the intimate connection that obtains between a mother and a son, they readily acknowledged the supreme royal dignity of the Mother of God."

3. "The theologians of the Church, deriving their teaching from these [the Early Church Fathers] and almost innumerable other testimonies handed down long ago, have called the most Blessed Virgin the Queen of All Creatures, the Queen of the World, and the Ruler of all...The Supreme Shepherds of the Church have considered it their duty to promote by eulogy and exhortation the devotion of the Christian people to the heavenly Mother and Queen."

4. "But the Blessed Virgin Mary should be called Queen, not only because of her Divine Motherhood, but also because God has willed her to have an exceptional role in the work of our eternal salvation. 'What more joyful, what sweeter thought can we have' — as Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius XI wrote — 'than that Christ is our King not only by natural right, but also by an acquired right: that which He won by the redemption?...'"

5. "Now, in the accomplishing of this work of redemption, the Blessed Virgin Mary was most closely associated with Christ; and so it is fitting to sing in the sacred liturgy: 'Near the cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ there stood, sorrowful, the Blessed Mary, Queen of Heaven and Queen of the World.' Hence, as the devout disciple of St. Anselm (Eadmer, ed.) wrote in the Middle Ages: 'just as. .. God, by making all through His power, is Father and Lord of all, so the blessed Mary, by repairing all through her merits, is Mother and Queen of all; for God is the Lord of all things, because by His command He establishes each of them in its own nature, and Mary is the Queen of all things, because she restores each to its original dignity through the grace which she merited.'"

6. "Since we are convinced, after long and serious reflection, that great good will accrue to the Church if this solidly established truth shines forth more clearly to all, like a luminous lamp raised aloft, by Our Apostolic authority we decree and establish the feast of Mary's Queenship, which is to be celebrated every year in the whole world on the 31st of May [in the traditional calendar]. We likewise ordain that on the same day the consecration of the human race to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary be renewed, cherishing the hope that through such consecration a new era may begin, joyous in Christian peace and in the triumph of religion."

7. "In some countries of the world there are people who are unjustly persecuted for professing their Christian faith and who are deprived of their divine and human rights to freedom; up till now reasonable demands and repeated protests have availed nothing to remove these evils. May the powerful Queen of creation, whose radiant glance banishes storms and tempests and brings back cloudless skies, look upon these her innocent and tormented children with eyes of mercy; may the Virgin, who is able to subdue violence beneath her foot, grant to them that they may soon enjoy the rightful freedom to practice their religion openly, so that, while serving the cause of the Gospel, they may also contribute to the strength and progress of nations by their harmonious cooperation, by the practice of extraordinary virtues which are a glowing example in the midst of bitter trials."

Fr. Michael


Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [8/13/17]

In the first reading this weekend, we hear of the prophet Elijah who encounters God in the gentle whisper of the mountain. Although there were moments of intense distraction by natural displays of power and might, God was not present in those things. It required of the prophet a well-trained ear to hear through the distractions and focus upon the presence of the Almighty.

What is truly amazing about this first reading from the
Book of Kings is that the prophet Elijah was seeking the comfort of God. He had lost everything in this world and felt truly alone and abandoned. He had given everything to follow the Lord and had done only what is pleasing in His sight. Yet, there seemed to be no consolation.

During this scripture passage, Elijah was instructed by God to return to Mount Horeb, which was the very mountain upon which Moses received the Ten Commandments. This would be the first time that an Israelite would return to the sacred mountain since the giving of the Law. Elijah sought shelter in a cave. Downtrodden and crushed from the weight of all who hate him, the prophet needed the peace and comfort of God.

Up until this time, Elijah had only the word of God to guide him; however, after this moment on the mountain, he would 'stand before the Lord'. God granted this encounter to Elijah in the gentle breeze upon the mountain which would give Elijah the strength and determination to continue the vocation to which he had been called. Before this encounter on the mountain, Elijah was ready to quit and could no longer see the reasons for remaining faithful in Israel. However, after this encounter with God, Elijah now understands his place in salvation history; and by the hand of God, that past, present and future belongs to Him.

We should look intently at the life of this great prophet of Israel and learn from him the way we should seek comfort and clarity from the Lord. There are many times in which we find our lives in utter chaos. We look around and cannot find the reasons why we continue to do what we do. We become distracted from our purpose and we need to regain our focus.

If we have entered a state of life in which chaos seems to reign, we must retreat to the holy mountain. This means we need to return to prayer, quiet and calm. We must return to the roots of our faith, so to speak. How necessary it is that when life becomes turbulent and unruly, we return to the quiet of the church. It is this visit to the church that provides us with the opportunity to hear the gentle whisper of God. We can 'stand in His presence' and once again find the strength, comfort and understanding of our purpose.

I invite you, if things seem to be getting a little out of control, to 'come and rest a while' in the church, away from the distractions of the world. In this fortress, on this
mountain, we are protected from the worries of the world and can regain our focus upon the living God Who is present in the quiet.

Fr. Michael


Transfiguration of the Lord [8/6/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It happens every so often that a Sunday in Ordinary Time is pushed aside for a feast of greater importance. It is a rare occurrence that we are privileged to celebrate this week, not the
18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, but rather the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. With this celebration, we take a short break from the readings in which we have focused upon the Kingdom of God and turn our attention to the person of Jesus during this miraculous event upon Mount Tabor.

This feast, as I have mentioned before, serves the purpose of highlighting the divinity of Jesus Christ and reveals that divine nature to the disciples Peter, James and John. To put things into perspective, the disciples encountered Jesus at the beginning of His ministry and were unaware of the miraculous events during His nativity and hidden life. The Transfiguration would have been for them a moment of true revelation. If there were any doubt as to Who Jesus was, they would have seen with their own eyes the power of Christ and the voice of the Father.

It was in this moment in which Jesus, Who is both God and Man, allowed His divinity to shine forth and reveal the
hypostatic union of His human and divine natures. This was a gift given to the disciples so that they can recall the glory of Christ as they witness the Passion of Christ. These two moments of the life of our Lord are linked together in that both show the glory of Christ, but in different ways.

The glory of Christ upon the Mount of Transfiguration showed forth the divine glory of Jesus, as His humanity became momentarily obscured by the light of His divine nature. The glory of Christ upon the cross of the Mount of Golgotha is where the human nature of Christ momentarily obscures His divine nature. Only with these two moments can we understand the fullness of the person of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. It is in the
light and the blood in which we behold the whole Christ. The divine light of the transfiguration and the blood of Calvary allow us to behold our Lord and understand who He truly is.

Although the apostles desired to remain on the mountain where the Transfiguration took place, our Lord needed them to see the fullness of His humanity on the cross. That is why our Lord mentions to them as they make their way down the mountain that they should not reveal what they have seen to anyone until the Son of Man rises from the dead.

Let us take time to meditate upon the
Transfiguration and the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ; and in doing so, come to a fuller understanding of the person of Jesus, fully God and fully man.

Fr. Michael


Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [7/30/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In the second reading today, we have Saint Paul at his finest. In his
Letter to the Romans, the Apostle to the Gentiles reveals the movement of God in the life of the follower of Christ. He teaches that God's redemptive action on behalf of the believers has been in process from before the beginning of the world. It is this movement that helps us to recognize that by God's work, we are brought to glorification in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Saint Paul states that God foreknew and predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. We must be extremely careful not to misunderstand the words of St. Paul.
Predestination understood as God creating some people to go to heaven and others to go to hell is a fallacy. Subscribing to that idea would mean that God, who is all good, created some individuals to never be with Him in glory. That mentality would go beyond evil and fall into the category of sadistic. Rather, St. Paul helps us to understand that God is not arbitrary. St. Paul uses these words to emphasize the thought and care that God has taken for the Christian's salvation. Notice in the scriptures we hear that in the fullness of time God sent His only Son. This fullness of time means that when everything has been prepared.

Looking at the movement between the stages given to us by Saint Paul, we are able to behold a snap-shot of the Christian life and the gifts that are given by almighty God. Since we, who are given the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, have been in the mind of God since before the foundation of the world, we now have been called through the Word. This call is the hearing of the Gospel of God's Son, preached by the apostles. The world waited with anticipation for the coming of the Lord to finally receive this
calling. Anyone who has ears ought to hear.

As we follow this calling in faith, we become justified in Jesus Christ. It is grace that brings to us justification as St. Paul states earlier in the
Letter to the Romans: "Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:1) This, of course, does not mean that faith alone is necessary for justification, but a capitulation with the gift of faith must reach the fullness to which we have been called. As St. James states, "Faith without works is dead." A lively faith that moves us to our ultimate end must be lived out in good works, without which we cannot hope for glorification.

Finally, St. Paul brings us to the end of this movement of the disciples of Christ. Glorification is that which all humanity longs for as sons and daughters of God. To be glorified is to be raised out of the confines of this fallen world. It is this end to for which all Christians long and is the consummation of what God has given. In all this, there is a divine initiative and a human response. God plans to act and we wait in anticipation. God calls humanity and we ascend to faith in Christ Jesus. God justifies us through His grace and we receive that grace and foster it through good works. This back and forth moves us to become glorified children of the Most High God.

It would do us well to meditate upon this movement of greater conversion to the grace of God in our lives. The work of God is constant and everlasting. He will always send us what is necessary to move us through these stages of grace. However, in order to be moved, we must participate in that gift from God and receive it with an open and willing heart. Let us pray that all of us may accept this gift of God Who desires that we be brought to glory in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Fr. Michael


Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [7/23/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This week we celebrate on Wednesday the memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I consider this day special in my heart because of the assistance I have received from good St. Anne during my time in seminary. In fact, by the providence of God, I was sent to
St. Anne Church in Castle Shannon during my summers away from seminary to learn pastoral practices from Fr. Bob Cedolia.

Those summers were my first experience in the parish and provided me a wonderful foundation that would assist me in my future ministry. During that long and often difficult journey through the seminary, I would return each summer to St. Anne's and be confirmed in my calling to the priesthood, returning to school with renewed zeal and vigor. Each summer, I was blessed to partake in the traditional
Novena to St. Anne because her feast day is July 26th. This devotion gave me the strength to make multiple pilgrimages to the Shrine of St. Anne in Quebec, Canada, that I may pay homage to her who assisted me on my way to the priesthood. Each time I visit the shrine of Sante-Anne-de-Beaupre, I feel a peace and tranquility that can only be explained as euphoric.

A personal patron saint is of great importance to the spiritual life. They pray for us night and day that through the turmoil and tribulations of this world, we may take up our cross and follow Christ into His Kingdom, thus joining them forever in heaven. Through prayer, devotion, and pilgrimage, we can forge a unique relationship with that saint who desires us to join them in heaven around the throne of Jesus Christ. In my case, Saint Anne has assisted me greatly in my journey to the priesthood and I am confident she continues to help me in my ministry.

It is truly amazing that of all the saints that I have come to know and love, it was Saint Anne that chose me. I know this because I would not in a million years have thought that a spiritual relationship with Saint Anne would have manifested itself in my life. I was always focused upon building greater relationships with St. Michael, St. Jerome, St. Augustine, St. Athanasius, St. Thomas Aquinas, etc.. After all, I thought I had more in common with them than with her. And yet, whenever the sweet name of St. Anne is mentioned, my heart melts and is lifted.

I pray that each one of us may find a holy helper, a kindred soul from the heavenly hosts with whom we can build a unique and lasting relationship. May all of our patron saints pray for us, and may they help us along the way to join them in Heaven, that all of us may give adoration and worship to the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Good Saint Anne, mother of the Mother of God, pray for us!

Fr. Michael


Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [7/16/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In our second reading from the
Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, we continue with the theme that there is a divide between the kingdoms of the world and the Kingdom of Christ. In the words of St. Paul, we constantly hear of this distinction between the flesh and the spirit, which is St. Paul's way of speaking about the world and the life of grace. These two realms do not mingle, and one cannot find themselves belonging to both in their mind and heart. We are either Christ's, living in the world; or the world's, living in the Church.

Recall last week, when the
Apostle to the Gentiles, uses these phrases to remind the faithful not to go back into the world from which they came, but remain in the Spirit, Whom they have received. It is only in this way that redemption from the corruption of our moral bodies can hope for the glory of the resurrection.

In the reading today, St. Paul also exhorts the Romans to keep their eyes fixed upon their heavenly homeland and to see the sufferings of the present as nothing. He says that "creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption." St. Paul can often be difficult to understand, but the essence of his teaching is that the world has entered a cycle of sin and death since the disobedience of our first parents. However, the fullness of the hope of Christ has entered the world and freed all creation from this seemingly endless cycle. There is now a way out of sin and death, and it is only Christ Jesus.

With the advent of the people of God, who are baptized and have become the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the world now has the ability to be redeemed. Thus, St. Paul sees as essential the need for those who are disciples of Christ to live faithfully their calling and to cooperate with the grace at work within them. For it is through the Church in which the world has any hope of salvation.

This revelation brings us to a very important point. If we wish to see the world brought under the authority and reign of Christ, we, His followers, must strive for greater holiness, sanctity and virtue. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit that has been given to us and allow that same spirit to lead us. We must allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us subject ourselves to our Lord Jesus Christ and His bride, Holy Mother Church. By doing so, we place the sweet yoke of Christ upon us and embrace His easy burden.

The way this is accomplished is twofold: first, we must detach ourselves from sin. The Church teaches that we must seek out the Sacrament of Confession when we commit a mortal sin, because there is nothing that we can do in order to be restored from our fall. The grace of the Holy Spirit flees us when we invite sin into our heart by our evil deeds. We must avail ourselves to the
Fount of Mercy in the confessional and by the power of Christ working through His bride, the Church, be forgiven of our sins and restored to a life of grace. The second part is to fan into flames the Spirit of Christ within us by prayer, devotion, and the celebration of the Eucharist. Once, the grace and presence of the Holy Spirit is within us, we must strive day after day to allow that divine presence to grow and consume us.

If there is any hope for the world, it is only through the members of the Body of Christ, filled with the gift of the Holy Spirit who leads us to Jesus Christ and the inner life of the Blessed Trinity. If we grow in holiness, the seed of faith, freely spread by God, will find rich and fertile ground to produce an abundant harvest for His Kingdom.

Fr. Michael


Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [7/2/17]

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This weekend, in an odd turn of events, we celebrate the
Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The reason for moving this feast, which universally appears on June 24th, is Holy Mother Church permits the movement of patronal feasts to the next convenient Sunday so that the faithful may partake more fully in the celebration of their namesaint.

Considering that last weekend overflowed with the ordinations of our five new priests for the Diocese of Pittsburgh and the many traditional celebrations that stem from it, I felt it most beneficial to move the feast of our patron saint to this weekend. Therefore, in lieu of the celebrating the
13th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we here at St. John the Baptist Parish/Church will celebrate the feast of the nativity of our patron saint. I invite you to reflect on the importance of this feast as told to us by the Doctor of Grace, Saint Augustine:

"Apart from the most holy solemnity commemorating our Savior's birth, the Church keeps the birthday of no other person except that of John the Baptist. (The Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary was not yet introduced until c.300) In the case of other saints or of God's chosen ones, the Church, as you know, solemnizes the day on which they were reborn to everlasting beatitude after ending the trials of this life and gloriously triumphing over the world.

For all these the final day of their lives, the day on which they completed their early service is honored. But for John, the day of his birth, the day on which he began this mortal life is likewise sacred. The reason for this is, of course, that the Lord willed to announce to men His own coming through the Baptist, lest if He appeared suddenly, they would fail to recognize Him. John represented the Old Covenant and the Law. Therefore, he preceded the Redeemer, even as the Law preceded and heralded the new dispensation of grace."

What Saint Augustine is referring to is the reason the Church has chosen to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist is that it points us to the birth of Jesus Christ. These two feasts are intertwined and reflect each other.

Is it no wonder that these two solemnities are six months apart from each other? It is not a coincidence that the birth of St. John is celebrated as the day is longest; and from his feast until Christmas, the days grow shorter and shorter? We have just passed the longest day of the year, June 21st. Every day afterward, we will lose a tiny fraction of sunlight and nights will get longer.

Remember the words of St. John the Baptist today: "I must decrease, He must increase." As the days get shorter from the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, we await the celebration of Christmas in which we reach the darkest day of the year, December 21st. As Christ is born into the world, the light grows in strength and lengthens once again.

What a beautiful way in which the Church has positioned the celebrations of St. John's and Christ's nativities to align with the experience we have with the seasons. May we be reminded as the days grow shorter that we are awaiting the celebration of Christmas, in which the light of Christ begins to increase and surpass the light of St. John the Baptist!

Fr. Michael