Perseverance in Faith

In today’s first reading (Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent, Dn. 3:14-20, 91-92, 95), Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are cast into the white hot furnace by order of King Nebuchadnezzar, during the Babylonian exile. Other than the time of slavery in Egypt and the Holocaust of WWII, the Babylonian exile is the most hear breaking, heart wrenching time of suffering in the history of the children of Abraham. For fifty years the Hebrew people suffered oppression and isolation. The whole book of Daniel is testimony to hope in the face of suffering.

Before they are thrown into the fire, the three men are asked to worship foreign gods or face execution; they entrust themselves entirely to YHWH, the one true God, saying:

There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up.

By God’s grace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego survived the white hot furnace; the missing verses actually show them dancing and praising God in hymns and inspired songs, including the beautiful Canticle of All Creation. Their faith, and God’s saving power at work in them bring King Nebuchadnezzar to acknowledge YHWH as true God. Now here is the thing, they did not know they would be saved, yet they persevered in faith and trusted God’s will.

This is not easy. It is impossible without God’s grace. The same power that spared these three disciples is the same power which raised Jesus from the grave; the same power which is at work in you even now. Let us together trust God’s power at work in us during this our exile. Our whole life is from God, in Christ, and our life is eternal. Nothing can separate us from the love of god poured out in Christ Jesus. It is because of this true faith of ours that we can say, even now, in exile, from the white hot furnace, “Give God the glory!” Let our eyes be open to the many signs of God’s love fully present even now.

We will continue our procession with the Blessed Sacrament on Friday at 6:00 pm. Our path this Friday will be from Church, east on Delor, north on Gustine, east on Meramec, south on Grand and west on Delor back to the Grotto. God bless you all. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

COVID-19 and the Mission Statement of St. John the Baptist Church

Today we have this message from Thom Pancella, our parish Facebook administrator:

If you were around a few years ago when, “We come together to worship God, serve our neighbors, and make disciples” became our parish mission statement, you may recall that those seemingly simple phrases took quite a while to craft.

Fr. Carl suggested to the Parish Council at that time that SJB needed a mission statement that reflected who we had become, especially in light of the loss of both schools, and the repurposing of parish building space.  How did we see ourselves?  What would guide our path forward?

The Council moved prayerfully and thoughtfully through a series of important words and phrases.  We looked around the country at how other church communities expressed their sense of mission.  We tried our hand at some of the paragraph-based statements, but ultimately found those oddly limiting.

What lies at the core of who we are at SJB?  And, how are we carrying out that mission in our present situation?

We Come Together

We are a community – individuals each with his or her own personal relationship with Almighty God who understand that strength of prayer and the power of love is amplified by what we do together.  While our building serves as a gathering spot, we know that is not our only means of coming together.  Today, we come together – united in our purpose to continue as a community of faith while protecting one another by physical separation.  We are still together.

To Worship God

How easy that is when we are gathered in a common space lifting our voices in prayer and in song!  But, how can we be any less aware of our need to worship Him in these uncertain times?  The gift of technology has provided us numerous opportunities to unite in worship.  The imposition of solitude and quiet is itself a gift.  We have this opportunity to reflect on all of the wonderful things God has provided. And, we worship Him!

To Serve our Neighbors

I think many of us on the Council saw this as the line of continuity between the SJB of the past and the SJB of the future, although none of us would have predicted the current global situation!  Our St. Vincent de Paul Society links us to the very roots of our call to service.  It was there at the beginning of our parish; it continues today.  As our buildings started taking in new tenants, we became a part of a new call to service.  As our parish family ages, we continue to serve.  As our neighborhood changes, we see the face of Jesus in our new brothers and sisters.  And, today, we are part of reaching out to our neighbors in prayer and service.  Jesus gave us the example. He also told us to do as He did.

To Make Disciples

We have always been called to be the voice and hands of Jesus to the world around us, and to “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News!” Now, perhaps more than ever before, we can encourage our family, friends and neighbors to recognize who they are as children of God.  Share your faith journey, especially in times of trouble.  Walk (figuratively at this point) with them; listen to them; pray with/for them.  Invite them.  See Jesus in each and every one of them.

I am grateful to Fr. Mitch for his pastoral leadership during these times.  Among other things, he has taken the Blessed Sacrament out of the building and literally brought Jesus to the parish neighborhood.  As we have walked, carrying the Blessed Sacrament, praying the Rosary, I have seen Christ become present in the people we pass.  Some have paused; some have offered thanks; some have even wept.

It is, in my opinion, a living manifestation of our mission statement.  It is finding the rich meaning in those simple phrases.

Reminder: Our processions with the Blessed Sacrament continue this Friday at 6 PM and Sunday at 9 AM. Palm Sunday Mass will again be streamed at 11 AM, with recorded versions available both on Facebook and at sjbstl.org.