Jottings from Fr. J.J.


This weekend we remember the 9/11 attacks. We inevitably have our emotions stirred. We inevitably want to react. Our life is changed.

Speaking of change, in the Church’s 2000 year history, our liturgy has gone through quite a few changes. Since the Council of Trent, about 400 years ago, until the Second Vatican Council in the 1060’s, the Mass was celebrated in Latin. Following the liturgical reforms of the Council, permission was given to celebrate the Mass in the vernacular, or the language of the people.  A standard text was released in Latin to facilitate necessary translations. Our official English translation has gone through many changes too. The first official translation happened in 1973, with other minor revisions taking place since. ICEL, the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, represents over ten different English speaking countries and ten different sets of bishops and has been overseeing the newest translation.

The third English translation, the newest translation, was approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in November of last year. The Vatican gave final approval in April and it will be implemented at the end of November in the AOD. We will begin here at St. A’s with the new translation and a new Saturday Mass time (it is moving to 4:00 p.m.).

Knowing that change was on the horizon, the night before our Lord gave His life for us, He prayed that His disciples, as well as those who believe through their word, would be “one” (Jn 17:20-21). The fact that He prayed fervently for this while struggling with His looming crucifixion, means that the unity of the Church means a great deal to Him. With that in mind, I find the similarity of last week’s Gospel with that of this weekend, no coincidence either. I believe the Spirit is inviting us to focus in on our unity as well.

How should we react when we confront change? I began my homily last week with the Robert Frost saying: “Good fences make good neighbors”. I said that this idea goes against what Christ counseled in the Gospel. First, he readily admits that Christians can and will have disagreements, and will hurt each other along the way. We cannot be naïve and pretend that the Church is some idyllic entity where everything goes smoothly. This is not healthy. Second, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” Our Lord is telling us that we are to confront conflict rather than bury it or ignore it. What happens when we bury something is that it comes out in ways we do not expect (passive aggressiveness, isolation, and retaliation). This is not healthy. Third, Jesus says that when conflict arises, it is the one who has been offended who should take the initiative to begin the process of restoring the relationship. Our usual method is to put the burden of the first move toward reconciliation on the offending party, not on the victim of the offense. But Jesus knows, and we should too, that so often the offending party is not even aware they have injured  someone. We needlessly prolong our suffering and the isolation from our neighbor when we wait for the offending party to come crawling to us in repentance before we will restore the relationship. I know of situations where people have literally moved away than deal with the conflict. This is not healthy. And fourth, Jesus seems much less interested in finding out who was right, than He is in restoring the relationship. Our preoccupation to place such high value on assigning blame, and to decide who was “right” and who was wronged, usually gets us sidetracked from the path to reconciliation with our neighbor. This is not healthy. Jesus is not suggesting that feelings do not matter, or that right and wrong are unimportant. He is saying that as important as those things are, a genuine reconciliation between injured parties is even more important.

With our emotions stirred up this weekend, with changes in the liturgy, and with new things on the horizon, we all respond in different ways. In other words we will most likely not all agree. We can then easily become a divisive entity. Jesus offers us a better way. Starting right in the midst of our own small conflicts, whether in our families, congregation, or elsewhere, he urges us to learn how to confront injury with love. Our ultimate goal is of restoring genuine relationship. It takes a lot of work, but not as much work as continually building fences, or   packing our bags or hurt feelings to live in the far off land of isolation.

When we have cross words with someone, remember to overcome the injury with even more powerful “cross words”: those spoken so eloquently from the cross two thousand years ago, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they doing.” Mending a relationship is better than mending a fence any day.

God bless,
 Fr. J.J.

P.S.  We have some great news. We welcomed a new member to our staff a few days ago. Mr. Brian Burgin is our new Business Manager. He is a very qualified man who is a real gift from the Lord. We have a big complex.  So, if you see someone wandering around looking a little confused, it may be Brian, please welcome him and give him a hand.

P.S.S.  Don’t forget to sign up to use your gifts to serve the Lord in the Parish. Pray and Do.