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Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Parish and the Synagogue

 Every Jewish teacher, or rabbi, was trained by another distinguished rabbi. Saint Paul himself was taught by a great Pharisee rabbi of the time, a man called Gamaliel, who is named twice in Acts of the Apostles. The reason for naming your teacher was so that your words could have some backing: you didn't make this stuff up on your own. Rather, you were taught by a scholar of the law, who was taught by another rabbi, who had his own great instructor, etc. all the way back until ultimately you got to who? Moses, the man from today. All authority rested upon Moses who received instruction from God Himself on Mount Sinai.
This is what makes it so astonishing that Jesus teaches on a different authority: he had no rabbi of his own, and no one wanted to claim this man as one of his students. But it is precisely as a teacher that Jesus is first known: he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. The reason Jesus was seen as a teacher was because of where and what he was doing: Jesus would gather at the synagogue and meet people where they met God, and meet God they certainly did, a God in disguise who came so close that it was hard for their eyes to focus.
The Synagogue was the local "parish" of the time. Thanks to the work of the Pharisees, the Jews could gather for a type of worship that centered around the Word of God. Animal sacrifice was reserved for the temple alone, in Jerusalem. Thus the synagogue was a place of prayer, of letting God speak, but also of Religious Education, of Culture, and of Communal Life. Like the parish, the synagogue was the main source of people's connection to God and to each other.
When Jesus travels from town to town, He goes to the synagogues and teaches. And people meet him, people encounter "the Holy One of God" (as the unclean spirit says today) and are delivered from spiritual bondage, are healed physically, are filled with the peace the world cannot give, and are strengthened to love because they know they are infinitely loved by their God.
That is also what the parish is meant to be, and that is why we celebrate today as a parish. The past year, when we began our campaign, “Behold I Make All Things New," we began to make great strides to overcome the obstacles that are hindering the further growth and vitality of our parish. Like the synagogue, this parish is a place where people worship, where religious instruction is given across all stages of life, and where culture and communal life are meant to be shared. These are hard for us to excel in due to our facilities. For worship, we have seven Masses so the community can't pray well together, and its even worse at the holiest days of our Church. Religious instruction is great for younger ages thanks to the education center, but still more is needed to make the programs excel for the large numbers. Adult education struggles because of the lack of facilities to work with. And most of all, communal life suffers during the week because we have only a few good spaces for adults, as well as on Sundays because there's no gathering space to chat and the parking lot is chaos. It breaks our hearts as priests and staff when we have to say so often: “we just can't do that because we don't have anywhere to make it work.” But thanks be to God that through the "Behold I Make All Things New" campaign, we plan to resolve all of these things over the next years by your generous hearts. I am so grateful for the ways God is working. With the amazing amount of $11.75 million raised, we are currently only able to accomplish the largest part of our goal: the worship space, gathering space, and new meeting rooms. The rest of the goal in pledges would also allow for expansion of the Education Center, especially the needed bathrooms and a cafeteria space so we can use the gymnasiums as they were intended.

But the real reason we want to do all of this is so that people can meet Jesus at Saint Pius X. We don't want the parish to simply be a place where you get in an out on Sunday (and other days) as quickly as possible to avoid a jam. We want it to be the life-blood of our families, their second home, and the place where memories are formed year after year. This “catholic synagogue” is where we find Jesus, we are healed by Him, and we proclaim Him “the Holy One of God.” May the Lord, whose generosity and love knows no bounds, bring our work to its completion so that as many people as possible can meet the Lord Jesus in this community of faith.

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