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Saturday, July 27, 2019

ASK .... for what God wants to give.

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We might be more like the prodigal son’s older brother: we complain because God doesn’t give us anything, but we actually don’t ever ask.  (and perhaps we at times are just as self-interested as the older brother: “a young goat with my friends.”).  Our image of God is the core of the problem.  We forgot who God is and who we are.

WHEN YOU BELIEVE A LIE, YOU EMPOWER THE LIAR.  You give them power over your life by letting the lie dictate how you perceive reality.
If Abraham’s story tells us anything, it tells us that God doesn’t get annoyed with me or simply tolerate me.  He loves me and wants to hear from me.
If we want to get something from God, we should Praise before we ask (as in the Our Father).  Of course, this sounds like we are tricking God or playing Him like we play our parents or others when we are working for something we want.  And of course it doesn’t really work that way.  In some mysterious way Jesus speaks of a certain power of prayer to “change” God, but it is really not as simple as we are changing His mind by buttering Him up.
 Kirkengaard and C.S. Lewis: “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes the one who prays.”  It hopefully lines us up to His divine plan so that our prayer eventually fits into the Our Father, and we begin to ask for what God wants us to ask.
II-II, Q. 83, a. 2, c: For we pray not that we may change the Divine disposition, but that we may impetrate that which God has disposed to be fulfilled by our prayers in other words "that by asking, men may deserve to receive what Almighty God from eternity has disposed to give," as Gregory says (Dial. i, 8)
While it is true that prayer does not (simply and absolutely) change God, it is also true that the good Lord regularly chooses to wait for our prayers before accomplishing his own will. Hence, to use a specific example, when God desires to save someone (and we mean when he desires this simply and absolutely, such that the person is among the predestined and elect souls who will certainly be saved), he yet chooses not to save them without their prayers. So, St. Augustine: “He who made you without you, will not save you without you.” That is, God will not save any who have attained to the use of reason without also moving them to will salvation and to merit it through prayers and good works.
Hence, prayer works and makes a difference not as though it changes God absolutely, but insofar as the Almighty chooses to receive our prayers as a means of accomplishing what he had already willed to accomplish from all eternity, namely, the salvation of his elect.
So once again: Are we asking?  Are we asking for the right things?
What does God want me to ask for?  THE HOLY SPIRIT.
Father, give me a deeper outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Renew my mind to seek the things that you want for me, and not the lies I have been told about who I am and who you are.
O Holy Spirit, soul of my soul, enlighten me, guard me, strengthen me, console me.  Tell me what I ought to do, and command me to do it.  I promise to be submissive to everything you would ask of me, and to accept all that you have for me.  Only show me what is your will.  Amen.

After a couple years of thought, prayer, and discussion about the Sunday experience for our parishioners, I have decided that our parish needs to make a change in regards to the number of Masses on Sunday morning.  As pastor of the parish, I obviously want to be able to celebrate Mass for my parishioners, to be their shepherd and guide as God has called me to be.  However, due to restraints of Canon Law, I am not allowed to be celebrating more than three Masses on Sunday except in case of emergency.  I have been giving up one, sometimes two Masses on Sunday for the past three years, and it doesn’t feel right.  So, instead of three Masses on Sunday morning, we will be switching to two Masses, starting in September.  This will allow for me to be pastor to the whole parish every weekend, as well as still have the energy for the other events that occur on Sundays during the year, including religious education, RCIA, youth group, and other special events.  Often I am so drained that I cannot do it all, and it is important that I be part of these ministries as well.

With some discussion about what would be the best rearrangement, I am confident that our Sunday Mass schedule should be Masses at 9:00am, 11:30am, and 8pm.  But we want hard evidence to confirm that with a super-quick (two question) survey after Mass today in the back of church, to be sure that no Mass would be overflowing.  So please fill out the quick survey to help us estimate what Mass attendance would look like under this proposed schedule of 9, 11:30, and 8pm (and of course, Saturday at 5:30).  It is expected that the 9am Mass would include many but not all from the 8am crowd and many but not all of the 9:30 crowd, with some opting for other Mass times.

I understand this is not an easy change, and that is why I have thought long and patiently about it before discussing it with the Parish Leadership Team and the staff as a whole and ultimately coming to the decision we have now.  While it will certainly be a difficult change because it will mean a new Sunday morning routine and saying farewell to what we were used to (including perhaps our favorite seats and our pew neighbors!), we are excited about the various opportunities this change will offer us.

Along with the primary goal of better ministry of presence as your pastor, another benefit of the new schedule would be the extra time between Masses, allowing for other parish initiatives during that time.  Community functions such as coffee & donuts or a pancake breakfast could reach a larger crowd more easily, as well as a great potential for parish-wide talks, presentations, or adult education series.

One of the primary concerns was the Religious Education program, which due to this decision would be forced to start 30 minutes earlier, from 10-11:30. However, by keeping the 11:30am Mass, our new schedule allows for two options for families to attend Mass together with their children who are in Sunday school.  If the children are early birds (or families need a freer afternoon), the family could attend the 9am Mass and be done by 11:30am.  If extra rest is needed, they could come to class at 10am and then stay for the 11:30am Mass.  I believe this adjustment will end up allowing RE families to participate more fully in the parish life.

It will also be a benefit to have fuller Masses (without overflow) to create a stronger community within the parish, and to allow for less strain on the musicians and cantors, liturgical ministers, and Mass coordinators.  This should make the Sunday experience better for everyone with more lively liturgies, and allow our eyes to witness more fully the vitality of the parish community!

This month of August will include more updates and information as we approach the new schedule date of Sunday September 1st.  Please keep each other in your prayers that this will bring a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit for our parish!

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