Fr. Joe's Letter

Fr. Joe’s Letter

Sep 6, 2023

Tomorrow is the 22nd Anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. It is one of those events that a person can never forget.  You remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.  It was a tragic event in the history of our country.  It is important to continue to pray for the victims of 9/11 as well as their families who still suffer this horrible loss.  I remember how so many people came to Mass for several weeks afterward, but then things got back to the way they were.  It is good that we turn to God when such tragic things happen in our lives, but it would be better when we turn to God we stay there and continue to grow in His love and mercy helping us to become better instruments of His love and mercy to those around us.  If we stay in tune with God, we will have a much different outlook on all the things that go on in our lives and in our world whether these events bring sadness or joy into our lives.  It also helps us to have a greater love for others, especially those who may have hurt us in some way.  Like I said, better instruments of God’s love and mercy.  So let us remember in prayer all the victims of 9/11, the first responders, and the families who still suffer the loss of love ones.  May God have mercy on them all.

Thursday, September 14, is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It is an occasion for us to reflect on the cross of Jesus and what He gained for us by His suffering and death. Because Jesus died on the cross to give us new life and the forgiveness of sins, this instrument of death becomes a source of life for all of us. In the Garden of Eden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil became a source of sin for Adam and Eve as they disobeyed God and turned away from Him. Now, that tree is replaced by the wood of the Cross on which hung the Savior of the world.  The cross is a very important symbol for all Christians because it is a reminder of what Jesus has done for us. It reminds us of the great love He has for all of us and the kind of love we should have for one another. The cross, and more importantly, the crucifix, is a reminder of what true love really means. Love is more about commitment and sacrifice than physical attraction and emotion. So let us reflect on this important symbol of our faith as we look at the crosses we have in our homes and the ones we wear around our necks and strive to remember what the cross really teaches us.

Friday, September 15 is the Feast of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows. It is a day to remember the bond that unites us to Mary, with whom we share a place at the foot of the cross.  The seven sorrows of Mary are:

The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus. (Gospel of Luke 2:34)

The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family. (Gospel of Matthew 2:13)

The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days. (Luke 2:43)

The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross. (Luke 23:26)

The Crucifixion, where Mary stands at the foot of the cross. (Gospel of John 19:25)

The Descent from the Cross, where Mary receives the dead body of Jesus in her arms. (Matthew 27:57)

The Burial of Jesus. (John 19:40)

Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows is the national patroness of Slovakia (where all my grandparents were born) and in Slovakia it is a national holiday and a holy day of obligation.  I have been very fortunate to have traveled to Slovakia two times and both times I was there on September 15.  This feast of the Blessed Mother reminds us that our Mother Mary is with us all the time in our sorrow and our joy.  She too suffered sorrow in her own life, but always turned to God and was always faithful to Him and His word.

Next week is Catechetical Sunday. The 2023 Catechetical Sunday theme is “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened” (Matthew 11:28). Catholics hear these powerful words spoken by Jesus as an invitation to follow him and have our burdens lightened.  Each year we take this opportunity to recognize the efforts and generosity of all those who teach and share the faith with others, especially our children. These are our catechists who have given of themselves to echo the teachings of Jesus and the Church to others. The word catechist itself comes from the Greek word, which means to echo. So, it is the ministry of the catechist to echo the teaching of Christ and His Church. A catechist is not one who teaches or shares his or her opinion about what the Church teaches, or what he or she thinks the scriptures mean, but a catechist is one who faithfully teaches the truth, aside from personal thoughts or feelings, and strives to come to understand the teaching of Jesus and the Church for the truth that they are.  Please pray for all our catechists.

Remember, there is no 5:00pm Sunday Mass on September 10.


Last week, we began reflecting on the words uttered by the priest: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who takes away the sins of the world.  Blessed are those called to to the supper of the Lamb.”  Last week, we reflected on the first half, this week, we want to dive into what it means that we are “invited to the Supper of the Lamb.”

The Bible begins with a marriage – Adam and Eve in an earthly paradise – and the Bible ends with a marriage – Christ the Victorious Lamb with his Bride, the Church, in a heavenly paradise.  The two bookends of Scripture are marriages.  Marriage is the sign above all others that God wrote into creation and into the story of salvation history to unveil who He is, as a Trinity of persons, an endless exchange of love and life, and to unveil our ultimate destiny, where all this is headed.  Heaven is not a great big space where God lives; no, it’s something “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man.”  Heaven is, if we can put it simply, union with God, union with the Trinity.  

And that is what is revealed in the Book of Revelation, the marriage supper of the lamb where Christ and his Church are united, Head and Body together, Bridegroom and Bride.  That heavenly reality that John saw and wrote about in the Book of Revelation is made mystically present in and through the signs, the symbols, the gestures, and the actions of the liturgical celebration.  That is why we say in the mass, we receive a “pledge of future glory.”  In the Eucharist, which Pope St. John Paul II called the “sacrament of the Bridegroom and the Bride” the Church-Bride comes forward to meet her divine Bridegroom hidden under the appearances of simple bread and wine and there the two become one flesh, a pledge of that future glory to which we’re all destined.  Blessed indeed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb.  

Fr. Joe Labak