Accepting Jesus' Invitation

04-14-2019From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

When I was in my next to the last year in the seminary before ordination the first semester we went to Pilgrim State Mental Hospital on Wednesdays. We would begin our day with Mass with the residents celebrated by the chaplain. We brought guitars and sang music at the Mass. But each time we came to communion, one of the residents would beat us to the punch and start singing the old traditional hymn “O Lord I Am Not Worthy.” The first verse is: O Lord, I am not worthy That Thou should'st come to me, But speak the words of comfort, My spirit healed shall be. Those words came to mind as I was praying evening prayer last week in Psalm 114 which had the verse: “Lord, what is man that you care for him, mortal man, that you keep him in mind; man, who is merely a breath, whose life fades like a shadow?” That verse and the first verse of the hymn “O Lord I Am Not Worthy” jump out as we listen to and reflect on the Gospel for today, Palm Sunday, the Passion according to St. Luke. Why did Jesus suffer what He did?

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How Long?

04-07-2019From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

“Get a life!!!!” I along with about ten other people heard those words spoken with an angry voice as we were praying in front of Planned Parenthood on Maple Avenue last Tuesday morning. The voice was a woman’s and came from her as she was passing by in her car. Obviously she is pro-choice and our presence triggered anger in her. How sad. But as soon as I heard those angry words I smiled in my heart as this thought came immediately to my mind: “That is exactly why we are here praying in front of this abortion facility. We want much more than a life, we are there to save as many lives as possible!” When I arrived there this past Tuesday, one of our parishioners greeted me with joyful news. A lady came across the street before I got there and told the people praying that she came with her daughter who was considering an abortion and went into the facility. But the daughter had second thoughts and left. They came out to the people praying and told them thank you for being there. Those praying gave them the number to call for help with the pregnancy and they left happy and grateful. Standing in front of Planned Parenthood is not the most desirable thing to do. We live in a country that has adamant pro-abortion people in Planned Parenthood as well as in our elected state and federal government. Many people right here in the Smithtown area are pro-abortion and make their objection to our presence in prayer known. But how good it is to know our prayers and presence are making a difference.

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The Transforming Power of Forgiveness

03-31-2019From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

As I was preparing for the homily for Mass this Sunday, I was enlightened by these words from a book I am reading entitled “Things Hidden, Scripture as Spirituality,” by Richard Rohr: “God’s love is constant and irrevocable; our part is to be open to it and let it transform us. There is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us more than God already does, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to make God love us less.” This simple but powerful insight is the background of the Gospel at Mass today that presents us with the account of the prodigal son. What is inspiring to see is not only how the father’s love changed the son but, even more, how the father’s love never wavered. There is no mention of disappointment nor is there even a hint of anger. First the father deals with a son who is purely self centered. This son is so anxious to get on with life without his father that he asks for and is given the inheritance he would have received at his father’s death. We could question why the father accedes to this demand, but that would weaken the point Jesus wants us to understand about God’s forgiveness. Both the prodigal and elder son are self-centered young men. When the younger son realizes what a mistake he made he comes back humble, hopeful and surely full of guilt. His hope is not for forgiveness, but just for a place with his father’s servants. Obviously the father is good to the servants. How overwhelmed this prodigal son had to be when his father ran to meet him as he approached the homestead. There were no words of reproach or rebuke, only the embrace of life-giving love and forgiveness. He had to think, “Is my father really forgiving me? Am I really being taken back as his son? Is it true that I will not be punished and made to feel guilty?”

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The Importance of Forgiveness

03-24-2019From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

The public face portrayed in the media of our nation today has a very angry, distrustful, and even hateful countenance. In all too many ways we are divided in our thinking and concerns and that inhibits who we are as citizens of the United States of America. Physically we live in the same country, but our unity is weakened by closed minds, constant critical judgments, and a lack of ability and desire to seek reconciliation with one another. One of the most hopeful and inspiring places to find hope, encouragement, and resolution is our faith. We are now in the midst of the Lenten Season, a time to honestly look at ourselves as people of faith and, even more, to look at God’s life-giving mercy and forgiveness. As human beings we are created in the image and likeness of God. But at times, we put that image aside. Could we ever have the patience and determination Jesus has shown us on the way of the cross? The devotion of praying the Stations of the Cross makes Jesus’ unconditional love for us and His desire to forgive our sins so life giving and clear.

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Encountering Jesus in the Stations of the Cross

03-17-2019From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

Who do we reveal our inner most self to? Only those who we really love and trust. In today’s Gospel, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a mountain and reveals His heavenly glory to them. At first they have to be stunned and amazed. Then they see Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. And as quickly as this wonder occurs, Jesus is back in human form and goes down the mountain with them. As we read the Scriptures, this passage takes place before the denials of St. Peter and the request of the brothers James and John to sit at His right and left when He comes into His kingdom. How much of an impression did this experience really have on them? Surely they were humbled to see Jesus transfigured into His heavenly body. How awesome to see Moses and Elijah talking with Him. Then the voice from heaven saying, “This is my chosen son, listen to Him.”

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God's Gift to Us

03-10-2019From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” These words are very familiar to us since they are the concluding words to the prayer Jesus gave us when His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray; the Our Father. Temptations are part of life. In today’s Gospel we see Jesus Himself being tempted by the devil in three different areas: hunger, acceptance and popularity, and power and control. Jesus had just spent forty days praying and fasting in the desert. That experience heightened His trust in the Father’s love and presence to Him. He had to be physically hungry, but because He first satisfied the inner thirst all human beings have for God He did not use His power just for His own personal satisfaction. As we read and ponder the way people encountered Jesus in the Gospels, it is very clear that He was not seeking personal popularity and acceptance. His goal was to open His listeners to God’s love and acceptance of all who sincerely opened their minds and hearts to Him. Finally Jesus did not seek power over others. He never sought to be in control of anyone except Himself. Up to His very last words on the cross He expressed love for even those who crucified and mocked Him and trust in the Father: “Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last.”

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Our Lenten Journey

03-03-2019From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

It is always exciting to plan a trip. That means we are going on a journey. Who are we going with? How will we get there? What or who will be the ultimate destination? This coming Wednesday, we begin the season of Lent and are invited to have blessed ashes placed on our foreheads. One exhortation we could hear is: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” What we are called to recognize ever more clearly is that we are all on the same journey, the journey of life. We know but do not always see so clearly that the end of our journey is the day we die. Then what? Then we come not so much to a place, but to a presence, the presence of God. What we do on our journey through life will determine who we are when we get to that ultimate moment. Lent is an invitation not to dwell on the inevitable, but on what our journey through life is all about. What or who gives us hope, meaning, inspiration, determination, and purpose? Where does God fit in?

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