Is God Our Priority?

12-31-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

Christmas is a time to give and receive gifts. Sometimes we know exactly what someone wants and they are delighted when they open the gift. Then there are those people we buy gifts for where we wonder if they will like what we are giving them. We hope they will. Children are innocent and let us know exactly what they want and they give simple gifts that delight us. We are delighted because the gift they give is from them. It does not matter what the gift is, what matters is that they care so much for us that they went out of their way to give us a gift. Ultimately that is true about every gift. It does not matter so much what the gift is as much as who the gift is from. Every time we wear, use, or look at a gift from people who are part of our of lives, we are filled with joy and gratitude, not because of the gift but because of the love we have for each other. Gifts point beyond themselves to love from another human being.


God's Gift of Himself

12-24-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

Things are not always the way they appear to be or we think them to be. Reflecting on the events that enable us to celebrate Christmas opens our minds and hearts to see things from an enlightened and faith-filled point of view, from God’s point of view. In Isaiah 55:8-9 we read:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”


Brightening the Lives of Others

12-17-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

Who are you? This is the question the priests and Levites asked John the Baptist in today’s Gospel reading. They saw John the Baptist calling people to change their lives by repenting of their sins. What made his message and call so appealing? Sin takes away peace from our hearts. It also puts tension in our relationships with one another.


The Greatest Gifts

12-10-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

This past Sunday, I went into the seventh grade classes in our Religious Education Program and spoke to the children about gifts. I told them about a small pin I made and gave to my mother when I was a child in second grade. It was far from a piece of art, but as all of you who are mothers make so clear, it is not the gift that brings joy, but the love from the one who gave it. Then I spoke to the young people about the gifts they will give for Christmas, reminding them that their gifts are only a sign, a sign of the love that is behind them. The main point, of course, is that the giver of the gift is THE gift. Our goodness, love, sacrifices and thoughtfulness are what make any gift “priceless.”


Be Watchful! Be Alert!

12-03-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

One of the amazing things about looking at ourselves through the eyes of faith is that we see how much hope we have and how much energy and purpose there is in our lives. There is a verse from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes that sounds pessimistic, but can be seen also in a very positive light: “What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun!” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).


Living the Truth with Love

11-26-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

So Pilate said to Jesus, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above.” (John 19:10-11) This exchange took place as Jesus was brought to Pilate by His enemies to have Him crucified. How ironic that an earthly ruler thinks he has power over Jesus. Yes, Pilate assented to Jesus’ crucifixion. But as we celebrate the feast of Christ the King today, we know Jesus is the source of true power, power that gives life to us in this world and eternal life when we die and go into the fullness of His presence.


Using Our Talents

11-19-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

We all have responsibilities in our lives. A sign of maturity and integrity is our willingness to assume and fulfill our responsibilities. As we come to the end of another Church Year, the readings once again focus our attention on our accountability before God. Today’s Gospel presents the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30. We all have different talents and abilities and, at the same time, we all have the same basic talents, abilities, and gifts. The most basic of all gifts is the gift of life itself. The more we use our common talents and abilities the richer and fuller our lives become. The talents that are innate for each one of us are the ability to love, to forgive, and act humbly.


The Oil that Fuels our Daily Lives

11-12-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

One of the wonders of the Internet is the GPS. There is an app called WAZE that not only gives directions but even in the midst of travel makes changes. I experienced this a while ago when I exited the New Jersey Turnpike and because of construction ten lanes were being funneled into two lanes. After ten minutes the voice on WAZE said, “You are sitting there too long. Make a right at the next block, then a left at the light. Go two blocks, make a left and you will be fine.” When I followed the directions I was amazed at how clear the traffic was and I arrived at my destination with time to spare.


Love Lifts Us Higher

11-05-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

As I was thinking about writing this column, a song from 1967 by Jackie Wilson came to me: Your love keeps lifting me higher and higher! It is a lively song about the joy of a man over the love of his girlfriend from another era in our history when things were more optimistic. This past week I went into eighth-grade classes in both our parish school and parish religious education program. In one of the classes, the teacher handed me a question one of the students had written: Why does God allow innocent people to be killed? How sad that our young people are growing up in a world where violence and killing are issues they struggle with. Of course, God does not “allow” innocent people to be killed. When He created us in His very own image He gave us the gift of free will. We can choose to do good or choose to do evil. That is what makes love what it is - the choice to give ourselves to another person in many different ways. It is also what makes sin what it is - a conscious choice to harm others or ourselves. Love lifts up those who we give ourselves to and at the same time lifts us up also. Our goodness fills us with joy and inspires us to love more and more. The best thing about love when we love as God loves us is that the more we love, the more love we have to give. We are never exhausted. On the other hand, sin turns us in on ourselves and leads us to separate ourselves from one another. At this point, with all the bad news reports we read and listen to, we can become negative, condemnatory, and angry. That is the world we live in and the world our young people are growing up in.


Love Endures

10-29-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

There are many different motives why we do the things we do or say the things we say. Our motives and words are elicited from joy, gratitude, love, hope, forgiveness and a host of other positive motives, as well as the negative ones that include anger, spite, disappointment, jealousy, and selfishness. In today’s Gospel, some Pharisees who are religious leaders at the time, pose a question to Jesus about which commandment of the law is the greatest. When God made covenant with the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, He said He would be their God and if they were to continue to be His people they would have to follow the Ten Commandments. With the Ten Commandments as a base the Jewish people enacted 613 laws. The reason God promised to be their God was that clear - He loved the Jewish people. Only because of His love and power were they freed from slavery in Egypt. God did not free them to enslave them to Himself, but to free them to experience His love and presence. That was seen not only as they were saved when the Red Sea parted and they escaped the Egyptian army, but also every day in their forty year journey to the Promised Land as they were given a daily portion of manna and birds to nourish and sustain their bodies on the journey—nourishment that made God’s love vivid and life-giving every day. The Commandments and laws were not to pay God back or keep Him happy, but a very clear way to express their love, gratitude, and commitment to Him as His people. When Jesus answers the Pharisees’ question about which law is the greatest, He does not pick a particular law. He says, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two  Commandments.” Love is the underlying motive for all the Commandments and laws.


Going Beyond the Bare Minimum

10-22-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

There is an old saying, “You cannot avoid death and taxes!” We probably think far more about the taxes we pay than the death that will eventually come to end our life in this world. Today’s Gospel (Matthew 22:15-21) calls our attention to both death and taxes. Jesus says to those who try to trap him in His mission: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” While we are grateful for the gift of life and seek and find security, peace, and joy in this world, we know we are not going to be here forever. That does not mean we go through each day doing everything in our power to ignore the inevitable end of our lives here, but it does mean that we are destined and created for what is eternal.


Be Glad That He Has Saved Us

10-15-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

A week ago Thursday we had a meeting in our parish concerning the Opioid Epidemic here on Long Island. The information gave statistics showing how deaths from this evil have risen four fold since the year 2000. Approximately 8,000 people died in 2000 and in the past year more than 33,000 people have died. I have asked a man who was there and lost a son to drug addiction to write a column to give us all more information and point out what we can do (page 5). It is so sad to celebrate funerals for young people whose lives were erased.


Gratitude and Humility vs. Greed and Selfishness

10-08-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

“You can’t have it both ways!” There are many things we wish for and make decisions about. The most important decisions put us on a path we cannot veer from if we are going to be faithful to them. When we do, we have conflicting thoughts and feelings and we can hurt others as well as ourselves in the process. Today’s Gospel presents a parable where greed and selfishness take precedence over gratitude and humility. A landowner plants a vineyard and sets everything up, even to the point of installing a wine press. Then he rents it out to tenants and expects a piece of the profits. When he sends representatives to collect what is justly his, they are beat up and some are even killed. Finally, he sends his son with the hope that the tenants will respect him. But they do not. The tenants see this as an opportunity to take the vineyard for themselves as they kill even the son. The parallel here is that that God’s chosen people were sent prophets again and again to call them back to faithfulness, to recognize that all they are and have are a result of God’s goodness to them. Finally, the Son of God, Jesus, came to give us the fullness of life and even He was rejected.


Living Out Our Baptismal Promises

10-01-2017From the Pastor's DeskRev. Msgr. Ellsworth R. Walden

How sad to see the destruction of the hurricanes in the Caribbean nations and our own country these past few weeks. How good it is to see our government and ourselves not only being concerned and praying for them, but contributing financially to help them rebuild. This coming Sunday, October 1st, we will have a second collection to assist those who have to put their lives, residences, and businesses back together.

Today’s Gospel challenges us to reflect on the destruction, chaos, and suffering our words can bring to others and ourselves. In this passage from Matthew 21:28-32, we see Jesus pose a question to the religious leaders gathered around him: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterward, he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you.” At times we are like the first son and say how we feel and then rethink what has been asked and what we said and change our minds. It is always life-giving and puts us on the path to inner peace when we do what we know is right. But we are also like the second son at times as well. It is much “easier” at the spur of the moment to tell others what they want to hear rather start an argument or have hard feelings. But we know the result. At some point, our dishonesty and empty words will cause anger, hard feelings, or disappointment. In one of the resources, I use to help prepare my Sunday homilies the commentary for this Gospel passage used an example of empty words from the movie Mary Poppins. In a scene at the end of her first day as the new nanny, while she is putting children Jane and Michael to bed, Jane asks, “You will never leave us, will you? Her younger brother quickly joins in and says, “Will you stay if we promise to be good?” Mary smiles and replies, “That’s a piecrust promise. Easily made. Easily broken.”