Letters from a Pastor to His People- August 2, 2020
To quote Michael Jordan, "I'm back." (No, I'm not comparing myself to Michael Jordan. If anything I'm like Jud Buechler...at best--no disrespect to Jud.) I have returned from my 30-Day silent retreat. Thank you all for your understanding and support, and thank you especially to Father Emanuel and the parish staff who kept the place running.
Speaking of staff, I would like to welcome again the new principal of Saint Juliana School, Ms. Cathie Scotkovsky. Cathie started July 1st and has been hard at work getting ready for the new school year. She is an SJS alum herself and we are very excited for her leadership of our school!
Perhaps in the upcoming weeks I will speak more of the specific graces I received on my retreat. I actually only returned a few days ago and submitted even this bulletin letter way back in June before my departure. But, again, I do know for certain that I prayed for you and that my love for God and for you all deepened.
Coincidentally, we hear in the opening of the Gospel that Jesus withdrew "to a deserted place by himself" (Matthew 14:13). Jesus himself went on retreat and prayed, or at least he tried to. In this particular scene the crowds followed him and prevented him from being on retreat. This is why, by the way, I told only a very select number of people where I was going on retreat and swore them to secrecy! Just kidding. But, still, thank you for not pursuing me in my absence.
When the disciples notice it is getting late and the crowd is hungry, their first inclination is to send the people away. They tell Jesus, "dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves."
Oh no, says Jesus. When there is danger, the best course of action is not to run away from God. No! It is to run to God. "Jesus said to them, 'There is no need for them to go away'." He then proceeds to feed them.
A lot of us face threats and dangers in our lives. They might not be all that serious in the grand scheme of things, but they disturb our souls and our sense of inner peace nonetheless. I think our inclination can be like that of the disciples: flee to the world. We don't think to turn immediately to Jesus and pray. That's too superstitious or pious we think. Let's instead, we say, seek practical advice. Or turn to shopping, alcohol, gambling, TV, phone or something else to medicate that fear or eliminate the threat.
I think of all the difficult decisions I have had to make in my life, or all the predicaments I've been in: things have always turned out well when my first step was to go to God. Praying does so much. The Holy Spirit calms our mind and passions so we don't do something regrettable. Jesus then pours grace in our souls and forms our mind so we discern not what we think should be done, but what God wills (and what God wills is always good). And the Father pours grace into the souls of the others and into the situation to help it properly along. God does not want to see anyone suffer or for there to be any division. Remember the psalm, "The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs" (Psalm 145:16).
Try this the next time you are in a sticky situation. It can be as mundane as a fight with your spouse or child. Don't make any decisions or do anything permanent, but simply come to the chapel and pray, or go to a quiet spot in your house and sit before God. He will take care of everything.
Yours in Christ,