Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B
Fr. Steven Roth

Peanut butter is just peanut butter in the grocery store or on the shelves in our homes. However, peanut butter is not just peanut butter here at St. Isaac’s. And not just peanut butter, but all the items you bring here each week like the boxes of pasta, jelly, and tuna. These items become more than simple food for the same reason as the barley loaves and fish in today’s gospel. The reason is Jesus.

In today’s gospel we heard Jesus doing far more than satisfying the physical hunger of the crowd. He did much more in this miracle. By feeding the crowds, Jesus began to introduce the people to the reality that He could satisfy their every longing. To put it simply, the food He gave them was a sign that He was a God who provides for them and should be trusted.

It is because of this same Jesus that the food distributed in our Outreach program becomes more than simply filling one’s stomach. The food you bring in is distributed every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month. If you have never helped out on these days, I highly recommend it. On these Wednesdays, those in our area who are in need of assistance gather. Deacon Jim brings them together to hear the day’s gospel, offers a reflection and ends with a funny story or joke. Then everyone moves to another room where the collected food has been sorted and each person gets to choose what they like or need.

What is so amazing is that each person is treated with such dignity through this food distribution! In turn, this food helps those in need feel they are important, loved and valued. The gratitude they express is incredible. All of this is done through the food you donate. Just as the young boy offered the food he had, so too do you. Through our faith in Jesus, wonderful things happen.

However, I realize there is always at least one cynic in the crowd that will say, “but Father, what about the person that just doesn’t want to work and is taking advantage of the parish?” Yes, I’m sure there are the exceptions, but wouldn’t we rather answer to God that we gave food to someone who didn’t deserve it, instead of answering why we deprived food to someone truly in need? Yet, I realize no one here thinks that way or this outreach program would not be what it is today.

And one last thing, not only does Jesus feed those in need, but He insists that the left over fragments are collected. He does this not because He enjoys leftovers, but because scholars argue that in not wasting anything, it is a reminder that He does not waste any of us. Instead, He seeks to use each of us in His ongoing mission for satisfying the longings of each person. Some of us might be called to donate food or volunteer our time. Some of us might be called to pray for those in need. Everyone is included in Jesus’ mission.

So I raise up this outreach program because I think it’s important as a parish that we never forget the importance of your generosity. I hope we never see the food collected as just food. Peanut butter is not just peanut butter here. Those fed saw Jesus as a great prophet, I can assure you that those who were here Wednesday see this parish as a great parish seeking to follow this same Jesus.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B
Fr. Steven Roth

A family had the tradition that they would invite their grandparents over for dinner every Sunday. One Sunday in particular the youngest daughter, who was just 6, was asked to say the grace. Little Liza didn’t want to do it as she said she didn’t know what to say. Liza’s father reassured her and told her just to say what she hears her Mom says before these Sunday dinners. Liza began, “Dear God, please get them to leave early.”

Like Liza, today’s gospel challenges us, in a sense, to repeat what we have heard. The gospel challenges us to repeat what we hear in Church, to go out, and share God’s words of love, mercy, forgiveness and peace.

Yet, like Liza, don’t we often get in trouble for repeating what we hear when it comes to our lives of faith? How often do moms and dads find that when they repeat this message to their children, it often does not go well? They hear “Mass is so boring.” “Ryan’s mom does not make him go.” “I’m tired.” I’m sure even spouses sometimes face similar difficulty when one spouse chooses to stay home while the other goes to Mass. As a priest I know I get in trouble too. Often people respond to what I repeat by telling me they can pray at home, etc.

However, Jesus is not naïve. The gospel makes clear that we will not always be successful. Sometimes people, sadly our own family and friends, might not respond like we had hoped. Jesus tells us when that happens, “shake the dust off our feet.” Now that does not mean we give up and move on from them. Instead, we do not allow that moment of rejection or frustration to weigh us down or distract us from the mission of spreading the gospel. Sure it hurts and is tough when people don’t like what we say, but we can’t give up. Not giving up does not mean harping day in and day out. Rather, we continue to repeat the gospel message by example.

Our example is something I think you and I often forget to realize how important and what an impact it can have on people. Have you ever noticed sometimes that we go to Mass and then allow something, either driving or whatever, to irritate us? We get home and we are miserable. I’m not sure when that happens that we are convincing anyone about our message. What convinces people is when they sincerely see our lives are different because of God and the Church. When we are more generous, understanding, forgiving, this gets peoples’ attention. It means when we forgive someone when no one would expect forgiveness that announces the gospel.

Does it take work? Sure does. Is it easier to not do this? Absolutely. But honestly, if we are going to be followers of Jesus, it’s not an option. We won’t always get it right. What if we make mistakes? We will make mistakes, but God knows that and still calls us to be his voice in the world.

So today and every time we are at Mass and we hear those powerful final words of the Mass, “go forth and announce the gospel of the Lord” may it serve as a reminder to be like Liza, to repeat what we hear, for that is what we have been told to do.

Welcome Fr. Steven Roth

Fr. Steven Roth

So what is our new pastor going to be like? Let me take a few minutes today to answer that question. For me, as your pastor, everything I will do and say will be rooted in one thing…family. Being appointed as your pastor, I see myself being invited to become part of your family. Just as in any healthy family, each member of the family has a different role, but no one person is more important. With the mindset that I’m now becoming a member of your family, families need to know each other. The reality, however, is that I don’t know you and you don’t know me yet. So here is what I’m asking. I want to begin to be part of your lives. I want to have the privilege to talking with you over a meal, maybe walking through your neighborhood, or sitting down with a cup of coffee. For the children of the parish, I want you to invite me to your games or when important moments are going on in your schools. I want to know when members of this family are sick so that I can visit them at home or wherever. I want to hear about the old stories of why you are here. I want to be a part of all of these moments because that’s how families grow together.

I want to be close to you, my new family, because when families are close, they can accomplish great things! As one family, I want to help lead you in doing the wonderful ministries already present and dare to dream of doing even more. We need to be close, too, because there will be tough days to get through. Our family may face some hardships whether it is through sickness, job loss, relationships falling apart or so many other things that make life complicated. I want to be close in my new family because there will be days that we will need to work together to make sense of challenging parts of our world today. I want to be close to this new family of mine because there may be moments where I make a mistake as the pastor and I will need to ask your forgiveness or there may be a time that you need to ask my forgiveness. If we are close, we can have the confidence to admit our faults and work beyond them.

Yet no matter what each day brings…happiness or challenge…we still do what healthy families do. We still gather together for our meal as one family. We will gather week after week for our Eucharistic meal. No matter what is going on in our family, we still gather together to eat.

My brothers and sisters, our family here of St. Isaac’s parish is no coincidence nor is it even just a bureaucratic decision that we are here together. Instead, we must believe that it is the Spirit of God, the same Spirit that led Ezekiel in today’s first reading. Since we have been led by the Spirit of God, we can be sure that great things await us.

So as the family of St. Isaac, you, welcome her newest member, me, as your pastor. Let’s thank God for this incredible gift to work together and in so doing that we grow closer to God. I’m so happy to be a part of your family!