My dear people of St. Mary’s,
Last week the bulletin went to press early because of the snowstorm, so this is the first Pastor’s Page since my return from the Holy Land. I am very grateful to Fr. Edsel Delfin for covering for me while I was away. As you know, Fr. Edsel is a student at the Pontificio Collegio Filippino (The Pontifical Filipino College) in Rome. This semester he will finish his studies, complete his thesis and receive his Licentiate in Sacred Theology. Please keep Fr. Edsel in your prayers during these months; we all remember what it was like in school at exam time!
As I have already told you at Mass, the pilgrimage was wonderful, and a truly deep, spiritual experience. I find I keep thinking of moments from the trip and, when reading the Gospel at Mass or privately, images of the places I have visited fill the mind. To give you an example, in St. Mark’s Gospel Jesus inaugurates His public ministry in the hometown of Sts. Peter, James and John:
And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes… 29 And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them. 32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together about the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons … [Mk 1:21-22; 29-34]
That, of course, is a story that we have all read and heard over the years. However, there is always the danger that we may begin to view the Gospel accounts as merely stories, rather like the favorite stories we grew up with as children. It is sometimes hard (especially for modern people living in the modern world) to remind ourselves that as Catholics we believe theses stories are history. They happened to real people, living in the real world, and at a real time and in a real place. What a pilgrimage does, by bringing you to the places where these things occurred and where these people actually lived, is to reinforce the historical truth of the Gospel and the enduring reality of the Catholic Faith throughout time.
The photo at left was taken during the pilgrimage and shows me with a very dear friend, Fr. Robert Ketcham, a priest of our diocese, currently serving as chaplain of St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip. We are standing in the ruins of the synagogue of Capernaum, where Jesus began His public ministry and preached with authority, as you read above. Directly in front of us, at a distance of less than one hundred yards, is the home of St. Peter, where Jesus cured his mother-in-law, and where the entire town gathered around the door that first night, when the Gospel was less than a day old. When you have stood in such a place and have seen it with your own eyes, the truth of the Gospel comes alive as never before.