Parents, Families, Society

12-29-2019Weekly Reflection© LPi

"'Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.'" 725 kilometers. That's the distance on modern roads from Bethlehem to Cairo. Assuming one covered 40 km a day on foot — ambitious for two young parents and their infant son — the journey would take well over two weeks. Of course, the Holy Family didn't have modern roads. They would travel through wilderness, fear bandits, run low on water, and cross the vast Sinai Peninsula in a reverse of their forefathers in Exodus. Here, in struggle and sacrifice, are the beginnings of the forging of the Holy Family.


The Season of Gifts

12-22-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. Emmanuel Ihemedu

It is said that great gifts come in small packages. On Christmas Eve, underneath the Christmas Trees in many of our homes are gifts wrapped beautifully with Christmas colors. Unfortunately, some of these gifts will be returned to the stores right after Christmas because these gifts may not be our sizes; they may not fit; they are not our favorite colors; or simply because we don't like them.

Of all these gifts, there is one in particular, that once we open it, will render us speechless and bring tears to our eyes because of the so much love put in the gift. It is the smallest package ever, yet in it is the gift of God himself. St. Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians calls it the indescribable gift! (2COR 9:15), a gift that no word can express! This very gift we cannot return to Walmart, CVS, Macy's, Lord & Taylor, JCPenney, etc. This is because this gift is personal. It is practical. It is permanent/forever.


What are you longing for?

12-15-2019Weekly Reflection© LPi

Who did you come to see? A version of this question is posed by Jesus many times in the Gospels. He asks it of Andrew and John when they begin to follow him. He asks it of Mary Magdalene in the garden of the resurrection. He asks it in today's Gospel. "What did you go out to the desert to see?" There is something innately human about "seeing." Animals have eyes — some with much more powerful vision than our own — but that's not the kind of seeing Jesus is talking about. We could phrase the question several other ways. "What are you looking for?" "What are you longing for?" "Whom do you seek?"

It is in seeing for ourselves that our suspicions or hypotheses are confirmed, that our desires discover their fulfillment, and that we can rest for a moment in certainty. John the Baptist sought certainty of Jesus' identity. "Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" Jesus sends word to him based on the testimony of sight, observations of the mighty deeds Jesus has begun to work. "Go and tell John what you hear and see."


A gift from God

12-08-2019Weekly Reflection© LPi

What does it mean to be worthy? There are a few different ways to approach this question. Today’s Gospel highlights two: the way of the Pharisees and the way of John the Baptist. Our faith values good works and discipleship. Perhaps, then, we “earn” our worth by adhering to the right doctrines and following the right pious practice. The Pharisees thought they were worthy. Due to their religious pedigree and proper procedures, they were self-satisfied. John the Baptist’s words to them are strong. “Do not resume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’” Of course, Jesus (and John) don’t omit the responsibility for moral behavior. John gives the Pharisees quite a strong warning in that regard. “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance … every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”


Stay awake!

12-01-2019Weekly Reflection© LPi

"I'm never getting enough rest! How can I possibly be 'asleep'?" In a world of jam-packed schedules and high anxiety levels, physical rest may be hard to come by. Yet relentless pursuit of our to-do lists and social calendars may keep our minds off of the things that really matter.

Jesus knows all too well a pattern of busy, harried ignorance. "In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage … they did not know until the flood came and carried them all away … two men will be out in the field … two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left." When it comes to the spiritual life, we can be at work or at relaxation and still be spiritually asleep.


Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, Year C

11-24-2019Weekly Reflection© LPi

"The rulers sneered … the soldiers jeered … one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus." Is this the King of the Jews, the King of the Universe? If it is so, perhaps his kingdom is not at all what we would expect! In his letter to the laity, St. John Paul II spoke about how Christians share in the kingly mission of Christ. First, "they exercise their kingship as Christians, above all in the spiritual combat in which they seek to overcome in themselves the kingdom of sin." In other words, before we give any thought to transforming society, we must first allow God to transform us. Through daily prayer, regular self-examination, and frequent confession, we can recognize our faults more readily and choose love instead!


Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! We Did It!

11-17-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. Emmanuel Ihemedu

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! We Did It!

I cannot thank our donors, sponsors and supporters enough for a successful inaugural "Kick off" to the Pastor's Dinner Club fundraiser. Despite the frigid weather that was lurking at every corner, Torrington Country Club was packed with over 200 people of great faith and admiration of the work we are doing to make St. John Paul the Great Academy the most effective way to bring, form and make disciples of Jesus of all God's children and their families. (USCCB, Renewing Our Commitment, Our Greatest and Best Inheritance; CARA, 2015).

The superb choreographed singing by our school children added to a beautiful evening. The commitment and relentless generosity of our donors and supporters made the fundraiser a success.


Annual Collection

11-10-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. Emmanuel Ihemedu

Dear Parishioners of St. John Paul the Great:

The Annual Collection is underway at Saint John Paul the Great. I sent a letter to you, and to every parish household, last month seeking your support. The initial response has been encouraging – thanks be to God!

ST. JOHN PAUL THE GREAT 2019 Annual Parish Collection Update as of Oct. 31, 2019: $79,369. Families participating: 452

We are very grateful for the generosity shown by so many parish families to our Annual Collection. If you have not yet had an opportunity to return your pledge card, please do so as soon as possible. Every gift is welcome and sincerely appreciated.


New Mass Schedule is on the Horizon

11-03-2019Weekly ReflectionFr. Emmanuel Ihemedu

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

I write to inform you that beginning January 4, 2020, there will be a revised Weekend Mass schedule at Saint John Paul the Great Parish. Through much prayer, feedback, careful examination of weekend Mass attendance data, consideration, consultation with parish council and staff, and discussions with all who attended the town hall meeting held on Tuesday October 22, I have decided to change the weekend Mass schedule to: One Vigil Mass @ 4:30 PM at St. Peter; Sunday: 7:00 AM at St. Francis; 8:30 AM at St. Peter; 10:00 AM at St. Francis; 11:30 AM (Spanish) at St. Peter; 5:00PM (life-teen Mass) at St. Francis. We are eliminating the Saturday 5:30PM Vigil at St. Francis and the Sunday 11:30 AM English at St. Peter. The Sunday 1:00 PM Spanish Mass will now be held at 11:30 AM.


This Sunday’s Gospel contrasts two different religious attitudes.

10-27-2019Weekly Reflection© LPi

First, the self-righteous Pharisee. Here is a man who seems to impeccably follow the law. In some terms, he is the model citizen! Honest, fiscally generous, and faithful to his marriage vows. But something else lurks in his heart: pride. "O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity … or even like this tax collector." For the Pharisee, no fault can be admitted. The only way to stay on top is to preserve one's image — even to God, it seems! — and point out the flaws of others from the pedestal.

In the back of the temple, hidden and bowed down, is the tax collector. "O God, be merciful to me a sinner." This man's prayer is one of supplication and petition. He isn't afraid to express his sinfulness and misery. This, Jesus says, is the one who "went home justified." How many times have we heard the mission of Jesus to seek and save the lost? Jesus is the one who dines with sinners and invites every heart to repentance. But how can we return to him if we don't know we've left? How can we receive God's grace when we're adamant we don't need it?


“Render a just decision for me against my adversary.”

10-20-2019Weekly Reflection© LPi

Today's Gospel features a persistent widow who ekes out justice from a notoriously cold-hearted judge. Why does she win the day? "Because the widow keeps bothering me." Jesus' recommendation to the disciples is to be persistent in prayer, because surely God the Father is far more attuned to their needs than this judge. If only it were that easy, right? We've all experienced the unanswered prayer, the silence after our cries. When this continues, sometimes it can be difficult to have faith in God or believe He answers prayers. It can be easy to lapse into a sense of His distance. We want Him to do something "fair," which — in our limited view — typically means that something works out in our favor.


"Ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance …"

10-13-2019Weekly Reflection© LPi

In the ancient world and into the Middle Ages, there was no treatment for leprosy. People thought it was wildly contagious and were suspicious of any skin diseases.

Lepers were isolated from civil society. This isolation was upheld by the Mosaic Law. Should there be a healing from leprosy, the former leper was to present himself to a priest to certify the healing. Like Jesus commands, "Show yourselves to the priests." The person would then undergo a religious rite to be formally reintroduced to society. In other words, a leper got their life back. So why didn't they come back?


Check Your Motives

10-06-2019Weekly Reflection© LPi

"When you have done all you have been commanded, say 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do."

The metaphor in the story could seem harsh to us today. A servant has worked hard all day, and rather than receiving a much-needed respite, the master commands an additional task. Jesus, however, is appearing to their sensibilities. This was a hierarchical society in which everyone had a place. His listeners would know this. No servant would presume a reward for good deeds.

It's important to remember that we do have a place at God's table. But we don't "earn" it. Dining with the Lord at the heavenly wedding feast requires surrender. It requires deep faith in God and His promises. It also requires commitment. The kingdom takes work! There are fields to plow and initiatives to prepare. There are sheep to tend to and family to care for. There are people waiting for our yes to generous service. When we serve dinner at a homeless shelter, we are waiting on the table of Christ. When we visit an ill relative, we're imitating the Good Samaritan. We're visiting Jesus! We're growing his kingdom of life and love.