August 29, 2021 ~ 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

My Dear Friends in Christ,

I want to thank everyone who helped make our parish festival a success during this 75th anniversary of our parish! I am especially grateful to Bob Buchman; the Parish Festival Committee; the Booth Chairs; the police and security team; the money counters, and all the volunteers. This was a wonderful way to be together as a parish after living in isolation for so long. It was a way for many to be engaged in the life of the parish. Young and old came together to provide wholesome, family entertainment and good old-fashioned fun! To our patrons and benefactors, to one and all, thank you!

To those who will be traveling for Labor Day weekend, I want to remind you of our parish picnic on September 10th at Stricker’s Grove. It will give us one last chance to be together as a parish at the conclusion of summer.

This week, St. Ignatius School begins another year, but it will be, God-willing, an extra-ordinary year. The school will celebrate the 75th anniversary of its founding on September 27th, and there will be activities to celebrate the great legacy of Catholic education and formation at our parish. This year, we begin with 1160 students in our school, making it the largest Catholic elementary school in Ohio. I am grateful to Mr. Vance, our Principal, Mrs. Heisel, our new Vice Principal, the administration, faculty and staff for all their preparations for the year. 

As the new year begins, I ask all parishioners to pray for a successful and safe school year. Pray especially for our young people, that they may be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and may make a deeper commitment to Christ. I invite all school families to be intentional about coming to Mass and volunteering not only at the school but also at the parish, putting your gifts and talents at the service of the Lord and this community. The festival demonstrates how when everyone pitches in and does their fair share, the whole community benefits.

I also want to comment on the great benefit the school provides for our community. Many Catholic parishes are ageing and slowly dying. Ours is not; the parish school draws many young families to our parish and engages parents and even grandparents in the life of our community. When we speak of stewardship of gifts, sometimes it appears that we speak only about the parish subsidy of the school, but instead, we must also realize how the school keeps many families close to the Lord and the Church. It also provides formation in the virtues which makes a great long-term contribution not only to the parish but also to the wider community. To all the benefactors of our parish and school, I express my profound gratitude.

As you can see, the underlying theme of this bulletin is gratitude. Above all, we must give thanks to Almighty God for all He has and is accomplishing in our lives, especially here at St. Ignatius. Today is the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. The last five weeks, we have heard from John 6, the Bread of Life Discourses; this Sunday we return to St. Mark’s Gospel. We have the opportunity to thank God for the gift of His Law. The theme of God’s Law makes its entrance in the liturgy this Sunday, but we know that the complete fulfilment of the law is love (cf. Rom 13:10). God’s Law is His word which guides men and women on the journey through life, leading them to true freedom and life. God’s Law is not a burden or restriction of our freedom; rather, it is the Lord’s special gift to His people, a testimony to His love, and an expression of His desire to be close to us. 

In the Old Testament the person who gave the Law to the People on God’s behalf is Moses. After the long journey in the wilderness, on the threshold of the promised land, he proclaims: “Now, O Israel, give heed to the statutes and the ordinances which I teach you, and do them; that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, gives you” (Deut 4:1). 

Unfortunately, when the people put down roots in the land and are the depository of the Law, they are tempted to place their security and joy in something that is no longer the Word of God: in possessions, in power, in other gods and idols, and in their own abilities. While the Law of God remains, for many, it is no longer the most important thing that orders life; rather, it becomes a camouflage. Under the guise of religiosity, many live far from the Lord and His ways.

In this way, religion loses its authentic meaning, which is to live listening to God in order to do His will and thus to live well in freedom. Too often religion, including Catholicism, is reduced to practicing secondary customs which make us feel secure but often substitute for God. We go through the external motions but without a living faith! This is a serious threat to every religion. It was in Jesus’ time and, unfortunately, is also found in our day. 

Jesus’ words against the scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel, in which he quotes Isaiah, offer food for thought: “This People honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Mk 7:6-7; cf. Is 29,13). Jesus concludes: “You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men” (Mk 7:8). The Apostle James, in the Second Reading, warns us of the danger of false piety, exhorting: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves,” (Jas 1:22). 

If the Law and the Scriptures are a means for God to be close to us and for us to be close to God, the means par excellence for this closeness is the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, this closeness becomes reality. It is not merely an exterior aspect: someone can stand near the tabernacle and yet be far from the living God. Someone can attend Mass, make the responses and sing the hymns, and not experience the interior closeness. This happens when religion is purely formal or external. This intimacy, like love, cannot be forced. It demands openness of heart. God opens His Heart to us. Do we open our hearts truly to Him? 

What matters is inner closeness! God came so close to us that He Himself became a man. This should surprise us again and again! He is so close that He became one of us. He knows us better than we know ourselves, knows the “feeling” of the human person from within; he has experienced all its joys and all its suffering. May we be filled with joy in asking: where is there a people to whom God is so close as our God is to us? So close that He is one of us, touches us from within. Yes, he enters me in the holy Eucharist and transforms me!          -Fr. Fernandes

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