Saint Paul’s exhortation in the second reading “to be united in the same mind and in the same purpose” should prick the conscience of every Christian. As I write this article on the birthday of the late civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and on the Monday of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, I am painfully reminded of the many divisions still lingering among us.
Racial hostility mounts long after the civil rights movement declared success. Religious differences even now separate believers. Political views on gun control, class warfare, criminal justice, and a host of other controversial issues fuel endless rancorous debates. Gender inequality persists, and enormous gulfs between mainstream and marginalized groups continue to widen.
Intergenerational friction is just the latest sore spot to emerge in the identity politics of our day. The clash between generations runs deep. According to a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, much of the conflict can be traced to economic policies that have stifled the upward mobility of younger generations, making it harder for them to get a job, save money, or find affordable housing (Jan. 18-19, 2019, A13).
A similar tension runs along the generational fault line in many churches as well. Young leaders filled with gospel energy agitate for changes that often rankle older parishioners who prefer stability. New programs and innovative technologies also can unnerve senior members and make them feel left out of the very churches they worked so hard to build.
A few years ago on retreat, our own staff discovered that two key demographics coexist in our parish, and they are sometimes at odds. “Brendan, Jr.” and “Brendan Sr.,” as we lovingly call them, have different needs and interests. We came to realize that, although change is vital for a ministry’s long term health and growth, we must never forget the past or the rich spiritual legacy of men and women who have invested their lives in this parish over the years and have been serving God long before we were born.
In his book, Liquid Church, Tim Lucas argues that intergenerational ministry is one of the most critical opportunities for the sustained growth in ministry today. “Every generation—builders, boomers, gen X, millennials, gen Z—young and old, coming together and merging streams,” he says, will “create a powerful river that flows with new life and gospel vitality” (Zondervan 2019, 167). At St. Brendan, we are blessed with both thriving Under 5’s and Over 50’s groups. Over the next few months, I hope to explore ways for the multiple generations in our parish to work hand in hand.
This week’s episode of our new message series called, Common Sense, considers how the teachings of Christ have served to unify people across cultures, nationalities, races, and other seemingly unbridgeable divides. Join us Sunday for a dose of renewed hope in a divisive world.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
In a recent sermon, Tim Lucas, pastor of one of the fastest growing upstart churches in the nation, bellowed out to the congregation of his Liquid Church, “Nones are done with the church!” Referring to the group of people who check off the box “None of the above” on religious affiliation surveys, Lucas insisted that their decision to opt-out of organized religion had nothing to do with a lack of spiritual hunger or desire for God in general, but frustration with the structure and specifics of the Christian religion.
Forty percent of millennials fall into the so-called “none” category, compared to only 17 percent of the baby boomer generation, and a recent article in the Wall Street Journal showed how this generation gap is thrown into sharp relief at Christmas when multiple generations in the same family celebrate the holidays together.
According to the article, a recent Pew Research Center survey found that about half of baby boomers attend religious services at least once a month, while 40 percent of millennials seldom or never attend. Slightly more than half (52%) of boomers consider Christmas a religious holiday, compared with only 32 percent of millennials. As a result, parents often feel rejected when their invitations to attend church on Christmas are turned down by their adult children, who in turn feel put upon and coerced when such expectations from parents seem to be expressed too pointedly.
Indeed, the article reported that many adult children dread a confrontation with their parents over the holidays about going to church services. One University of Oregon campus minister, Brandi Miller, often finds herself counseling students on this very issue. “There’s a perception that at the holidays everyone has to be happy, joyful, and thankful,” she said, “which makes things like doubt and politics feel very dissident.” Indeed, I regularly hear from parents at Saint Brendan who feel alienated by their adult children when it comes to practice of the Catholic religion.
In an age of skepticism about the Christian faith and widespread anger against the Church for its shortcomings and betrayals of trust, sifting through the actual facts of Christianity could bring a glimmer of hope. That’s why we’re beginning a brand, new message series today that we are calling, Common Sense. Over the next six weeks, we’ll explore some of the reasons why Christianity just makes sense. As we’ll point out, the substantive results of Jesus’ ministry and the legacy his teachings have left in the world speak volumes as reasons to trust and believe.
Join us in church live or online each Sunday for this series, as we reveal the reasons why Christianity actually is completely sensible.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
 Clare Anberry, Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2019, A11.
It’s been a season of miracles. Over the last six weeks, we’ve been learning the truth about them in our message series called, Expect Miracles. God created the universe and formed it with love to sustain life. He set the laws of physics in motion to ensure order and stability. Yet, every once in a while he violates those laws, setting them aside in order to work a bona fide miracle for the purpose of getting our attention, deepening our faith, or showing us the way back to him.
But the real hope of miracles is not so much the discrete acts God works from time to time; rather it is in the fact that the Creator chooses to relate personally and individually to us by intervening directly in our lives. To be certain, only a small percentage of people will ever experience an extraordinary miracle like an inexplicable healing from a fatal disease or some other strange occurrence that seems to defy both logic and scientific understanding.
But nearly everyone can experience the ordinary, everyday miracle of God’s loving presence when he speaks to us internally and guides us on our spiritual journey. The only prerequisite is remaining open to his involvement by:
In the final installment of our message series today, we look at the last and most important miracle of all. It’s a miracle that the human race almost completely destroyed. Through sin, disobedience, and outright rebellion, the perfect beauty of God’s image imprinted on the human soul from the beginning became marred beyond recognition. Some say that we actually obliterated the glory of God reflected in our own person, such that nothing of it remains. In this view, we have been become “totally depraved.”
The Catholic belief, on the other hand, is different. The divine aspect woven seamlessly into our very being was certainly disfigured, damaged, and diminished, but not destroyed. A tiny vestige of the divine remains within us, a small measure of goodness that God chooses to redeem. As such, “grace builds upon nature,” as the medieval scholastic St. Thomas Aquinas claimed, and the original perfection of the human person infused by the breath of God in creation is ultimately salvageable. In other words, despite our fall we remain a true miracle and the greatest one of all.
Join us this weekend as we learn to harness with faith the one quintessential human quality that no machine could ever replace and no sin could ever fully extinguish.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Epiphany, or the three king’s day, traditionally the 12th day of Christmas, celebrates the day that the Magi came to visit the Baby Jesus. Epiphany celebrates the new light that has come for all people. We gather to experience this light, this hope, this new miracle and peace together as we start the New year, pausing to rest and reflect and experience something new after waiting for miracles from God.
In his baptism, Jesus’ Sonship to God was manifested to the world; in the visit of the wise men, he was manifested as king to the gentiles; and at the wedding feast in Cana, his power to perform miracles which is a divine prerogative was shown.
In this series we have expected miracles, worked and prepared for miracles and waited for miracles. Now, we are to experience the miracles of the Epiphany.
Don’t you just love all the wonderful miracles God is doing in your life every day? Some may think: “What miracles? What are you talking about?” Many people who hear the word “miracle” tend to think of some “extra-ordinary” activity of God, which defies the laws of nature. They think of something special, not necessarily the hum-drum, ho-hum, boredom stuff that we go through each day. Such a limited understanding causes many to ask: What miracles did God do in my life today?
The Epiphany as the manifestation of Christ to the Non-Jewish people is the:
The feast of the Epiphany is an important reminder that the journey of faith continues. We continue to follow the light of Christ as we progress more deeply in our relationship with God. This period of time between Christmas and Epiphany is an important time to cherish that journey. Now that the excitement and anticipation of Christmas has settled, we can take this quiet time to praise God, to revere his Son, and to ask the Spirit to help us follow God’s will in a better way in the coming year.
Let God manifest himself in our hearts; let us be still so that we may discover what God wishes to reveal to us this season. Let us follow the example of the Magi and do whatever we must to find Jesus and do him homage, as we continue to experience his miracles in a new beginning.
—Fr. Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
Father Roger Gustafson