Most people have experienced occasions in life when they have felt powerless and unable to change difficult circumstances. The feeling of helplessness is a common human experience. It can paralyze and make us believe that God does not care about us. We pray for the situation to change, and nothing seems to happen. When we feel vulnerable, weak and ineffective, the situation often is made worse because we also feel completely alone, abandoned by God.
But the Easter season is a time when we remember that we will rise again. The core principle of our faith is that Jesus Christ died for our sins but was raised from the dead by his heavenly Father and that we, too, one day will rise again from despair, frustration, and loss. We will rise again both to eternal life and to more abundant life now because of our faith. The fundamental belief Christians cherish is that our Father loves us unconditionally and is our most ardent and consistent supporter. That reality can sustain us through the often distressing feelings of helplessness.
To the extent we choose to accept that love and refuse to be mastered by despair and the negative thoughts that can envelop us in a cloud of darkness, we will be vested with a new sense of power and control in our lives. This is what it means to be empowered by our faith. This is what it means to be freed by our faith. The power and freedom comes from the deepest recognition and courageous choice to hold on to the undeniable truth that no circumstance or situation—no matter how bleak—is impossible for God. As Saint Paul wrote, God is able to accomplish infinitely more than we could ever have hoped for or imagined (Ephesians 3:20). His power fills our weakness. His glory heals our hopelessness.
In our current message series for the season of Easter called, To Be Continued: Fearless Evangelization, we want to equip and prepare you to bring this healing message of Christ to the world through the ordinary means of your life, including your own particular gifts and strengths. One of those means that often is overlooked is the effect we have on other people when we connect with them in some meaningful way.
Maybe you’ve never thought of yourself as a person of influence, but your behavior can have a significant ripple effect in the sea of humanity when you invest in the people around you. It’s a simple matter of connection. When you reach out to others and gather them into your orbit through encouragement, recognition, service, spiritual friendship, or a simple invitation to share your life with them in some way, you are demonstrating the power and freedom of life in Jesus Christ.
Listen to our message this Sunday live or online at www.stbrendanparish.org to learn how you can be the access point for others to live more fully, freely, and powerfully in Christ.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
On the pilgrimage to Rome I led a few years ago, our group visited an ancient basilica dedicated to Saint Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. Commonly known as Santo Stefano Rotondo, this unusual church in the round is decorated with 36 scenes of martyrdom, depicting dozens of macabre scenes typical of the grisly deaths many of the early Christians suffered at the hands of their cruel persecutors. The graphic murals portray martyrs being flayed, boiled, vivisected, roasted, crucified, and buried alive.
The first conflicts between Christians and government authorities began almost immediately after the death of Christ. At first, they were persecuted by Jews. Many of them believed that the Roman occupation of Palestine was the direct result of the people’s unfaithfulness, and Christianity was seen as an heretical sect of Judaism that needed to be stamped out in order to protect the nation. Christians ironically sought refuge under the wing of the Roman authorities.
Soon, however, it was the Roman emperors themselves who began ordering systematic persecutions of the followers of Christ, beginning with Nero and Domitian in the first century, Marcus Aurelius and Septimius Severus in the second century, and Decius and Diocletian in the third. Christians were charged with being “atheists” for worshiping an invisible god, objecting to military service, and dishonoring the Roman pantheon by refusing to attend civic events at which sacrifices were offered to the gods and incense was burned before a statue of the emperor.
Indeed, suffering, persecution, and martyrdom have been consistent themes throughout Christianity. In the second reading today, Christ is glorified for the suffering he endured. In the first reading from the Book of Acts, the apostles rejoiced that they had been found worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ. In the gospel reading, Jesus pulled Peter aside and told him that, one day, he would be led somewhere he would “not want to go.” Forced to “stretch out [his] hands,” Peter also would have the honor of suffering crucifixion for the glory of God (John 21:1-19).
As with Peter, we too give witness to Christ by how nobly we endure persecution and suffering in his name. Far from damaging our faith, the blood of the martyrs and the brave model of perseverance demonstrated by Christians throughout the ages have been its seedbed. The many exemplary deaths of Christians have moved many who witnessed or heard of them to join their ranks and encouraged the rapid spread of the faith around the world. Just as the disciples could not be silenced, even in the face of persecution and danger, we also are encouraged to stand up courageously for the faith in our own times.
Learn how to evangelize and inspire others by continuing the grit our Christian forefathers once demonstrated. Listen live or online to this Sunday’s episode of our Easter message series, To Be Continued: Fearless Evangelization.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Way back in September, our parish began a year of reflection on the healing power of Christ and our need for spiritual wellness. Through our various message series and bulletin articles, we’ve tried to offer support and advice to help you assess and increase your spiritual health quotient. All through this year since early September, we’ve been working together on spiritual healing and improving our overall sense of well-being through faith.
We began the year with a message series called Holy Triage. There, we looked at our need for healing by considering a number of spiritual problem areas that can fester in our lives. Then, we looked at ways that we can bring God’s healing, light, and love to our own neighbors and neighborhoods in a series we called, Next Door: The Art of Neighboring.
During the Christmas season we talked about how to bring comfort and healing to our families during the holidays in a series called, Family Matters: Bring Home The Hygge. We kicked off the New Year on a positive note with a series called, Spiritual Life Hacks, where we examined simple spiritual tweaks that could improve our everyday lives.
In our series just before Lent called, Spin Doctoring, we thought about how to work through life’s setbacks in a healthy and constructive way by turning our negatives into positives. Our Lenten series, Bare Necessities, helped us to cut back, trim down, simplify, and de-stress our lives by learning to be satisfied with what God already provides us.
Now in this final series of the regular preaching season, that we’ve been calling, To Be Continued: Fearless Evangelization, we’ll be learning how to keep the ball rolling by doing what so many Christians dread to do—hand on the healing power of faith to others. Our desire is to show you how marshaling the strengths you already have can be an incredibly effective way of bringing the message of Christ to the world. The point of the series is to help you continue the healing that hopefully you have experienced in your life over the course of this year by passing it on to others.
In last week’s message, we told you that the most honest, straightforward, and effective way of communicating the message of Christ to other people is by living your own life truthfully, sincerely, authentically. When others see the happiness and freedom you enjoy when you become the true you God envisioned, his glory will be manifest and others will be drawn to do the same.
This week, we consider a rather unexpected way of evangelizing others. It’s a method that will reap incredible fruit, not only for those who hear the message but for you personally. Listen live at church on Sunday or online by scrolling to the top of this page to discover this unique and powerful tool for spreading the message of Christ.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Easter Sunday marks the beginning of our brand new message series that we’re calling, To Be Continued: Fearless Evangelization. In this Year of Healing and Spiritual Wellness at Saint Brendan, we’ve been reflecting on the healing power of Christ. Through our various message series and bulletin articles, we’ve tried to offer support and advice to help you assess and increase your spiritual health quotient and overall sense of well-being.
As Easter begins, we now want you to think about bringing to the wider world whatever healing and growth in wellness you have experienced this year. Like the Apostles after the resurrection of Christ, we want to help you “continue” those spiritual health-giving effects in the lives of your loved ones and other people around you. In this new series, we’ll be learning how to keep the ball rolling by doing what so many Christians dread to do—hand on the healing power of faith.
No need to pump your brakes here. Whether you’re a lover, a socialite, a tortured introvert, a forgiving and understanding individual, or all-around holy person, this series is for you. In fact, we’ll be learning how to marshall all of those strengths to bring the message of Christ to the world and use words only if absolutely necessary! You will learn how to fearlessly evangelize, but to do it from your own comfort zone.
Check out our homily guide on the next page for the first episode. If you missed our live message, you always can listen to it at www.stbrendanparish.org.
We’re also going to encourage you again to consider trying out a small group. There’s no safer place to test drive how it feels to share your faith and pass it on to other people. As Catholics, we too often believe that only a priest or religious sister or brother has anything of spiritual value to offer. But in truth, all of us can learn from each other.
Faith is not exclusively—or even mostly—about dogmas and doctrine. Spirituality is a lived experience, and we all live it differently. In fact, that’s the very definition of discipleship: faith put into action. Hearing stories of how other people are impacted by the message of Jesus can help you continue that message yourself. You’ll never be put on the spot or asked to speak in a small group. But over time, you’ll begin to trust your other small group members and feel comfortable sharing. We have almost twenty active, thriving groups meeting regularly. From bible studies, to the fundamentals of the Christian faith, to Marian devotions, there’s a group for every type of person.
Lives are being changed in our small groups. Be fearless and check it out. There’s never an obligation to continue in a group, only to continue the faith!
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Over the last five weeks of our Lenten message series that we have been calling, Bare Necessities: Getting Back To Basics, we’ve been exploring how God provides for us and his providence, whatever that turns out to be in our lives, is truly enough for us. The series has been about cutting back, slowing down, simplifying, and relaxing with the assurance that God ultimately takes care of us and gives us everything we need.
Each week, we discovered a new gift that God provides us free of charge:
Today on Palm Sunday, Christians around the world reflect on Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, followed all too soon by his public arrest, humiliation, and crucifixion. In the course of those events, the disciples were fed and promptly fell asleep! They were protected from the worst of the atrocities, while in his darkest hour Jesus clung to his Father, who three days later led him to the dawn of a new beginning for all humanity. The bare necessities were enough for Jesus and his followers.
As his disciples, we can strengthen others by offering them these same gifts on behalf of God:
Listen to our weekend message to fill in the blanks!
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
In this week of our message series, the Bare Necessities: Getting Back To Basics, we shall look at how God makes all things new for His faithful Children.
As the prophet Isaiah wrote: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (43:18-19).
Sometimes God wants to do something “new,” and yet we are still stuck in the “old.” It is hard at times to let go of what is familiar, and what we know. It seems easier to stay comfortable to just keep going with the flow, not to mess anything up.
For those who like change, “new” is mostly exciting. For those who don’t like change, “new” is mostly stressful. But here is what I love about God. He thinks and works outside our own box of
thinking. He doesn’t always work in the ways that we would have chosen for our “new.” God sees the big picture. He knows what He is doing. He works behind the scenes of our life that unfold our everyday in the places where we can’t always see or understand all the “why’s.”
People move, life happens, decisions are made, many change jobs, kids grow up, and there are times we might go through some really tough struggles. We may even start to feel cheated, like life is unfair. But it still breathes the truth: God is not finished with our lives yet. You are still here and He has great purpose in all that you walk through, even in every life change and season.
New is one of God’s promises to us, and we know that all of his promises are fulfilled in Jesus Christ (See 2 Corinthians 1:20). As believers, our hope ultimately rests in the promise that Christ will come back for us one day and make all things new.
God makes things new because:
Listen to our weekend message to fill in the blanks and believe that God will do something new when we get back to the basics of our lives.
--Father Celestine Tyowua, Pastor
In our current message series called, Bare Necessities, we’ve been exploring the many ways that God provides for us. The premise of the series is that we already have enough of everything and all we really need are the bare necessities that God gives us.
Two weeks ago, we looked at how God gives us sacred sleep, providing time and space for rest, peace, and renewal, so that he can re-create us again and again in his image and guide us to new beginnings. Last week, we saw how God gives us divine protection when we trust in him. Like the ancient Israelites who were freed from slavery, led into the promised land under the protection of a heavy cloud, and nurtured by the Lord like a gardener who cultivates a precious plant, he also fortifies and shields us from the many harms that we could not survive on our own.
This week, we consider how God gives us spiritual food, feeding us with finest wheat. Despite assertions to the contrary, the Earth actually provides enough nutrition to sustain a growing global population. Rather, it is human injustice that prevents the fair apportionment of the world’s goods to all who need them.
On the other hand, God provides not merely physical sustenance but also spiritual nourishment. What happens when that runs out? What happens when our sense of meaning dries up, when our relationships irreconcilably sour, when the one remaining thing that we thought would give us purpose and satisfaction in life is taken away without warning? How do we cope when once fertile ground becomes a desert and the promised land that seemed so stable begins to quake under our feet? Where do we turn when God does not provide?
The readings from the Bible at this weekend’s Mass teach us how to cope in those times. Here’s what we can learn:
Listen to our message to fill in the blanks and discover for yourself what to do when the spiritual food runs out.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
In our current message series, Bare Necessities, we have been trying to get back to the basics of our lives in relationship with God, thereby dealing considerably with the burdens of life. Today will shall consider putting our “Trust completely in God.”
Trust isn’t an easy thing to come by, but it’s one of the most important parts of our relationship with God. When times are tough and things aren’t going our way, that’s when we find it the most difficult to trust God. We doubt that God is going to come through for us, we lack faith in His promises, and we worry ourselves with endless thoughts about our future. God wants us to trust Him when we are having doubts and are unsure about what to do. He wants us to believe in His promises.
The main reason we should trust God is that He is worthy of our trust. Unlike men, He never lies and never fails to fulfill His promises. “God is not man that He should lie, nor a son of man that
He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19; Psalm 89:34). Unlike men, He has the power to bring to pass what He plans to do. Isaiah 14:24 tells us that “[t]he Lord Almighty has sworn, surely as I have planned, so it will stand.” Furthermore, His plans are perfect, holy and righteous, and He works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His holy purpose (Romans 8:28).
If we endeavor to know God through His word, we will see that He is worthy of our trust, and our trust in Him will grow daily. One of the most prominent themes of the scripture is to trust God, especially when it becomes difficult to do so. While we will experience unexpected hardships in our lives, it is crucial for our spiritual health that we continue trusting God, as the Bible encourages. Although not an easy feat, to trust in God could save you from an irredeemable decision you make in anger or sadness that could ruin your life. There are several passages in the Bible that encourage us to trust completely in God:
We can learn to trust God as we see how He has proven Himself to be trustworthy in our lives and the lives of others. In 1 Kings 8:56, we read, “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through His servant Moses.”
Let us go back to the basics in this period of Lent by trusting completely in GOD.
--Father Celestine Tyowua, Parochial Vicar
In the first episode of our new Sunday message series for Lent called, Bare Necessities: Getting Back To Basics, we explored the latest Swedish “it” word sweeping the globe. Lagum (“l-a-w-g-u-m”), as it’s known in nordic countries, essentially is a virtue of moderation and balance.
Like the Goldilocks principle of “not too little, not too much, but just right,” lagum can apply to many areas of life, according to a recent BBC article by Lola Åkerström. In food, it means moderation. In social settings, it suggests appropriateness. In interior décor, less is more. In health and wellbeing, lagum plays out as mindfulness. In lifestyle choices, it represents sustainability.
In every setting, however, lagum tells us when enough is enough. In fact, the premise of our new series is that all we really need to be happy and live healthy in this life are the bare necessities that God already gives us in his great love. But there is one area of life that most of us do get enough of, and that is sleep.
The following story is told by Terry Hershey in his series of articles on honoring what he calls “sanctuary space” and “sabbath moments” of rest:
Every day after school, the son of a well-known Rabbi would enter his house, place his backpack on the dining room table, leave the house through the back door and head into the woods behind the house.
At first, the Rabbi gave little thought to his son’s ritual. Until it continued, for days, and then for weeks. Every day, out into the woods for almost a half hour.
The Rabbi grew concerned. “My son,” he asked one day. “I notice that every day you leave our home to spend time in the woods. What is it you are doing there?”
“Oh papa,” the son replied. “There is no need to worry. I go into the woods to pray. It is in the woods that I can talk to God.”
“Oh,” the Rabbi said, clearly relieved. “But you should know that God is the same everywhere.”
“Yes, papa. I know that God is the same everywhere,” the son replied. “But, I am not.”
As Hershey puts it, the little boy knew instinctively that there is a special place for rest, renewal, creativity, meditation, quiet reflection, and sanctuary. Unlike the equally important realm of activity, productivity, and achievement, there is a rightful place where beauty, poetry, and dreams are born.
In both the gospel reading and the passage from the Old Testament, sleep plays a big part. Just before Jesus is transfigured before their eyes, the disciples were overcome by sleep. In the story from Genesis, Abram also fell into a deep sleep-like state just before God made a whole new covenant with him that would change the course of history forever.
Listen to our message this weekend to learn more about how spending time in the realm of sabbath rest and sacred sleep may be an inspired pathway to a new beginning in your life.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Today marks the beginning of a new message series for the season of Lent that we are calling, Bare Necessities: Getting Back to Basics. The premise of the series is that God will do everything for us when we have faith enough to return to the bare necessities in life.
The prevailing approach in our affluent society is to chase after the material pleasures, too often discovering only later that they do not really satisfy. By the end of the series, we hope to have inspired you to trim whatever excesses in life you experience by recognizing that God will do everything for you when you trust enough in him to provide. Indeed, the readings at the Sunday Masses during the Lenten season open our eyes to the most basic truth of our faith that faith in the generous providence of God to provide for us is the central and only path to happiness and fulfillment.
During the six weeks of Lent, for example, we hear stories in the Old Testament of how God rescued his people trapped in slavery, leading them out of that misery through the Red Sea, across the desert, and into a promised land flowing with milk and honey. Because God provides.
The readings from Saint Paul also highlight God’s care for the Israelite people and exhort us to regard everything in this world as mere “rubbish” compared to the gift that we have from our faith in Jesus Christ who emptied himself to save us. Because God provides.
The psalms in Lent reassure us that the angels in heaven will guard us, God will deliver us, and the Lord will answer those who call upon him (Psalm 91). We are invited to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” (Psalm 34), reminded that “the Lord has done great things for us,” and promised that God will “restore our fortunes.” Indeed, we may “go forth weeping, carrying the seed to be sown,” but we will “come back rejoicing” (Psalm 126). Because God provides.
The gospel readings tell of God’s great patience with us as the gardener carefully cultivates a fig tree, his forgiveness as a father forgives his prodigal son, his compassion with our sins as Jesus treated the woman caught in adultery, his unconditional approval of us as brothers and sisters of Jesus whom he called his “beloved Son,” and his unfailing care for us just as the Spirit strengthened Jesus himself in the desert. Because God provides.
Last Wednesday, ashes were imposed on your forehead with the words, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” When we turn back to God by trusting in him, getting back to basics, and stripping ourselves of life’s excesses, we are not going on a starvation diet and unreasonably denying ourselves of pleasure. Rather, we are discovering the simpler path to peace by enjoying the bare necessities in life.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson