Lincoln’s Log 7-4-2021

Expectant Faith

Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you.
Ezekiel 2:4

[Jesus] was amazed at their lack of faith.
Mk. 6:6

Last week, we heard the story of two people of faith: Jairus, the synagogue official, and the woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for 12 years (Mk. 5:21-43). They both received healing (in Jairus’ case, his daughter was raised from the dead), because of their faith.

To Jairus, Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk. 5:36b).

To the woman with the hemorrhages he said, “Daughter, your faith has saved you” (Mk. 5:34).

These two people expected Jesus to do something in their lives. They expected Jesus to change things. They had expectant faith. They believed Jesus could and would help them.

Today’s Gospel tells a different story.

Jesus is in his hometown. He has just raised Jairus’s daughter to life. His power hasn’t changed. His ability to heal hasn’t gone away. He is still the Son of God who has come to establish God’s Kingdom.

Yet “he was not able to perform any mighty deed there” (Mk 6:5a).

Why? What is different?

The people of his hometown don’t expect Jesus to be able to do anything. They think they know Him. They know what He can and can’t do. Some things are just impossible for this local guy from Nazareth.

We do the same thing. We let our idea of the impossible swallow our faith. We don’t expect much from Jesus. Sure, we believe that Jesus can work miracles (in theory), but we know how the world works. We know what is impossible. Jesus can’t solve our family problems; that’s impossible. Jesus can’t heal the divisions in our nation; that’s impossible. Jesus’ can’t heal my illness; that’s impossible. Jesus can’t solve my financial problems; that’s impossible.

And so it is. Our hard hearts can shut out the gifts Jesus longs to give us. But what could happen if we expected Jesus to do something?

Ask Jairus. Ask the healed woman. They can tell us what is possible. They can show us what to expect.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 2-28-2021

Growing in Trust

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Rm. 8:31b

“How deeply do you believe that since God is for you, no one can destroy you?”
Question of the Week

In the story of the Transfiguration we hear of a powerful encounter with God. A few disciples travel with Jesus to a grand mountain vista. There, before their eyes Jesus begins to glow with a radiant light. Ancient prophets appear with Him and a voice booms from heaven declaring Jesus, “My beloved Son.” Wow!

How would you react if you were one of those disciples?

Mark tells us that the disciples were “terrified” (Mk. 9:6). The whole scene was overwhelming. The disciples didn’t know how to respond.

And suddenly, it was over. The disciples look around and there is no one else there, “but Jesus alone with them.”

As they come down the mountain and return to their lives, the questions keep coming. What does this mean? Jesus “charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mk. 9:9). They don’t even understand what Jesus was talking about but are questioning in their hearts “what rising from the dead meant” (Mk. 9:10).

This powerful encounter with God didn’t provide the disciples with answers. It spurred them to deeper questions. The mystery of God’s love for them in Jesus didn’t come all at once. It was only after the resurrection that the meaning of Jesus’ transfiguration began to become clear to these disciples. It took time for them to trust what had been said to them in that powerful mountaintop experience. They had to grow in their ability to trust Jesus, even though it had been revealed to them.

We all make a similar journey. We know that God loves us. We have heard the Gospel and we celebrate it week after week in our walk with the Lord. Yet, like the disciples we need to grow in our ability to trust. Every morning we open our eyes, every disaster averted, every prayer answered, every experience of forgiveness, generosity, or love reveals the trustworthiness of the Lord. We trust a little more. Some days are better than others. Some experiences challenge our ability to trust and others make the Lord’s steadfast love clear.

This week we explore the heart of that trust with our question, “How deeply do you believe that since God is for you, no one can destroy you?”

Pray with the question. Share it with others. Ponder it in your heart. It can lead you to deeper trust if you allow it.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 9-27-2020

New Beginnings!

 

“Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus.”
Phil 2:5

“The one who does not advance falls back.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux

This weekend we celebrate the sacraments in a powerful way. The Kopke family begins anew as Shawn receives the gift of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation while his daughter Addison celebrates her first Communion. Maria Harland also celebrates sacraments as she is Confirmed and receives her First Communion alongside her son Grayson. Stephanie Potter will also celebrate Confirmation and First Communion. These adults had been preparing to receive these sacraments at Easter this year, but COVID-19 prevented that, but now is the time for this new beginning for them!

These sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist are called sacraments of initiation because they are a new beginning in the life of grace. Each time we engage in the celebration of the Eucharist, we begin again. Our spiritual life circles back again and again to this central sacrament which is a source of grace for our life in the Spirit. The Eucharist is ever ancient and ever new. Sometimes, like during a pandemic, the celebration of the Eucharist looks different, but the deep structures and the grace of the sacrament are the same.

As a parish, we are also at a new beginning. Our new Discipleship Formation process (formerly called Faith Formation) is kicking off. This new process will empower each of us to advance as followers of Jesus. A lot of things are going to be new. We will be using new technology to proclaim and share the gospel. Our calendar will look very different. But the deep structures are the same. We will be focusing on the Word of God and our relationship with Jesus and those around us. Please join us on Oct. 7 at 6:15 pm either in person (in church) or on our Facebook page as we strive to begin anew as disciples of Jesus.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 9-13-2020

Seven Streams of Discipleship Formation Part 1

“If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
Psalm 95:8

God’s invitation never ceases. He is calling each of us to deeper discipleship every moment of every day. But what does that mean? This year our discipleship formation process is focusing on seven streams of discipleship that flow from the heart of Jesus (see Jn. 37:37-38). We are planning some creative new ways to engage these themes (stay tuned), but today I wanted to let you know what these themes are. We will explore one of these themes each month. Here are the first themes we will be exploring:

October – A disciple… drinks from the streams of living water that flow from the heart of Jesus.

November – A disciple … Lives a compassionate life. They seek justice, compassion, and peace in every area of life from the personal to the social to the global. The activities of a disciple are motivated by the love of God and neighbor Jesus’ taught (Cf. Mk. 12:31). Disciples work to bring all relationships into harmony, unity, and balance.

December – A disciple … Lives a prayer-filled life. They are continually drawn into the love of God. A disciple values the inner life, especially silence, solitude, and prayer.

January – A disciple … Lives a sacramental life. They recognize that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn. 1:14). They live in a God-soaked world and strive to see the divine presence in the material world. A disciple shares in the sacraments of the church and sees them as primary ways of encountering God.

Next week I’ll share the themes for the rest of the year!

Our whole parish will be drinking from these streams together each month. For families, we will have an orientation for parents on Wednesday, September 23 at 6:15 pm in the church to give an overview of the year.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Lincoln’s Log 8-23-2020

Discipleship Formation for Everyone

Jesus said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Mk. 10:14

A lot has been happening over the summer months at St. Thomas More. Our Faith Formation department has been restructured as the Missionary Discipleship Team. There are familiar faces, Emily Shackleton and Wendy Fischer, as well as some new faces, Andy Chmura and Greg Mohr. You might recognize Greg from his work with Sunday Masses, but now his focus is Missionary Discipleship. These shifts were beginning to happen before the Pandemic, but are now in place as we begin a new year.

This year of Discipleship Formation (formerly called Faith Formation) will look very different from previous years. The Pandemic has forced us to rethink everything we do. We recognize that we are all under a great deal of stress so we wanted to make our process this year very simple and gentle for everyone… and we mean everyone. We are inviting every member of our community to take part in discipleship formation.

We are focusing on four key skills for individuals and families:

  1. To use the bible as individuals and as a family
  2. To pray regularly as an individual and as families
  3. To share a meaningful meal together with someone regularly (as families if possible)
  4. To have faith sharing conversations (as families if possible)

We will be developing these skills through exploring eight key discipleship themes (one each month) which will bring us closer to the heart of Jesus and return us to the foundations of our faith. Stay tuned for more information and see how you can grow this year through Discipleship Formation.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln
Parish Pastoral Leader

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 4-12-2020

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”

Psalm 118:24

“There is an empty tomb in Jerusalem, and it cannot be silenced.”

Discipleship Quad Guidebook p. 49

Alleluia! Christ is risen. It is a message that sounds different during this time of pandemic. Everything seems out of sorts and upside down. We are forced to ask ourselves, “What does Easter mean at a time such as this? How can we sing anything other than mournful songs? How can we sing Easter joy when there is so much suffering and death around us?”

These questions drive us deep into the heart of faith. They take us to the place in our hearts where despair lurks, where hope is challenged by experience, where doubt meets faith. These questions take us to the empty tomb.

The empty tomb is a silent witness to the resurrection. It points to the resurrection with confidence, but it doesn’t force belief. It invites, but does not coerce.

The unyielding presence of the empty tomb is a fact that inserts itself into our mind. It drives us to think about the possibilities. It invites us to encounter a life beyond death. The empty tomb witnesses to a new life beyond the grave. It reveals a love that exists beyond the death and suffering of this present world.

This nagging fact of the empty tomb invites our hearts to trust; to trust in love beyond death. This is faith, But the faith of the empty tomb isn’t a naive faith that denies the reality of illness and death. No, it is a faith that enters fully into the reality of death, but finds a more profound life beyond deaths limits. The empty tomb sings a song of joy, not because it hasn’t experienced death, but because it has seen death conquered!

Our Alleluia this Easter is born in the experience of suffering, just as the first Alleluia was born of the suffering of the cross. Our songs echo the song of the empty tomb, daring to sing in the midst of death. Our faith has grown and our life has changed through this encounter with the empty tomb. We are more mature. Our faith is deeper. We have begun to learn the lesson of the empty tomb.

Alleluia!

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln

Parish Pastoral Leader

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 3-26-17

Image from Pixabay“When Jesus heard that they had thrown him [the man born blind] out, he found him and said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered and said, ‘Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he.’ He said, ‘I do believe, Lord,’ and he worshiped him.”
Jn. 9:35-38

Faith is a gift.

The story of the man born blind, at its roots, is a story of coming to faith. At the beginning of the story, the man cannot see. Jesus heals his physical blindness which begins the process of healing a deeper blindness. As the blind man encounters persecution, he comes to see who Jesus really is. First, he sees Jesus as a healer, then a prophet, and finally, when Jesus reveals Himself, as the promised Son of Man. The Lord has healed his “inner eye.”

The man who was blind can now see with the eyes of faith.

The Pharisees follow the opposite path. They begin physically able to see. But as the story progresses they reveal the blindness of their own “inner eye.” A miracle has happened, yet they cannot recognize it for what it is. Nor can they recognize Jesus for who He is. No proof is enough for them because they lack faith. Any explanation will do except the recognition that Jesus is the Son of Man who has been promised. They will continue to persecute those who see what they cannot. Their faith is dead even though Jesus is standing right in front of them.

During lent, we are called to deepen our faith. Jesus reveals Himself to us in the Scriptures and in the Sacraments. Indeed, our entire lives can open us to believe in Jesus. We pray that our “inner eye” will be opened and Jesus will reveal Himself to us in new ways.

Beg the Lord for the gift of faith. He will empower you to believe. Like the man born blind, it may take adversity to open our “inner eye” to see the truth of who Jesus is. If we persevere, we will see.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

 

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 2-5-17

questions-1922477_640

“Thus says the LORD: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.”
Is. 58:7-10

“…your good deeds must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Mt. 5:16

There are times when the world appears to be falling apart. For many people, this is one of those times. Writing nearly 15 years ago, Sr. Joan Chittister wrote,

The world is getting smaller, they tell us, but we know that it is also getting to be more than that. It is getting infinitely more confusing, infinitely more uncontrollable at the same time. We are now a people whose children are born in one state, educated in another, employed in a third, retired in a fourth, and buried in a fifth. We are people who wear clothes made in one nation, eat food grown in another, and work for someone who is a citizen of a third. We are a people who travel the world and take it for granted. We are a globe on which some of the largest economies in the world are corporations, not nations. We are people born in a white, Western Christian culture that we watch become more brown, more Eastern, more polyvalent every day (Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope).

This statement is even truer today.

How do we live in this bewildering world?

It’s not rocket science. “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own” (Is. 58:7-10). We are called to live in this constantly changing world with gentleness and peace. The beatitudes (Mt. 5:1-12) are our guide. No matter how perplexing the situation is, we are called to live as disciples of Jesus, giving and receiving love.

This gives us a starting point to engage our culture. When we are confronted with new situations we can look to the guidance of Jesus through the teaching of the church. During these changing times, it is more important than ever to stay rooted in prayer. Being a disciple does not make life easier, but it does help us find clarity in the midst of constant change.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 1-22-17

path-in-the-forest

“Jesus called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.”

Mt. 4:22

“As members of the Church, Jesus calls us to be disciples. This has astonishing implications:

  • Mature disciples make a conscious decision to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost.
  • Christian disciples experience conversion – life-shaping changes of mind and heart – and commit their very selves to the Lord.
  • Christian stewards respond in a particular way to the call to be a disciple. Stewardship has the power to shape and mold our understanding of our lives and the way in which we live.” (from Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response)

Each one of us has been called by Jesus. Following that call, we enter onto the same path that Peter, Andrew, James, and John began in today’s Gospel. It is the path of discipleship. The path is filled with joy and sorrow, loss and recovery, healing and pain. Today’s Gospel highlights a particular pattern we all encounter on this path of discipleship: leaving and following.

Peter and the others left their boats and their father. Their jobs and their families were less important than following Jesus! Our own path as disciples also entails leaving. Each of us leaves behind whatever it is that gets in the way of following Jesus: our ego, our pride, our greed…. We leave it behind and take the next step as disciples.

And those steps, like Peter, Andrew, James, and John’s steps, lead us down a path filled with generosity and sacrifice. ““Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Mt. 16:24). The early disciples were often confused about what Jesus was asking of them, but it was always clear that His call was to generously serve the “little ones” (see Mt. 25).

Our call is the same. How are we following the Lord?

You received a stewardship flyer in the mail recently. It is an opportunity to respond to Jesus call to sacrificial service and generosity. Take some time to complete the flyer and return it to the parish. God calls us together to follow Jesus.

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood

Deacon Lincoln’s Log 1-15-17

Sala capitolare di s. felicita, volta con virtù di di niccolò gerini, 1390 ca. fedeBy Sailko (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…”
1 Cor. 1:1

‘You did not choose me,’ Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I chose you.’ This affronts our ego because we like to be in charge of our own choices. But finding a spiritual teacher is not like signing up for a course at college. The Christian disciple feels he or she has been chosen and has given their consent to this calling.
Laurence Freeman, First Sight: The Experience of Faith

This weekend we transition from the Christmas season to the season of Ordinary Time. Ordinary time is a time to reflect on our call to be disciples of Jesus. Today’s readings highlight God’s call  to discipleship and ask us for our response.

St. Paul had a powerful experience of being called on the road to Emmaus (see Acts 9). He knew that he was responding to God’s call.  He was “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God… “ (1 Cor. 1:1) and he responded with deeper faith every day.

John the baptist recognized his call when he saw “the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon [Jesus]” (Jn. 1:33). His response deepened from being a prophet, to being a witness, to being a martyr. John responded with greater fidelity each day to the Lord’s invitation to discipleship.

Sometimes we think that we have chosen to follow Jesus. We decide to follow Jesus. We can even take pride in this. “Surely Jesus appreciates having such a great disciple as me” we think to ourselves. But the truth is that, like Paul and John and every disciple, we do not choose Jesus, we simply respond to His call.

Ordinary time reminds us of that call. Jesus’ call comes to us at every moment. He invites us to deeper love of God. He summons us to deeper service of our neighbor. He asks us to love even our enemy.

How will you respond to Jesus’ call today?

Peace,

Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood