By Kathy Coffey
It may be a shift to read the Gospels and feel discomfort. While the words and actions of Jesus enlighten, there is not an escape hatch. Conflict, tension, and frustration still plague believers. But we read the Gospels for one purpose: to know Jesus better — not for warm fuzzies, easy answers, or reinforcement of prejudices. Nor will we always encounter “Jesus, meek and mild.” He who threatened the cozy assumptions of his contemporaries may have the same effect on us. If we rely on the wrong supports like wealth (e.g. Luke 6:20, 24), prestige (e.g. Matthew 23:1-12), or religious rituals (e.g. Mark 2:27-28), he will challenge us, too.
Jesus questions many of the customs of his time — such as the subservient role of women and the authority of the Pharisees. In Real Presence: The Work of the Eucharist, Nathan Mitchell writes: “It is hard to believe [Jesus] was simply an early flower child who traipsed through the sunlit fields talking about lilies and love! Who would seek to arrest and execute such a sap?”
We may be uncomfortable with the Gospels’ storytelling if we want just the facts. We might prefer a precise blueprint or spreadsheet to rambling, inconsistent stories. But if we compare the Bible to our own complex, difficult life stories, we grow more comfortable with its mixed genres. We find links where the larger story of God intersects with our personal lives. So we reflect not only on Jesus’ and the Hebrews’ experience in the desert, but also on our own desert times. Wandering in the wilderness brings valuable insights we don’t learn in secure kitchens.
As much as we enjoy the intriguing connections, storytelling has its shortcomings. It is unscientific, subject to interpretation, and sometimes wildly inaccurate. Two people who attended the same party might tell radically different accounts. So, too, each Gospel writer has a different emphasis. Even within the Gospel of John, there are inconsistencies: “Jesus was deeply troubled (13:21),” but in the next chapter, Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled (14:1).” Those who enjoy stories listen beneath the words. Their primary interest is the meaning stories give our experiences.
We do not read the Gospels primarily for scientific accuracy or historical fact, but to follow Jesus better. We read through the lens of a human author who will sometimes shade, condense, or exaggerate. Sometimes we may also need to read biblical interpretation, but most important is our response. There’s an old saying: the Gospel gives the chapter headings; we write the texts in our lives.
The Gospels have been misused to incite guilt. Some people may need that stern correction to luxuriating while others starve. But many hard-working people are simply trying to survive, raise families, and do their jobs while being as generous as possible with their time and treasure. They certainly don’t need another guilt trip!
What we may find harder than guilt is the Gospel’s insistence on how splendid we are. Jesus walked among the diseased, smelly, and sweaty, and assured them that even in mourning, poverty, and persecution, they were blessed. Mired in our own problems, do we struggle with good news? Admittedly, the central message is hard to absorb. We, limited and flawed, are made in his divine image. Throughout the Gospels, the message recurs: You are not a slave. You are a friend and adopted child with an eternal inheritance — not condemned to futility and the finality of death.
About the Author: Kathy Coffey is an award-winning author, educator, mother, and grandmother. For many years, she has been a contributor to Bringing Home the Word. Check the latest issue at the link below.
Pastor’s Note: On behalf of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, we give thanks for our dear friend, Jody Cole of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, who allows us to use her beautiful icons in our weekly newsletter and online. This week, we feature a detail from Jody’s icon from the Face Not Made By Human Hands. For more information about Jody and her work, visit jcoleicons.com. Peace and blessings! — Father Jim
Sharing God’s Love
Spring Icon Retreat with Jody Cole
Begins Monday, May 2nd
An icon is a religious work of art that according to faith and tradition serves as a window into the spiritual world. In the Roman Catholic tradition, icons are sometimes referred to as the “Bible of the Poor” because throughout history, along with statuary and stained glass windows, they enabled those who could not read an opportunity to learn about the holy scriptures and the lives of the saints through sacred imagery.
In The Meaning of Icons, Thomas Merton writes: “It is the task of the iconographer to open our eyes to the actual presence of the Kingdom of God in the world, and to remind us that although we see nothing of its splendid liturgy, we are, if we believe in Christ the Redeemer, in fact living and worshipping as fellow citizens of the angels and saints, built upon the chief cornerstone with Christ.” In this way, icons are not objects of worship, but instruments of God’s grace in our world.
Jody Cole’s icons have appeared often on our website and on the cover of our weekly newsletter. Jody is a good friend, a person of deep faith, and a very talented iconographer. She has been “writing” icons for more than twenty years and she loves to share her craft with others. For five consecutive days, from Monday, May 2nd through Friday, May 6th, Jody will be here to lead us in a Spring Icon Retreat in Saint Ann Church Hall.
Each morning from 9:00am until 1:00pm, Jody will share the basic techniques of icon writing through hands-on experience. Guided by the Holy Spirit and Jody’s gifted instruction, participants will write (paint) their own icon of either Christ Jesus or the Blessed Mother in just twenty hours over five days. No prior art experience is necessary. Beginners are welcome. A donation of $150 per person is requested. Scholarships are available for those who cannot afford it. If you would like to participate in this exciting icon workshop, please contact Cliff Garvey at email@example.com. Space is limited to just ten participants!
Each evening (Monday through Thursday) at 6:00pm, all friends and fellow parishioners are invited to join Father Jim for Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours in Saint Ann Church Hall, followed by a brief reflection by Jody and a period of discussion and faith sharing. In addition, a gallery show of Jody’s icons will be on display for all to appreciate and enjoy. The evening session is free and open to all! For more information about our Spring Icon Retreat, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Jody’s website (see link below). Spread the word! Bring a friend! All are invited! All are welcome!
Welcome, Father Ben!
Our New Weekend Assistant
On behalf of Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish, Father Jim warmly welcomes Father Benjamin Madu to the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport as our new weekend assistant! Each week, Father Ben will join us as principal celebrant and homilist at one of our Sunday Masses!
Father Ben was ordained in July 2001 as a priest for the Diocese of Abakaliki in Nigeria. He earned an undergraduate degree in Philosophy; and graduate degrees in Theology, Education, and Criminology & Justice. In more than two decades of faithful priesthood, Father Ben has served as a parochial vicar, pastor, and hospital chaplain. He currently lives at Our Lady’s Parish in Lynnfield.
This Sunday, Father Ben will celebrate our 10:00am Mass in Saint Joachim Church; and next Sunday, he will celebrate our 8:15am Mass in Saint Ann Church. Let us join together in welcoming Father Ben to Cape Ann! Praise and thanks be to God for sending him to us!
Season of Lent
The Light Is On For You!
Wednesdays at 5:30pm
During the Holy Season of Lent, all Catholics are invited to experience God’s love and mercy through the Sacrament of Penance & Reconciliation (Confession). On five consecutive Wednesdays during Lent, March 9th through April 13th, all are invited to join us for The Light Is On For You! from 5:30pm until 7:00pm in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church. These special evenings of prayer will begin with the celebration of Holy Mass at 5:30pm; followed by Exposition and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at 6:00pm; and an hour of confessions for those who feel called to participate. For some, this may be a time for confession and sacramental reconciliation. For some, it may be a time for silent prayer and adoration. And for others, it may be a time to begin or renew the spiritual journey. Please note that there will be no confessions or adoration on Ash Wednesday, March 2nd. For more information, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Season of Lent
Way of the Cross
Fridays at 3:00pm
For more than five hundred years, the Stations of the Cross are one of the most enduring and moving traditional devotions of the Roman Catholic Church. By uniting our prayers with those of the suffering Christ through both word and imagery, we make a spiritual pilgrimage with our Lord as he experiences the Passion of the Cross. During Lent, all are invited to join the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in praying the Way of the Cross on six consecutive Friday afternoons, March 4th through April 8th, at 3:00pm in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church. For more information, please contact Father Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Our Pastor’s Message
Holy Family Parish
Grand Annual Collection
SPRING GOAL: $30,000
By Father Jim
Property insurance bills are up 17%. Gas and oil bills are up 35%. And electric bills are up an almost unbelievable 40%. Meanwhile, gifts and donations are down 13% from last year. All across the country and around the world, faith communities like ours are struggling to survive. Some are making ends meet, and some are not. But I don’t need to tell you about inflation because you already know all about it. Anyone who has stepped inside a grocery store knows these are challenging times.
On the bright side, our churches are open. Our young disciples are preparing for First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Babies are being baptized. Confessions are being heard. Funerals and weddings are being celebrated. Our sick and suffering brothers and sisters are being anointed. Our online ministries attract more than 2,000 visitors every week. And thanks to your ongoing generosity, our bills are paid and our budget is balanced as we enter the final quarter of the current fiscal year.
We are blessed by monthly rental payments from the City of Gloucester for Saint Ann School. This income, however, is being set aside for any emergency or necessary repairs that may be needed to our historic churches and church buildings. In addition, we should remember that our weekly offerings simply do not cover the costs of basic expenses and essential parish ministries like music, groundskeeping, and adult and youth faith formation. For these reasons, I need your help to raise $60,000 by the end of the fiscal year. Our goal right now is to raise $30,000 by Easter Sunday, April 17th. If every parish family gives $30 between now and then, we will reach our goal, balance our budget, and ensure the financial security of our parish.
Anyone who knows me knows that economy and thrift were taught to me at an early age. My parents worked day and night to provide for our family and make ends meet. Believe me, we are doing everything we can to control expenses. But the short and long-term financial stability of Holy Family Parish is in our hands. We are solely responsible for our own fundraising and for paying our own bills. The future of our parish depends on fellow parishioners like you and me.
All registered parish families have been sent a donation envelope by mail. At your earliest convenience, please give electronically; drop your gift in the collection basket during any weekend Mass; or mail it to Holy Family Parish, 74 Pleasant Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930. All checks should be made payable to Holy Family Parish. Please be sure to write HF Grand Annual in the memo line of your check. If you have questions or need more information, please see me before or after Mass; or contact me at email@example.com. Thank you in advance for your kind and generous support of Holy Family Parish! Peace and blessings to all!
Reverend James M. Achadinha, Pastor
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
Safe & Easy Electronic Giving
Blessed are the Givers
Electronic giving has become an essential component of parish support in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport; and it is available in both Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. It is safe and easy to make online donations to your home parish using a credit card, debit card, or electronic check.
Donations can be made on a weekly, monthly, or one-time-only basis; and it takes just a few minutes to set up a secure personal account. In additional to the weekly offering, you can also give electronically to our church restoration funds which helps us plan for the repair and maintenance of our beloved and historic churches.
During these challenging times, Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish need your support more than ever before! Please prayerfully consider enrolling in our ‘We Share!’ electronic giving program! For more information about setting up a new account or for assistance with your existing account, please contact Father Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your generous support for our parishes! May God bless you and your family, now and always!
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Working together as a Roman Catholic community united in prayer, fellowship, and service, we are committed to living the Gospel of Christ, sharing God’s love and mercy with all people, and rebuilding the Church in Gloucester & Rockport. All are invited! All are welcome! Always!
Follow us on Twitter: @CCGRonline
This Week’s Homepage
In Memory of Father Martin O’Connor