Father's Corner

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Belief and Unbelief

03-30-2014Father's CornerFr. Chris Axline

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today’s Gospel about the man cured of his blindness we see the struggle between belief and unbelief, the expected and the unexpected as Jesus performs an extraordinary miracle. On the one hand we have this man miraculously cured of his blindness by Christ, and on the other, we have the Pharisees. The Pharisees doubt Jesus’ power because they see God only as they want to see Him, rather than as He truly is.

Too often we act more like the Pharisees than the blind man. We refuse to see God working right in front of us because it is not the way we want God to work. Like the Pharisees, we become comfortable with the systems, institutions, and rules we put before us so that when God does something “outside the box” we react with doubt and disbelief, ridiculing the ones who bring us God’s message. This was the struggle of the Pharisees; they confused the message with the messenger. Because of their own expectations and false ideas about God they have judged this man and therefore close their hearts to God, “You were born totally in sin, and you are trying to teach us?”

Today, therefore, we see that Christ desires to come to us in our blindness and that it is only by admitting our blindness and our need for Christ that we can come to be healed, to see clearly, and have life. If we seek to confine Christ, giving Him only certain parameters through which His grace can touch our hearts, then we will turn into the Pharisees and no longer see Christ at work today. This is what our Lenten practices are all about, helping us to deconstruct those things which truly make us blind so that we can see Christ clearly and come to believe in Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us thus ask Christ to come into that area of our hearts in which we are still blind and ask Him to heal us. Let us pray for the grace to be able to examine our lives, not out of fear, but in hope; so that by admitting our faults and failings, we can find our merciful Savior gazing upon us with Love, freeing us from our sin and leading us to union with Him for eternity!

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Chris

Temptation Part III

03-23-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Temptation Part III

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today, I would like to finish our reflection on the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent (Matthew 4:1-11). Our first reflection was concerned with the work of God and the temptation to reduce it to the mere satisfaction of worldly needs. Last week, we looked at Satan's second temptation: to test God as if he were a mere worldly product, thus distorting man's proper relationship with God. In the third temptation, Satan tries to confuse Jesus about God's true identity.

In this temptation, Satan takes Jesus up to a very high mountain, shows Him all the kingdoms of the world, and then promises Him all of these kingdoms if He is willing to prostrate Himself before Satan and worship him as if he were God. This particular temptation is a distortion of the identity of God as the one to whom all worship is directed. Satan is more or less asking Jesus to treat him as if he were something else. Satan is not God. He is merely a fallen angel. Jesus knows this. Jesus knows that Satan is not to be worshipped. This is why Jesus responds with the words, "The Lord your God shall you worship and him alone shall you serve."

This is an all too familiar temptation for us. How often are we tempted to worship something that isn't God? All the time! We put so many things before God: sports, work, money, sex, power, popularity, television, household chores, etc… When any one of these things becomes more important than our relationship with God, when we compromise our faith in order to acquire some other kind of security or worldly pleasure, we have committed a form of idolatry. As Catholics, we know who God is. Yet, for some reason, we continue to live our lives as if He isn't God. Lent is an opportunity for us to change this. It is an opportunity for us to stop worshiping false Gods, and to start worshiping Jesus as the true God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us ask the Lord during this Lenten season to increase our desire for Jesus Christ and decrease our desire for worldly things so that we do not fall into the sin of idolatry. May God help us to burn with love for Christ, so that we might be the amazing instruments of His glory that He has created us to be. May we have the courage and fortitude to stand strong in the face of temptation and rejoice in the victory won by Jesus' self gift on the Cross.

Peace in Christ, Fr. Will

Temptation Part II

03-16-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today, I would like to continue with our reflection on the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent (Matthew 4:1-11). Last week, we looked at the Satan's first temptation: to reduce the work of God to the mere satisfaction of physical needs (to turn stones into bread). In the second temptation, Satan tries a different tactic.

In this temptation, Satan takes Jesus to the parapet of the Temple and asks Jesus to test God by jumping off the parapet to see if the angels will really come to his aid and protect him from falling. In this temptation, Satan is challenging the appropriate relationship that man is called to have with God. Satan is asking Jesus to "test" His Heavenly Father to ensure His love for Him. This is an easy temptation to fall into. Haven't we all asked ourselves the following question, "If God really is who He says He is, then why not make him prove it?" The problem with this line of thinking is that God isn't some material product that we can test. He is not something that we create and manipulate. He is a person to be known and loved, not a product to be tested. The second temptation is to reverse the roles of the man/God relationship: to make ourselves the Creator and to make God our creation.

In the movie, Prince Caspian, Peter asks Lucy a challenging question: "If Aslan was going to help us, wouldn't he have proven himself to us already?" Lucy's response is profound: "Maybe it isn't Aslan who needs to prove himself to us, maybe it is us who need to prove ourselves to Aslan." In this scene Peter has fallen prey to the second temptation of Christ. He has fallen into the trap of making himself the Creator and God the creation to be tested. The only way to know and love God is to approach Him as He is and as we are. We must approach the Lord as humble creatures desiring to know our beautiful Creator. We fall into this temptation when we pridefully make demands of God as if He owed us something. The truth that we must come to understand is that everything we have is a gift from God. He owes us nothing. Rather, we owe him everything.

Brothers and sisters, let us not distort our relationship with God. May this season of Lent be a reminder for us that God is not a product to be tested, but a person to be known and loved. May our spiritual practices this Lent help us grow in humility so that we can come to know the greatness of Jesus Christ.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Temptation Part I

03-09-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's Gospel (Matthew 4:1-11), Satan tries to tempt Jesus by challenging Him over three important topics: the work of God, man's relationship with God, and the identity of God. For the next three weeks, I would like to use my bulletin letter to review these three significant temptations and how they connect to our lives.

The first temptation deals with the issue of the true nature of the work of God, and is presented in the suggestion that Jesus should turn stones into bread. Jesus has been wandering around in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights and hasn't eaten a thing. We can imagine that Jesus was very hungry. Satan tries to convince Jesus that if He is the Son of God, then he should satisfy His hunger by transforming the stones around Him into food for Him to eat. This seems like a very logical thing to do. After all, isn't the quickest way to a man's heart through his stomach? Yet, Jesus doesn't fall into Satan's trap. Jesus recognizes that His real "hunger" is not for food, but for souls. What Jesus longs for most is not the satisfaction of worldly desires, but the restoration of man's relationship with God. Jesus knows that He did not come into the world merely to bring about worldly satisfaction. In other words, the true nature of the mission and work of God is not merely to feed the hungry stomach, but the hungry soul. This is why Jesus responds to Satan with the words, "One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."

We fall prey to Satan's trap when we reduce the faith to mere charitable works. We fall into this specific temptation when we think that if we do some charitable work like feeding the homeless, that we have satisfied the Gospel demand and that God will now turn his eyes away from our own sinfulness. The Lord, first and foremost, desires the sinner to repent of his own sinfulness. This is why the words spoken to us as we received our ashes on Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent) was, "Repent and believe in the Gospel!" Once we have experienced the mercy and forgiveness of Christ, then the repentant sinner is called to do charitable works in His glorious name. The social teachings of the Church and the Gospel demand to live them out find their origin and strength in an encounter with the love and mercy of Jesus Christ. We must never forget that the work of God is primarily (not secondarily) the forgiveness of sins. If we do one thing this Lent and nothing else, we should make sure to go to confession. It is the most important thing that we can do.

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Whom Do We Serve?

03-02-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Too often we find ourselves overly preoccupied with worldly things. How many times have we found ourselves saying things like, "I can't be happy without this career, without this particular relationship, or without this level of income?" We become so sucked into the things of this world that we become slaves to it, and lose our freedom to love God with all our mind, heart, and soul.

In today's Gospel (Matthew 6:24-34), Jesus reminds us of the important truth that we cannot live for God and worldly things at the same time. Otherwise, we will end up loving the world and not God. A preoccupation with worldly things distracts us from the spiritual life and causes us to fall into sin.

In the Gospel, God is not telling us that we should never be concerned with food, clothing, or shelter. Rather, God is telling us that our concern for such things should always be set in the context of our first and most important concern: our love and complete devotion to God. Food, clothing, and shelter are means to an end. They serve as sustenance and support for our mission as disciples of Christ. When we make the acquisition of wealth the focal point of our life, the love of God fades into the background until it can no longer be found. We cannot allow the worries of the world to cause our love and devotion for God to fade away. Nothing should separate us from having a strong spiritual life in Christ.

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Pastoral Council

02-23-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

One of the primary ways in which a Pastor fulfills his obligation of working collaboratively with the faithful and effectively serving the needs of his parishioners is through the work of the Pastoral Council. The Pastoral Council is an advisory council made up of various parishioners who meet on a regular basis to aid the Pastor in assessing the needs of the parish, establishing priorities, and making decisions concerning the allocation of parish resources. For the past year and a half, much work has been done with the Pastoral Council. We have updated our guidelines and statues, ensuring their compliance with those of the Diocese of Phoenix, and we have established a strategic plan to advance our parish mission of witnessing the love of Jesus Christ through evangelization, catechesis, and the celebration of the Sacraments. I feel richly blessed by the members of the Pastoral Council. They are faithful Catholics who love the Church and St. Mary Magdalene Parish. This weekend during the 9:30 am Mass, I will perform a special blessing and commissioning of the Pastoral Council. We have recently finished our revision of the guidelines, statutes, and strategic plan and I feel that now is the appropriate time to give them a public blessing and commission them as they continue to assist me in fulfilling my obligations and duties as Pastor. Please take time to offer a special prayer for the members of the Pastoral Council. Pray specifically that we will always place Jesus Christ and His will at the center of all that we do.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

The following are the members of the Pastoral Council for St. Mary Magdalene Parish:

Mike Rimbey (President), David Hillier (Vice-President), Sherry McCarville (Secretary), Jane Douglas, Clint Leonard, Mike McCartney, Debbie Rinell, Ric Serrano, Scott Fleckenstein, and Walt Stenborg.

Emotions

02-16-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As human beings, we are emotionally invested in the world as much as we are physically and intellectually. We experience all kinds of emotions everyday and sometimes we are unsure what to do with these emotions. Jesus knows that our emotions play an integral role in the way we live our lives. In a way, today's Gospel (Matthew 5:17-37) is a beautiful teaching by Christ on the role of emotions in the human person. Yet, Jesus' teaching is easily misunderstood and needs some clarification.

First, it is important to understand that emotions are morally neutral: they are neither good, nor bad by themselves. Rather, emotions become good or bad based on two things: (1) the object they are directed toward and (2) the degree with which they are ordered toward their object. What does this mean?

An emotion is considered a good one if it is the proper response to a particular stimulus. For example, anger is an appropriate response to an act of injustice, or grief is an appropriate response to the death of a loved one. These are appropriate corresponding emotions. An example of an improperly ordered emotion would be anger directed toward the birth of a child. Anger is not the reasonable or appropriate response to that particular stimulus.

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CDA

02-09-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

When I was in the seminary I was able to be a full-time student and spend the vast majority of my time focusing on the necessary preparations for the priesthood. It was a blessing that I didn't have to worry about school payments or trying to find various ways to pay for my seminary formation. My attention and focus was on becoming the priest that God wanted me to be. It was the generosity of Catholics throughout the Diocese of Phoenix through the Charity and Development Appeal (CDA) that afforded me this great blessing.

The CDA impacts our diocese in so many ways. Providing a seminary formation for priesthood candidates is just one of the many ways CDA contributions support the great work of our diocese. This week, we begin our annual collection for the CDA. I would like to invite each and every family from St. Mary Magdalene to prayerfully consider supporting the CDA.

As a beneficiary of this great appeal, I can promise you that your donation will make a huge difference. Our parish goal this year is $90,000. Please take some time this week and visit the CDA website to learn about the great charities the CDA supports (www.diocesephoenix.org/cda). Also, please ask God in prayer how He might be inviting you to make a contribution this year. Thank you for your prayers and support.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Presentation of the Lord

02-02-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we celebrate the feast of the presentation of the Lord. In the Old Testament, the Mosaic Law prescribed that each first born male was to be presented to the Lord in the Temple as an offering and that the mother was obliged to fulfill ritual purification laws. Sometimes this celebration is referred to as the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin. St. Bernard found this feast to be somewhat ironic. Why?

The Blessed Virgin Mary was immaculately conceived and was thus free of sin and full of grace. Why must she go to the Temple to be purified? She is not in need of purification. She is the living tabernacle of the Lord. With Mary, there is nothing unholy. She could have easily demanded special treatment and ignored this ritual. Yet, in her humility she chose to obey the law. Instead of asking to be exempted from this law (which she had every right to do), she chose to be like every other woman and fulfill it.

How often do we ask for special treatment? How often do we find ourselves trying make ourselves the exception, and not the rule? Mary teaches us today that we need to be more humble. Even when we deserve special treatment, even when we are the exception, it is good for our humility to not ask for such things (Let's be honest though...most of the time we don't really deserve it). Our pride is often the factor behind why we ask us for such things.

Mary is the model of discipleship. She shows us how to be a faithful follower of Christ. Christ asks that we humble ourselves. Mary is a phenomenal example of such humility. As we celebrate this great feast day today, may we ask the Lord for the strength to grow in the virtue of humility. May we set aside our pride and stop asking for so much special treatment and exemptions. May we be content with going unnoticed as Our Lady was content with going unnoticed.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Prayer and Work

01-26-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's Gospel (Matthew 4:12-23), we hear Matthew's account of how Jesus invites Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him in His public ministry. Notice the location where Jesus calls these four incredible pillars of our Church. He calls them while they are at work. They were fisherman. Catching fish was their particular trade. Jesus comes to them while they are hard at work. This is a significant detail. One of the comments I hear often as a priest is, "Father, I can't find time to pray, I have too much work." Although work is not the ideal prayer environment, and we should set aside time for prayer separate from work, sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that we can't pray while we work; that prayer is impossible while working. Today's Gospel is a beautiful response to this issue. The Apostles were so close to Christ that they were able to respond to His invitation even while they were at work. Work did not keep them from Christ. Rather, their hearts were oriented toward Christ even while they performed activities that were not particularly religious.

St. Basil offers a beautiful reflection about praying while working: "In the midst of our work we can fulfill the duty of prayer, giving thanks to Him who has granted strength to our hands for performing our tasks, and cleverness to our minds for acquiring knowledge...Thus we acquire a recollected spirit, when in every action we beg from God the success of our labors and satisfy our debt of gratitude to Him...and when we keep before our minds the aim of pleasing Him." The task before us at all times is to orient everything we do toward Jesus Christ. Even though we may not have the opportunity to focus our minds on religious things, we can dedicate every ounce of our labor to the one who created us and sustains us. May God bless us with the grace to be like the Apostles and hear the voice of God inviting us into relationship with Him, even when we are hard at work.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

March for Life

01-19-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This week, eleven young adults from St. Mary Magdalene will be participating in the 41st annual March For Life in Washington, D.C. Each year around a half a million people gather at our nation's capital to walk from the national mall to the Supreme Court building on the anniversary of the Supreme Court Case, Roe vs. Wade, to peacefully protest for an end to abortion and for a greater respect for the dignity of human life in all its stages. The March For Life is the largest human rights demonstration in the entire world.

As the spiritual father of this parish, I feel it is extremely important for me to be with our young adults as they provide a beautiful witness of the Gospel and ask our government to put an end to the destruction of innocent human life. Although most of you will not be with us in Washington, D.C., you can be in solidarity with us through prayer. I am asking the entire parish to join us in prayer on Wednesday, January 22 as we provide a voice for the unborn. Please take a few moments that day and pray with us. Please also pray for safe travels for us, as the weather back east this time of year is not always the best. Thank you for all of your prayers and support. Through the power of Jesus Christ, all things are possible!

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Making Holy the Waters

01-12-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Today we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist. Have you ever wondered why Jesus was baptized? Jesus is the Son of God, a divine person of the Holy Trinity. He was not born with original sin. Why would He need baptism?

Jesus was baptized, not because He needed it nor because He was a sinner, but because He wanted to pave the way for us who are sinners and who are in need of God's mercy. Jesus was baptized to make holy the waters of baptism. By making the waters holy, Jesus established the ordinary means by which we are drawn into a life of grace in the Church.

Baptism is a very important Sacrament. Christ commands us to go and baptize all nations (Matthew 28:19) and reminds us that our path to salvation runs through the Sacrament of Baptism (John 3:5). We should never underestimate the power of this Sacrament. At baptism, we are made into new creatures. We are permanently marked by God and given special graces to live a life for Christ. We must constantly ask the Holy Spirit to help us cooperate with our baptismal graces and live the life that God has called us to live. Our faith must continue to grow after baptism. This is why every year during the Easter season we renew our baptismal promises, so that our faith will continue to grow within the Catholic community.

As we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus Christ, may we never forget that we share in His Baptism. He made holy the waters that washed away our original sin and permanently designated us as children of God. May we always show our gratitude for these graces by living a life entirely for Him.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will

Changed

01-05-2014Father's CornerFr. Will Schmid

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In today's Gospel (Matthew 2:1-12), we hear the beautiful story of the Magi who came from distant lands to adore the newborn king. One of the best parts of the story is the final line of the Gospel (verse 12): "They departed for their country by another way." This is a very interesting detail. They cannot return by the same route because things have changed. The birth of Jesus has changed the status quo. This is true for all those who have an encounter with Christ. Once you have an encounter with Christ, you cannot go back to the person you were before. Christ changes things. In particular, He changes us. Is this not the same thing that happened to St. Paul? After his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, his life was radically different.

All of us need to ask ourselves this question: "Is my life different because of Jesus Christ?" If the answer is no, then we are most likely doing something wrong. Christ changes the way we see the world, and as a result, He changes the way we live our lives. However, we must not interpret this change as something negative. Change is not always a bad thing, change can sometimes be a good thing. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all our desires. An encounter with Him brings us a sense of joy, satisfaction, and fulfillment that the world cannot bring. We should not be afraid of the changes that Christ brings. We should welcome them, as difficult as they may be. May the grace of Jesus Christ continue to transform your life so that you may always stand strong as sons and daughters of God.

Peace in Christ,
Fr. Will