THE SHEPHERD’S VOICE

June 28, 2020 (13th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Dear parishioners,

This week Jesus speaks a very strong challenge and a beautiful consolation.  We must not let anything, not our family or our closest friends, come between us and following where we sense his Spirit is leading us.  God must come first in a disciple life, as he did with Jesus.

The gospel also speaks of generosity and kindness and of hospitality and insists that those who support a man or woman of God, a prophet or a righteous person, will have a reward similar to the minister’s.  The Lord builds on what he taught last week about God knowing when a sparrow falls from the sky or how many hairs we have on our head, to assure us he notices the most ordinary acts of kindness.  Not a cup of cold water extended to one of his little ones escapes the notice of our God.

Take a few minutes today in your prayer time to try and remember all the kind things you have done for people during this time of crisis.  Try to imagine how pleased our Lord is with what you have done.  Remember, he said  (in Matt. 25) “whatever you did for the least of my followers, you did for me”.

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach

 

June 21, 2020 (12th Sunday in Ordinary Time), Father’s Day

Dear parishioners,

“Fear no one … do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul … So do not be afraid.”  On a Sunday when Jeremiah is experiencing “terror on every side” from religious leaders and even former friends, and when Jesus is sending his disciples out to experience mission without him there, his encouragement to be brave and to trust God is very striking.

All the more so to present-day disciples who have hunkered down for the past three months in the face of an invisible threat that we are told could very well kill us.  Can any of us claim that we haven’t been afraid of contracting the coronavirus and having to do battle with its symptoms?  Were any of us untouched by the sound of ambulances in our streets or by reports of relatives and friends who were being hospitalized?

Fear in this time of a pandemic that very well could take our lives was well founded, so what might Jesus be telling us today?  He does say we should have a concern for the one who has power over body and soul, what the scriptures call “fear of the Lord”.  The God Jesus calls his “Father” knows each of us intimately, everything about us and all we do.  And we matter to him; he values us.  Thus, we are to trust God with regard to our ultimate deliverance, our salvation.

God does not promise to spare his children having to face trials and difficulties here on earth – he did not spare his beloved Son, but we can be sure that he will faithfully watch over and protect for eternal life those who are faithful in following that Son.

I hope you have a wonderful, prayerful Sunday and a Happy Father’s Day.

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach

 

June 14, 2020 (THE MOST HOLY BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST – CORPUS CHRIST)

Dear parishioners,

How strange it seems to be observing this great feast of “Corpus Christi”, of our Lord’s gift of his real presence in the Eucharist by not sharing his Body and Blood this Sunday!

What have we lost?  I know you are faithfully watching one of the telecasts of the Sunday, and even daily celebrations of the liturgy broadcast from the cathedrals.  You are viewing the rituals and hearing the readings and homilies, but two elements, very closely related, are glaringly absent: communion and community.

During the televised Masses you cannot receive the Lord in Holy Communion at the proper time.  You are encouraged to make a “spiritual communion” at these Masses, but it is in no way the same.  In the Blessed Sacrament Our Lord is physically present to us; he touches us and we touch him.  And he remains with us, giving us the nourishment we need to face any difficulties we must face in life’s journey.  What a loss that has been in these past three months!  It is like a spiritual starvation.

Although the members of our parish community have been in contact with one another, reaching out in prayers and phone calls, helping each other through acts of kindness and concern, we haven’t been able to lift our voices together in song or prayer, we have not been side by side in church.  We miss the support we draw from each others’ faith, especially in times as difficult as these.  You can’t imagine how strange it feels celebrating Mass each morning without the community present.

But you are never out of our thoughts.  Lord, bring us back together soon.

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach

 

June 7, 2020 (THE MOST HOLY TRINITY)

Dear parishioners,

Some of you know that among the very few things I enjoy watching on television are the mysteries on Masterpiece: DCI Banks, Endeavour, Inspector Morse, Inspector Lewis, as well as some recent European series: Wallender, Baptiste, and Professor T.  What attracts me is not solving the mystery (the “who done it” aspect) but observing the character development (how the detectives work together, and grow in their respect for and trust in each other).

That, I believe, is what we ought to notice in this Sunday’s mystery, the Blessed Trinity, and model in our common life.  The Trinity (three persons in one God) is all about relationship, the persons to one another and to us.  When they act, creating, redeeming, or sanctifying, they act as one.  When they dwell in us, they come together.

When Jesus reveals the Father to us, he reveals also the Son and the Holy Spirit.  So the attributes God the Father claims for himself are true for each of the persons.  Our God is eternally merciful, gracious, slow to anger, rich in kindness and fidelity.  Even the God of the Old Testament was characterized, above all, by two qualities: HESED, his mercy and compassion, and EMETH, his fidelity to the covenant he made with Israel.  Moses was so overcome by what he saw and heard of this God that he begged him, “Come along with us.”

We too long for this God to come along with us, to dwell among us.  Let us offer the God of love a proper home among us by the way we respect one another, cooperate with one another, and support and save one another.

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach

 

May 31, 2020 (PENTECOST SUNDAY)

Dear parishioners,

After the 40 days of Lent and 50 days of the Easter season, we have finally arrived at Pentecost.  This is a feast that seems to mean more to me every year as our need for the Holy Spirit’s power to be released among us grows with the passing of time.

Don’t we already have the Holy Spirit, you might ask.  Yes, the Spirit was given to us at Baptism and Confirmation (and to me in Holy Orders at diaconate and priesthood).

What, then, do we expect from this Sunday?  Why do we make such a fuss?  Well, with Jesus physically risen from the tomb and ascended to the Father, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, is now the presence of our God-with us.  It is the Spirit who motivates us in all our good actions: getting us to focus our attention on the voice of God, reminding us of what Jesus taught, and granting understanding of the deep things of God.  This is the work of the Spirit of Christ.

The Spirit also moves us to respond to what God has communicated to us.  He opens our hearts to reach out in prayer, gives us words to witness to Christ, encourages us to persevere in our faith despite the world’s threats, and even enables us to foster his gifts of forgiveness, peace, and unity among our fellow disciples,

The Spirit’s gifts are many; his purpose is one: to build up the Body of Christ.  May we all be generous in bringing our spiritual gifts to bear in Mary Queen of Heaven parish.

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach

 

 

May 24, 2020 (7th Sunday of Easter)

Dear parishioners,

On this last Sunday before Pentecost the readings show us people at prayer before important events.  We hear Jesus begin his prayer to the Father, knowing what awaited him on Good Friday, and he prays for us, his disciples who must remain in “the world”‘.  The eleven apostles have been sent back to Jerusalem to await the Holy Spirit, power from on high; they prepare by joining the Blessed Mother and the larger group of disciples (120) at prayer in the upper room.

We too, although separated in this time of “social distancing”, have been doing some serious prayer: for God’s protection, for one another, for those who have succumbed to the coronavirus.  That mutual prayer is a great encouragement.

We should also be preparing; for what we do not exactly know yet.  We can be sure, though, that we will be asked to make changes when we are allowed to reopen our churches.  Those will be spelled out to us by our Diocese.

We can be sure from St. John’s gospel that the Lord will be with us in the process, that he will guide and protect us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  So let us continue to pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.”

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach

 

 

May 17, 2020 (6th Sunday of Easter)

Dear parishioners

We are reaching that point in the church year where the daily gospels focus on the Holy Spirit and prepare us to celebrate Pentecost.  In recent years we have developed a tradition of praying a novena to the Holy Spirit, beginning on Ascension Thursday (May 21st this year), where we ask the Spirit to renew each of us and our whole parish with his power.

In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus promises his followers that on his return to the Father he will not be leaving us alone; we should not feel that we have been left like orphans.  He will send us an Advocate, the Spirit of Truth.  He means an attorney for the defense, one who by speaking for us and advising us how to act, will protect us from harm.  Right now, in this crisis we have been facing, many do feel alone.  We need the protection of almighty God even more than the screening gloves and masks provide us.  We need to feel the Holy Spirit at work in us.

Just reading a section of the Last Discourse in the Gospel of St. John (chapters 13-17) and the heartfelt prayer “Come Holy Spirit” would be enough to open our hearts to the Spirit who renews the faithful so that we might be empowered to renew a world that needs a change for the better. “Enkindle in us the fire of your love.  Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and you shall renew the face of the earth.”

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach

 

 

May 10, 2020 (5th Sunday of Easter, Mother’s Day)

Dear parishioners,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says to us at a time when I would imagine almost everyone in the world is troubled.  We are troubled because we all know someone who has been stricken by the coronavirus or someone who has died from it.  We are troubled because we cannot provide the usual rites of respect for our loved ones who have died.  We are troubled that we might some how contract the virus, and troubled by the demands of “social isolation”.

Why should we rise above our fears and feel secure in this crisis?  The answer was given to us Easter Sunday: Jesus, in rising from the dead, conquered sin, suffering, sickness, and even death itself!  He has not left; he is with us and working to bring us all, especially those who are facing death, with him into his Father’s presence, his house.

Because of the intimacy of his relationship with the Father we are reminded of our Christian hope when we hear Jesus speak (in the words of the scriptures, ever alive and active) and see him act (in the courageous response of those who risk their lives in the service of others.)

So “do not let your hearts be troubled”.  Instead allow the Lord to calm your spirit with the words he repeated so often after his resurrection: “Peace be with you.  Do not be afraid.  It is I”.

A Mother’s Day Message:

In this Sundays’s gospel Jesus describes his Father’s house as a home.  “Home” is far more a relationship than it is a specific place, and our primary relationship, from before our birth, is with our mother; she is the one who creates the “home”.

Due to the restrictions placed upon us, we will not be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with our cherished parish and family customs.  Most of our mothers will not be able to gather all their children and grand-children around them this year.  Phones and live interfaces via internet can ease the restrictions imposed on us, but it is not the same as presence.

Please know that Father Ikenna and I will remember the mothers of our parish, living and deceased, at our Masses and in our prayers.  We pray this will be a Happy Mother’s Day for you.

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach

Prayer to the Mother of the Lord for all mothers

Mary, on this day when we honor all mothers, we turn to you.
We thank the Lord whom you serve for the great gift of motherhood.
Never has it been known that anyone who sought
your intercession was left unaided by grace.

Dear Mother, thank you for your “Yes” to the invitation of
the angel which brought heaven to earth and changed human
history. You opened yourself to God’s word and the Word was
made flesh and dwelt among us.

Dear mother, intercede for all of our mothers. Ask your Divine
Son to give them the grace of surrendered love so that they
could join with you in giving their own “Fiat.”

May they find daily strength to say yes to the call to the sacrificial love- the
very heart of the vocation of motherhood.

May their love and witness be a source of great inspiration for all of us called
to follow your Son.

On this Mothers day, Mother of the Word Incarnate, pray for us
who have recourse to you…

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
©www.catholic.org

 

 

The Shepherd’s Voice for May 3, 2020 (4th Sunday of Easter)

Dear parishioners,

This Sunday we read the conclusion of St. Peter’s Pentecost sermon.  He tells the Israelites in no uncertain terms that they killed God’s chosen Messiah.  Cut to the heart by this news, they ask him “What then are we to do?” and Peter replies that they need to repent and seek baptism.  In Jesus they will find the Way, the Gate that leads to eternal life.  Peter learned on Easter Sunday evening and thereafter that Jesus wants to forgive; after all, he forgave Peter his denial.

Jesus, we see from the gospel (John 10) is the only way to salvation, “the only Name in which we are to be saved”; he leads his followers to abundant life and they experience a sense of safety and healing in the presence of the one whose wounds from the Crucifixion healed and saved us.

During this time of world crisis many of us have plenty of time alone to think and pray.  We might very well ask ourselves, “What are we to do?” “Repent” was always Jesus’ message; change your behavior.  Our protection now and always consists in hearing and discerning Jesus’ voice amidst the noise of so many other voices constantly seeking our attention, and then following his lead.  It is Jesus who will lead us from possible disaster to restoration and finally to flourishing (life in abundance) once again.

Right now, when we feel there is so little we can do about this pandemic, I find this advice from Mary de Turris Poust very consoling: “we will not have to weather any of (our difficulties) alone.  The Lord will shepherd us, seeking us out when we stray, pulling us back when we want to rush ahead, soothing our hearts and souls with a voice that is as familiar to us as our own breath – if we would just take the time to stop moving and doing and achieving and just listen for the One who has the answers to all the questions we’re asking.”

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach

 

 

April 20, 2020

Dear parishioners,

In really difficult times we may find ourselves wondering, “Where is God in all of this?”  I find it fascinating that disciples who had spent so much time with the Master did not recognize him after he rose from the dead.  Obviously his appearance and his mode of presence had changed.

So how are we to recognize Jesus now?  And where should we look for him?  This Sunday’s gospel, Luke’s account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, answers these questions for us.

First of all, Jesus was present in the “stranger” who shared their journey and listened to their sad story.  How many people have done that for us in this crisis?  Supportive phone calls, offers to shop or cook for us, prayers – that is Jesus using his disciples to care for us in our need.

Secondly, the scriptures, the Word of God, revealed the reality of the Christ to his disciples.  The risen Lord explained the passages that referred to him and insisted that it was necessary for him to suffer and die as he did in order to enter into glory.  This is a mystery (the “paschal mystery”) that still confounds us, so we need the help of the Lord and the Holy Spirit to understand it.  Did we walk through the events of Holy Week prayerfully, reflectively while confined to our homes?

Finally, it was in “the breaking of the bread”, that gesture that was so very characteristic of Jesus at table, that they knew for sure that they were in his presence.  It is the Eucharist that we long for now.  We watch the Masses on television, but we want communion and we miss our community.  We can’t wait to return to church and gather together at the altar.

While we wait for this deadly virus to subside, let us continue to feed on the Word of God and reach out to one another in loving service.  Then we will know that our Lord is truly present to us, and we will be able to bring his presence to others.

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach

 

April 13, 2020

Dear parishioners,

Every year on the octave of Easter, the Church recounts the story of St. Thomas’ coming to faith in his face-to-face encounter with the risen Christ.  In it we hear Thomas declare him to be divine – “my Lord and my God.”

Appearing to the other ten apostles, gathered in the upper room that Easter Sunday night, Jesus made it clear to his disciples, who had abandoned him at his arrest, that he forgave them, for he wished them “peace”, “shalom”.  Now reconciled with their Lord and Master, they were to go forth and be the source of forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation for others.  The mercy of God was extended to them, so that others in turn could find the mercy of God through the Church of Jesus Christ.

This is the great Easter gift, the peace available to us because we have been redeemed and forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Again and again Jesus said to his disciples when he appeared after Easter:  “Peace be with you.  Do not be afraid.   It is I.”  The Lord has risen as he said.  Peace be with you.  Happy Easter!

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach

                                                                   

April 6, 2020

Dear parishioners,

Life in the coronavirus pandemic is like nothing we have ever experienced.  We are accustomed to making sacrifices during Lent, but this year we have had to give up everything.  Father Ikenna and I continue to celebrate Mass, but in private.  We miss our community, and I know you miss the support of your friends at Mary Queen of Heaven and the spiritual strength you derive from the Eucharist.

As we prepare to enter into the Sacred Triduum and the threat of the virus forces us to keep the door of the church closed, what might we do to make up for the loss?  Brooklyn, Rockville Centre, and the Archdiocese of New York have been broadcasting services and other inspiring programs.  Those who receive Magnificat or Give Us This Day by subscription have the texts for the Holy Week liturgies and can pray them at home. All of us can “walk” the Stations of the Cross with Jesus on Friday.

I believe our experience this Easter will be the closest we will ever have to that of the original disciples that first Easter Sunday morning – emptiness, an empty tomb and confusion.  But that is on the surface.  If we look carefully, like John, we will discover signs of Jesus’ presence.  If we listen to our hearts, we will know that Jesus truly has turned apparent defeat into a magnificent victory over sin, suffering, and death, our ancient enemies.  And then we will have discovered the real meaning of Easter.

A happy Easter to you and to your loved ones!

In the Good Shepherd,
Father Tom Leach