Fear, Change, a Loving God: and Choices

Brian H. Gill's photo: Corpus Christi procession, Sauk Centre, Minnesota. (June 7, 2015)
Corpus Christi procession, Sauk Centre, Minnesota. (June 7, 2015)

This week I’m sharing what Fr. Mark Botzet said during Mass on the last Sunday in June.

I was going to just post his homily and let it go at that.

But then I thought his focus on fear might make more sense if I put it in context of what’s been happening in my part of the world.

So I’ve put a short (for me) look at life in central Minnesota, and the big picture, after Fr. Botzet’s homily.

Fr. Mark Botzet’s Homily — June 25, 2023

Photo by Cathy Behrens, used with permission. Our Lady of the Angels parish, Parishes on the Prairie; Sauk Centre, Minnesota.
Photo by Cathy Behrens, used with permission.

Today Jesus challenges us as his disciples.

To not have fear.

To not be afraid.

God is with us.

Because our life is in the hands of a loving God.

Franklin Roosevelt once said, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

Fear can paralyze, whether that fear is based in reality or whether it exists only in our mind.

Last Sunday in my homily I addressed the issue of our people feeling troubled and abandoned because they are like sheep without a shepherd.

While out at Steubenville at the Priest, Deacon and Seminarian Conference, I met up with a number of priests that are going through restructuring and parish mergers.

Coming home with this fear that, after July 1st, that I would no longer be seeing parishioners at Mass.

Even the fear of arriving at the wrong church at the wrong time.

Steubenville taught me that this fear was coming from the devil.

As I woke up at three on Sunday morning with thoughts of “do not give this homily”.

This fear is not from God.

I come to realize that God never abandons us.

God loves us.

If God loves us then what would possibly cause us to be separated and cast into hell?

Today Jesus tells us that we should fear the one who can destroy both soul and body.

Do not be afraid of speaking the truth in public even if it causes death to the body.

Death of the body is short.

It is the spiritual death of the soul that lasts for eternity.

It is the devil who deceives us and tempts us to turn our back on God when we sin.

After all, God will not be the one to condemn us.

We will have condemned ourselves.

We should be afraid of being separated from God.

By not going to Mass. By not receiving Jesus in the Eucharist, we choose to separate ourselves from God.

A God who allowed his Son to die for us on the cross.

Because He loved us.

My brothers and sisters in Christ.

This relationship is not one way.

We are to show our love for God.

We are being called into a radical relationship with God.

Jesus is our number one priority!

Having a relationship with Jesus is for the salvation of our souls.

When we get up to the pearly gates of Heaven, God will want to know if you loved Him as much as He loved you.

Did we spend time with Him.

Did we receive Him.

Or did we turn our backs on Him.

You see, having a relationship with Jesus means you would do whatever it takes to be with Jesus.

We should not be afraid of having a relationship with God.

We should have a fear of offending God.

A fear of sinning against a righteous God.

That would cause us to be separated from Him.

You see, at Mass there is something that is greater than ourselves that occurs.

The Eucharist reminds us that there is something more important than ‘just me’.

Anything more important than Mass is heretical.

Because Mass reminds us of our relationship between the Father and the children of God.

That is who we are, God’s children.

As I was at Franciscan University in Steubenville Ohio, two weeks ago, celebrating my 4th anniversary of my Priesthood, feeling all the brokenness in the midst of what our ACC is going through: I came to realize that I am in a radical relationship with God.

As a Priest, I am married to God and His Church.

And as a Priest, I will not let that be taken away from me.

What I do at this altar, is so much more than I can ever imagine.

It is so intimate and close with God.

The Eucharist reminds me that there is something more important than ‘just me’.

No matter what happens after July 1st.

There is this fear of people turning their backs on God.

That would cause them to be separated from God.

Why would anyone ever choose that?

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hated”.

Jesus tells us not to be afraid of proclaiming the truth to the world, even if it costs you your bodily life. Be more concerned about the evil one who will separate you from God by killing both body and soul.

Today Jesus challenges us as his disciples.

To not have fear.

To not be afraid.

God is with us.

Because our life is in the hands of a loving God.

Being at Mass is our number one priority.

God never abandons us.

We should be afraid of offending a loving God with our sins.

If we love God, we will make Jesus our number one priority.

(Fr. Mark Botzet, at Our Lady of the Angels, Sauk Centre, Minnesota (June 25, 2023))

(Thank you, Fr. Mark Botzet, for letting me post your homily here — Brian H. Gill.)

Looking at Four Decades, Two Millennia and the Long Haul

(Brian H. Gill)

Minnesota drought conditions. (July 4, 2023) So far, still not as bad as the 2021 drought.
Minnesota drought conditions. (July 4, 2023)

I’ve run across fictional representations of “small town America” as blissful Brigadoons, untouched by smog, billboards and the pressures of civilized living. I’ve also seen small town America portrayed as hives of intellectually impaired bigots.

A more reality-based evaluation defined the better sort of small town America as “small-to-medium sized communities (populations between 8,500 and 50,000)….”

And a Brookings Institute evaluation of that evaluation pointed out that those small towns were suburbs: nice places to live, within the outskirts of nice metropolitan areas.

I live in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

With a population of about 4,500, it’s the largest town between Alexandria and St. Cloud.1 But metropolitan we’re not.

I’ve lived in the Our Lady of the Angels parish of Sauk Centre since 1986. I love it here, but it’s no Brigadoon, untouched by the world’s troubles.

Minnesota drought conditions. (July 6, 2021)This year’s drought is still “moderate” around Sauk Centre. It’s not as bad as the one in 2021. But we need more rain.

For a community where agriculture is a big part of the economy, this is not good news.

Although agribusiness is a major part of Sauk Centre’s economic life, we’re also a regional transportation hub, and I’m wandering off-topic.

I’m guessing that the situation has been worse for smaller towns (this is Minnesota, so officially they’re “cities”) around here.

Under the Circumstances…

Diocese of Saint Cloud Area Catholic Communities (ACC) Map. (updated July 6, 2023)
Area Catholic Communities (ACC) map, courtesy Diocese of Saint Cloud. (updated July 6, 2023)

Right now, here in central Minnesota, in the first couple decades of the 21st century, we’re running a bit short on Catholics and priests.

We don’t have as many parishes in this part of Minnesota as we did back in 1986.

By the time the St. Cloud Diocese reorganized us into Area Catholic Communities (ACC), the Sauk Centre area was down to six parishes. Two of them in Sauk Centre.

Before July 1, 2023, our six parishes had three priests and 10 weekend Mass times. Now we’ve got two priests spread over those six parishes, and fewer weekend Masses.

And some parishes have a smaller share of those weekend masses than others.

We’ve now got two weekend Masses, here at Our Lady of the Angels in Sauk Centre: at 6:00 p.m. Saturday and 8:00 a.m. Sunday.

That’s actually pretty good news. For us. Considering the circumstances.

So was the number of folks who came to last Sunday’s Mass. I ended up sitting a few pews from my usual place.

Since it was the Fourth of July weekend, I’m guessing that a fair fraction of the folks were vacationing or on holiday visits. But even so: for an 8:00 a.m. Mass, on the first Sunday of a new schedule, that many folks in church is good news.

The biggest effect these changes have had on me, so far, is that now I’ll have an alarm clock wake me up each Sunday morning.

How I would have handled this year’s changes, if I was dealing with bigger disruptions to my weekly routine? I don’t know.

But I hope I’d have the sense to see them as what they are: stuff that affects me, but isn’t all that important in the long run.

Promises and the Best News Ever

'The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,' Piero della Francesca. (1463)The Catholic Church has been proclaiming the Gospel for two millennia.

I figure we’ll keep doing so. Mainly because we’ve had help.

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
(Matthew 16:18)

“Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.'”
(Matthew 28:1820)

Jesus of Nazareth made those promises about two millennia back now. We’re still sharing the best news humanity’s ever had, with anyone who will listen.

“The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.'”
(Luke 2:912)

We’ve hit a few rough patches along the way. They seem to come at about five-century intervals, and that’s almost another topic.

The point is that our Lord gave us standing orders before He left, along with an assurance that He’d be back. When the Father gives the go-ahead.

“When they had gathered together they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
He answered them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'”
(Acts 1:68)

My guess is that we’ll still be carrying out those orders when the Roman Empire, Song Dynasty and United Nations seem roughly contemporary.

Somewhat-related posts:

1 Small town America, real and imagined:

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3 Responses to Fear, Change, a Loving God: and Choices

  1. Thank you very much for sharing Father Mark’s homily alongside your thoughts about that and where you live, Mr. Gill. This has me thinking again of things like Romans 12:1-8 as I wonder about what more I’m supposed to do with my life, especially as an artist, a way of life that’s quite susceptible to trying to make oneself bigger than he or she actually is, something I quite feel in this day and age where our old inclinations toward vengeance mixed with our furhter empowered yet still confused sense of justice has making noise be praised as much as practicing silence gets cursed. It’s funny how being a good artist needs you to be a jack of all trades of life yet a master of nothing except artistry, of making sense of reality and sharing our attempts at that with others to make better sense of reality. But I believe that God didn’t bless humanity with a job like that for nothing. So more strength and worthwhile times to us all again, then, and more guidance and challenges from Him.

    • 🙂 My pleasure! – And you raise good points.

      I can relate to the ‘what should I do with my life’ question. For what it’s worth, I’m **still** not entirely sure about the answer.

      I don’t know why expressing occasionally-irrational anger is apparently regarded as a virtuous act. My country’s impending presidential election (I’m responding to “…vengeance … still confused sense of justice … noise…”) is already adding to online “noise”. My opinion. – – On the ‘up’ side, I’ll get many opportunities for practicing patience and restraint.

      About being an artist – a good artist – and particularly a good artist who makes a living as an artist – needing to be a jack of all trades: YES! I think having a wide skill set is important for just being human, but with my background – I would.

      From the few professional artists I’ve rubbed elbows with, I gather that an important part of the profession is having a knack for self-publicity. Salvador Dali is arguably among the best 20th century examples of this aspect of art and the artist.

      What you said about “…making sense of reality…”: me, too. I’m about as sure as I can be that God outfits us with different talents and potentials. Including a knack for seeing this world’s beauty and wonders from certain angles, and sharing that view with others.

      You may have given me a topic for this week. Be well!

      • Well, we have been kids before, and I feel like there are a lot of us more than what we think that haven’t left being a kid for better or worse, so not much surprise about that uncertainty even in old age.

        I think it’s a matter of pride, the boss of all the other deadly sins, that we’re so inclined towards showing off the image that we’re doing good rather than actually doing good no matter what. And yeah, at least we have a lot of opportunities to practice virtues.

        Speaking of being a jack of all trades, I feel like I’ve longed to be that just to hear my praises being sung. Good thing life teaches me that there’s more to life than chasing that.

        As for Dali, my memories tell me that I looked hard through his TV Tropes page before, yet when I looked through it again, I feel like it became cleaner than what I saw last time. Anyway, while I don’t think I’m meant for surrealism, I vibe with “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs,” though I’m likelier to say something like “I’m already this nuts, and I don’t even do drugs.”

        And I’m glad to serve as inspiration for whatever worthwhile time you’re having there, Mr. Gill.

Thanks for taking time to comment!