Today we begin the cycle of ordinary Sundays of the year – a time when the Church once again focuses our attention on the reality of God’s kingdom present among us in the life and ministry of Jesus.

I would like to say what a joy and honor it is to be the pastor of Holy Spirit.  The Lord has been so good to us, he has blessed us in so many ways.  Since the start of Holidays, we had so many visitors and many of them have expressed their sincere appreciation for all we do here and how beautiful our church is and how loving our community is. It is truly the work of the Lord.

I want to thank the Lord for the wonderful people that you are.  We have some great people, and the Lord continues to add to the church.  People that love each other, serve each other, and have a labor of love.  As pastor I want to say “thank you”.  I praise the Lord for the Spirit-Led, Spirit-Filled, and Spirit-Fed services, thank God for His presence.

I want to encourage all of you to always keep “Jesus First” in all the work we do for Him, always pray for our church.  These are difficult times: facing natural disasters, wars, sickness, financial problems, deaths… many are suffering. There is a great need for prayer. We all need to become prayer warriors. God has proved Himself faithful so many times, and that we do what God called us to do.

All three readings for this weekend touch on a curious topic: holiness. Holiness anticipated in Israel in the first reading; holiness initiated by Jesus in the third; holiness, the call, to the Corinthians and us by St. Paul in the second reading.

Holiness is a mystery. But, as always, we can penetrate mystery to some extent. It becomes somewhat easier to approach if we talk about friendship — and the form of presence it brings.  We have friends; we have some especially close friends. What we have in our mutual presence to one another is wonderful.  Holiness is what happens when we become especially close friends with the Lord.

In times past, the ones called to holiness were thought to be clergy, religious sisters, brothers, and priests. The Second Vatican Council, following the teaching of St. Francis de Sales shot that idea down. Every one of us is called to holiness.  The council referred to this as “the universal call to holiness.” It was a real, spiritual breakthrough.

In the spirit of St, Francis de Sales, we understand the Our Lord individually customizes holiness.  There is no “cookie cutter” approach.  No two of us are called to holiness in precisely the same way.  Each of us is individually “called by name” because each of us has our personal, lived experience.  Each of us uniquely becomes a friend of the Lord in our holiness.

We cannot make ourselves holy.  That is the work of the sanctifier, the Holy Spirit.  As the Eucharistic prayer reminds us, “Father, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise.  All life, all holiness comes from you through your son Jesus Christ, the Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit works in us when we are open, when we present ourselves to him without “talking at him”. Our prayer is the prayer of Samuel: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

January 24 is the feast of Saint Francis de Sales. As we prepare to celebrate the feast of Francis de Sales this week, I request your prayers for all the members of my religious order; Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales (M.S.F.S.). May the Holy Spirit guide and lead us, may the Lord bless our Congregation, may we be inspired and guided by the prayers and spiritual wisdom of our patron in our ministry that we remain faithful to our call and truly become instruments of God’s mercy and love.

God bless all of us.