Reflections by Rev. Leonard Peterson

After counting the racks of birthday cards, I believe the next largest display of cards for purchase are found in the “Congratulations” section. I’m certain the same holds true for those popular electronic greetings. Why is that do you suppose?

One simple answer is that you and I have a birthday each year. But in the course of our lives certain special events come along that we celebrate as high points, often one of a kind.

So there are congratulatory cards for engagements and weddings; anniversaries and graduations; new babies, new jobs and new homes; yes even for retirements. The cards can be spiritual or silly, but at best they mark the event as significant enough to call for a card.

Only God can congratulate us for living the way He thinks we should. This idea is at the heart of the familiar beatitudes that we read on this All Saints Day. Jesus is saying “Blest” or “Happy” or “Fortunate” are those who can look beyond the measures of this world to realize they are headed for a great reward in heaven.

So the poor in spirit, the mourners and the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers and the persecuted, the inheritors and those athirst for holiness will attain that goal. Even those who suffer insult and persecution for being Jesus’ followers have every reason to hope in God and trust His Word.

Who then are these people from all over the globe that we call saints? They are no more nor less than people who lived like everyone should but who did it better than most of us. I think we’re justified in adding to the official Church list the names of holy people we knew well even though there may never be a side altar dedicated to them. Some of them might even be from our own families. You could say that we saw them as “living holy cards.”

Once upon a time a Protestant minister came up with the clever slogan that these eight statements of Our Lord express the “Be-Attitude” in life. True enough. But equally true is the fact that if we wish to dwell in the “house of many mansions,” then we must make our reservations well in advance.

God love you and give you His peace!

Reading I: Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-14
Here we have two distinct visions of John. In the first, 144, 000 are observed “sealed on the forehead” with God’s name for their fidelity to Him. In the second, an uncountable group from all nations wear white robes cleansed in the Lamb’s Blood and they hoist the palm frond of victory.

Reading II: I John 3: 1-3
This is an exhortation to the Johannine community that God’s love for them makes them “children of God.” They sing in response, because they believe they will become divinized. They also believe that God demands of them that they be as pure as possible.

The Gospel: Matthew 5: 1-12a
The famous “Sermon on the Mount,” encompassing the next two chapters in Matthew, begins with Jesus’ eight beatitudes. A beatitude is defined as “an exclamation of congratulations that recognizes an existing state of happiness.

Love Thy Neighbor

In reply to a question put forth by a scholar regarding what’s the greatest of the commandments, Jesus rein- forced the commandment of love of God.

The commandment to love God was not anything novel in Jesus’ time.
Faithful and devout Jews prayed the Shema, the prayer based on Deuteronomy 6, which Jesus often quoted and which the Jewish people recited in their morning and evening prayers to remind themselves that they are called on to love the Lord God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their strength.

Those testing Jesus would’ve been very familiar with the command to love God since they would’ve prayed the Shema twice a day.

But in responding to the scholar’s question, Jesus goes further and also reminded those present of the second of the greatest commandments, that you should love your neighbor as yourself, which
Our Lord quoted from the book of Leviticus. Again those listening to Jesus should have been familiar with this commandment also. The law of love is two-fold and hierarchical.

Together, the love of God and the love of neighbors form the basis of the whole Mosaic Law and the core and heart of Christ’s life and teaching. Both commandments must be put into practice and lived out in their proper order.

Man must love God first, and then he must love his neighbors.
A person can’t love either God or neighbor, he cannot love one while excluding others.

No! A person is required to love both God and neighbor; love is not an either/or proposition. The person who truly and genuinely loves God must also love others, as all people are the summit of God’s creation, made in God’s image and likeness, and this is where our human dignity lies: to be created in the image and likeness of God.

It is such a profound thought that we’re created in the image of God! As followers of Christ, Our Lord and King, who is the perfect image of the Eternal Father, our love for Christ Jesus fulfill the twofold command of love as He is true God and true man.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is our God as well as our brother, and with this in mind and heart, make Christ the love of your life, and He will be the life of your love.

God bless you,

Father Perez

Parking Lot Update

Dear Parishioners:
The above photos speak volumes about the excellent work that has been completed in our parking lot. We think you will agree that Running Rhino, LLC, has done a remarkable job.
We now have 23 marked spaces, three designated handicapped spaces, and the circle is a fire lane. The fire lane is for loading and unloading only. Those using the handicapped-accessible parking spaces may enter the church through the sacristy entrance (the door closest to the handicapped spaces) if that is more convenient.
In the event more parking spaces are needed, feel free to park in the rectory driveway.

Parish Update

Update on Projects

Our Lady of the Valley remains focused on and committed to good stewardship of our build- ings and grounds. To that end, we are reporting on in-progress and completed projects.

Two (2) dehumidifiers have been installed by Mountain Valley Home Comfort and are operating.

The parking lot is being sealed. Painting the spaces is contingent on weather conditions. The Harrisonburg Parking Lot Striping Company will complete as weather permits.

An AED (automated external defibrillator) has been purchased and will be installed next week. A qualified nurse will train ushers and any interested volunteers.

We are also looking into security cameras. More on that in a few weeks.

The new parish giving program will be rolled out in the next few weeks. This is online program will be a time saver for our offertory counters and be cost effective and time efficient for parish staff.

Our sincere thanks to our Parish Council, Finance Committee, and our generous parishioners for making these projects a reality.

God bless you,

Father Perez

A Different Kind of Political Engagement

Election Day is November 3. In Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (www.faithfulcitizenship.org), we and our brother U.S. bishops noted, “Unfortunately, politics in our country often can be a contest of powerful interests, partisan attacks, sound bites, and media hype. The Church calls for a different kind of political engagement: one shaped by the moral convic- tions of well-formed consciences and focused on the dignity of every human being, the pursuit of the common good, and the protection of the weak and the vulnerable. … We are called to bring together our principles and our political choices, our val- ues and our votes, to help build a civilization of truth and love” (no. 14).
To grow in holiness, a question each one of us must answer is: How will I respond to this call for a different kind of engage- ment? This question is key as we approach Election Day, as well as every day before and after it, as faithful citizens.
In a pre-election letter on voting decisions we issued last year, we offered three main points:
Many issues are important.
Not all issues have equal weight. Protecting life is paramount.
As bishops responsible for the pastoral care of the faithful in our two dioceses, we re-offer these points here for your continued prayerful consideration, as an essential framework not only for the critical voting decisions that must be made each year but also for the vital prayer and advocacy that must be done on a constant basis.
Whenever human dignity is at stake for any of our brothers and sisters in the human family, we must be attentive and engaged. “[R]espect for the dignity of every person … is the core of Catholic moral and social teaching” (Faithful Citizenship, no. 10).
Our moral obligation to oppose intrinsically evil acts – which are “always incompatible withlove of God and neigh-
bor” (Faithful Citizenship, no. 22) – “has a special claim on our consciences and our actions” (no. 37). Of these, abortion is the “preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and be- cause of the number of lives destroyed” (Faithful Citizenship, Introductory Letter). Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, there have been more than 61 million abortions in our country. Other issues of grave moral importance “undercut the dignity ofthe human person” (nos. 22, 23). Our priority must be to protect life to the fullest extent possible.
For more on the principles involved in voting with a well-formed conscience, we encourage you to read paragraphs 34-37 of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (www.faithfulcitizenship.org). For a side-by-side comparison of what the two major-party Presidential candidates have said or done on a wide range of issues of importance to Catholics, visit www.vacatholic.org. The side-by-side comparison was compiled jointly by a number of state Catholic conferences, including the Virginia Catholic Conference.
On November 3, please vote. Every day, please seek and live out the “different kind of political engagement” that will provide a clear example to others of the civility and consistent concern for the common good we are all called to embrace.
Faithfully Yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge
Bishop of Arlington

Most Reverend Barry C. Knestout
Bishop of Richmond

Gospel Reflection & Parish Updates

This weekend’s Gospel, the Parable of the Tenants, helps us understand how we, the tenants of the Vine- yard, should behave and how we should follow Jesus and heal the world.
Jesus once again speaks to the priests and elders with a parable about the Vineyard; a theme from the two Sunday’s prior gospels. In this parable, the landowner leases his Vineyard to tenants and sends his servants to collect the portion of the harvest that the tenants owe to him.
The servants are often sent to collect a payment, and each time they are beaten and killed by the tenants. Fi- nally, the landowner sends his son to collect his rent. The tenants, believing that they will inherit the Vine- yard if the landowner dies without an heir, plot together and kill the landowner’s son.
After telling the parable, Jesus questions the chief priests and elders about what the landowner will do to the wicked tenants. They all agree that the landowner will kill the wicked tenants and give the land to new ten- ants who will pay the rent.
In telling this parable, Jesus is drawing upon Isaiah 5:1-7, which is today’s first reading and one that the priests and elders would have known well. Jesus doesn’t have to explain the symbolism of the parable; the Pharisees would have understood that the Vineyard represented Israel, the landowner represented God, the servants represented the prophets, and the bad tenants represented the religious leaders.
Yet Jesus nonetheless explains the parable’s meaning: The Kingdom of God will be taken from the unbe- lieving and given to the faithful. The chief priests and elders have condemned themselves with their answer to Jesus’ question.
Matthew names the religious leaders as Pharisees and chief priests. Clearly, this Gospel shows the tension that was mounting between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders who thought that his message was dangerous.
Matthew’s Gospel was written about 70 years after Jesus’ death and reflected the conflicts and tensions found in the Christian community at that time. Conflicts and tensions that are, sadly, still with us today in our modern-day Vineyard.
This Gospel reminds us of the importance of listening to God’s word. In many ways, God speaks to us through Scripture, through our Church tradition, in our Church’s teaching, and through modern-day proph- ets. Are we attentive and receptive to God’s word to us through these messengers? Are we tending to His Vineyard with an eye toward everlasting life?
(Excerpt from Loyola Press Oct 2017)
Continuing with the theme of being good tenants in our very own Vineyard, please know that, thanks to your generosity, we have accomplished (or are in the process of accomplishing) the following projects:
1. Dehumidifiers installed in the Church basement to alleviate moisture and mold potential.
2. Parking lot lines of demarcation for parking spaces, handicapped spaces, and delivery/fire lane spaces will begin the week of October 12th.
3. Moving the parish office and personnel out of the Rectory and into the existing confessional space.
4. Starting an online parish giving system; details to be announced.
5. An Automated external defibrillator has been ordered.
Enjoy this beautiful Fall weather and keep your Vineyard in a manner that will be ready to welcome Jesus.

God Bless You,
Father Perez

Cans for KOVAR

The Knights of Columbus are collecting aluminum cans to raise money to support our KOVAR charity.

In the past you have seen our members in their yellow vests handing out Tootsie Rolls and collecting money. Due to the pandemic we are not following that path this year.

Please help us by donating your cans. They can be deposited in the trailer located near the utility pole at the back of the parking lot.

KOVAR is a Virginia Knights of Columbus Charity established in 1971 to provide financial assistance through grants and home loans to tax exempt organizations providing training and assistance to citizens with intellectual disabilities.

See www.kovarva.org for more information

Two Sons Working in Vineyard

In the Gospel passage for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 21:28-32), Our Lord presents an opinion question regarding two sons ordered to work in their father’s vineyard. The problem is, do we see disobedience in word or in action, although one son eventually does what his father ordered him to do.
Unfortunately, we who strive to live by the law of Christ and under the authority of his Bride, the Church, can get caught up in this attitude of disobedience in some way, shape, or form.
Whether they are large or small matters, disobedience is rooted in sin, particularly the sin of pride, which has its source in the devil, the Evil One, the father of lies, the master of deceit, the adversary, Lucifer, Satan.
Whatever we call him, we know that we must be watchful and alert so that we will not succumb to his temptations. Especially since Satan was an angel who possesses an intellect much greater than ours; he is much smarter than we could ever be, and this is why we must always be watchful and alert.
It is important to keep in mind that we have help from heaven to not succumb to temptation and sin.
Of course, the good Lord sends us his grace to strengthen us to be humble and docile servants. But we rely on allies from God’s kingdom, and our allies are the Most Blessed Mother, the saints, and the angels. The Blessed Mother intercedes on our behalf- she prays “for us sinners now and at the hour of our death” lovingly and maternally.
We must use the saints to pray for us, and we must rely on our guardian angels that the Lord has sent to watch over us. And for added firepower from heaven, we rely on the archangels Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael, whose feast is coming up later this week on the 29th.
And finally, the one person we always rely on is Our Lord Jesus Christ, with
His perfect and supreme example and His divine teachings, Our Lord shows us the way we must conduct ourselves to be his obedient and faithful followers.
Our Lord teaches us how to follow the will of the Father, certainly by his words, but above all, his example of obedience.
Christ obeys his heavenly Father because he is meek and humble of heart.
Where man was lost by Adam and Eve’s disobedience, we were saved through the obedience of Christ.
Now we must cooperate with the graces that come from Our Lord and humbly and lovingly obey the Lord with Christ’s attitude and in imitation of Christ
God bless you,

Father Perez

Sunday’s Gospel -Matthew 20: 1-16a

Dear Parishioners:
Our initial reaction to the parable in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 20: 1-16a) is shock that the one who worked in the vineyard for one hour received the same payment as the one who worked and toiled all day. But the laborer deserves his payment, and more importantly, all were paid the sum that they agreed to, beginning with the last and ending with the first.

We know that would never happen in this day and age with hourly wages, fair labor laws, unions, etc. All employers expect a full day’s work from us.

But in this parable, our Lord isn’t teaching us about labor relations, but rather, he teaches us about the kingdom of heaven and the generosity of God. Jesus illustrates for us that the Lord is generous in giving free and undeserved gifts. With all the work that needs to be done for the sake of the kingdom, the Lord continually calls laborers to work in his  vineyard-,laborers who’ll work for an eternal and heavenly reward. We are all called to labor in the Lord’s vineyard because there’s much work that needs to be done. Some of us are called at an early age
to work for the kingdom’s sake, and some of us are called much later in life.

But eventually, all are called to labor for the Gospel in accord with our particular vocation in life. The vocation Jesus called us to that will help us get to heaven. Therefore, we all are to labor for the same heavenly reward. Our heavenly reward is borne from God’s generosity, and the Lord will never be outdone or outmatched in generosity because His ways are above man’s ways and His thoughts are above man’s thoughts. The Lord’s generosity is unlimited and infinite. It knows no bounds, and what we receive from the Lord God comes from Him with abundance and without measure.

We often find the mind of God incomprehensible, and we, as mere mortals, tend to measure out our generosity in relationship to what we receive. Even subconsciously, we hold back in being generous, and we tend to put up limits and conditions,  rather than being selfless and giving. But we must always keep in mind that our ways aren’t God’s ways and that we must strive to have
the sense of God and follow Christ’s command to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

With a generous heart,
Fr. Perez

On Being a Fool for Christ

by: MSGR. CHARLES POPE

Saint Peter writes:
Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in
God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”So then, no more boasting about men! (1 Cor 3:18-21).

Ah, to be a fool for Christ! Now that is a wise thing indeed. But it is so daring and frightening that few even among priests and religious get there. To be a fool for Christ is to be mocked, scorned and hated by this world, to be the butt of jokes, to be held in derision. How many of any of us are willing to accept this? We have such a powerful instinct to fit in, be liked, be approved by men.

The martyrs of the early Church accepted death for proclaiming and living Christ but we can barely endure a raised eyebrow! Maybe it is ambition that keeps us from the goal. Maybe it is an overly developed wish to live in peace with the world. Maybe it is fear or maybe it is just plain laziness. But few of us Christians can bear the notion of really being thought a fool by this world and so we desperately strive to fit in.

If you evangelize or really seek to live the gospel, expect to get it with both barrels. Expect to be scorned, rebuffed and ignored. Expect your children and grandchildren to roll their eyes and say, “There you go again.!” Expect a fallen away member of the family to ridicule you and recite your own past sins. Evangelizing and living in countercultural ways is hard. Sometimes the fruits seem lacking despite repeated attempts. And it is often our own family members that grieve us the most. But all of this is just fine. We have to remember that in spite of negative reactions we haven’t done anything wrong. We often think, probably from childhood, that when someone is angry at us we have done something wrong.

Not necessarily. Sometimes it means we have done something right. A doctor often causes pain and discomfort in order to bring healing and so it is that the Word of God is sharper that any two edged sword. Sometimes people are angry and “hurt” because we have done something precisely right. The protest of pain often precedes the healing that follows.

But in the end, the biggest obstacle to evangelization is our fragile ego. We are often so afraid to incite a negative reaction, to incur another’s wrath or even worse, ridicule. Perhaps we will be asked a question we cannot answer or the other person will “out maneuver” us with Bible quotes and “win” the argument. Perhaps a fallen away family member will succeed in embarrassing us about our past sins. Perhaps it is just too painful to be told “no” again by a spouse or child who refuses to go to Church. Perhaps we will end up feeling like a fool.

And there it is, that word again: fool! Are you and I willing to be made a fool for Christ’s sake? Are we willing to  risk ridicule and failure in order to announce Jesus Christ? The world has gone mad and the Gospel is “out of season.”

More than ever the Lord needs a few fools to risk ridicule and hatred to proclaim his gospel to a hostile world that often thinks it is a foolish doctrine that is hopelessly out of touch.
It is said that among some of the Monks of the Orthodox Church it is common to place upon their tombstone the phrase: “Fool for Christ” Not bad. I pray that I will increasingly live a life worthy of the title. And if I do, kindly grant me the favor of inscribing on MY tombstone: “Fool for Christ.”