His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH’s remarks on the 10th Anniversary of St. Anthony Church
January 14, 2006
San Diego, California
Reverend Fathers and brothers and sisters in Christ:
It is said that we appreciate much more the things we earn than the things given to us. I suppose this is why our celebration this evening is so special, because it is the fruit of ten years of hard work and sacrifice. Since the inception of this parish in 1994, you all have worked diligently towards this goal of having your own property for a proper sanctuary dedicated to God.
This is the fruit of many years of prayer. You have prayed and sacrificed your time, talents and money to establish this community. In return, God has rewarded you in many ways. You have much to be grateful for: families, children, health, good weather, a fine priest and deacons, freedom, wealth…little things to some, but try doing without them. As the Scripture says, to whom much is given, much is expected. Be grateful, and act out of that gratitude.
As for me, I am thankful that this vital parish is part of my Diocese. I can say without a doubt that I rely on your prayers and support to keep my ministry moving forward, and I know that this community will play a pivotal role in the future of this Diocese. By bringing the Light of our Lord, Jesus Christ, to the suffering people of this land, we transfigure the entire world. We bring God’s grace and healing to the suffering by the preaching of the Gospel not only with words, but rather with Christian virtues and actions.
I cannot let this evening pass without recognizing Father Jon Braun’s faithful and dedicated service not only to this community, but the Diocese as a whole. All of you know of his important ministry as Dean for Southern California, and how deeply he desires to serve his brethren. This duty has not been easy, he has had many challenges, including having to deal with me! He has sacrificed more than anyone else in this community, and he has led all of you by his knowledge, wise leadership and example of true, Godly love for others.
Though there are many challenges ahead, I ask all of you to remember the faithful example of your pastor, Father Jon. His loyalty, perseverance and dedication to the Church has brought him through good times and bad, suffering and rejoicing. He has never abandoned his commitments, even when he had strong disagreements with others. He did not let small conflicts distract him from the goal.
If you desire to be steadfast in your faith, then I ask you to look at the living example of your spiritual leaders, like Father Jon. Let him lead you not just through his preaching and teaching, but more so as an exemplar of the virtue of endurance. In his life you will see how he has patiently waited on the Lord, and in doing so has remained on the path in the Kingdom of Heaven when others were distracted and lost their way.
The Braun family has devoted itself to serving the Church in many ways. Let us not forget to acknowledge Kh. Mary Ellen for her ceaseless support of Father Jon’s ministry, her love for everyone, and her quite smile, a smile which talks to us in many ways. The tradition of service from Father Jon has been passed down to Deacons Thomas and Gary, whom I love dearly and know that their father is proud of their commitment to the Church. The Apostolic Faith must be passed down from father to son, from mother to daughter, and those who are not children according to the flesh can be our spiritual children when we decide to behave like responsible parents. This is truly what it is to share the Gospel.
As you make plans for the future, I urge you all never to forget the poor and those who want. The mission of this parish is to bring light and life to those in darkness. Like the servants of the man in the Gospel Luke who planned a great banquet, bring in the people living along the side of the road, the injured and the suffering. Never neglect your Apostolic calling to bring the Good News to the less fortunate.
It is easy for us to become complacent when we have so many blessings, but such complacency leads us towards losing all our blessings and even our souls. Complacency begins when we no longer see the gift of each new day, when we lose our gratitude for what we have been given. Though God has given us all things simply because He loves us, He lets us work for these things so we will appreciate them all the more. Thus, God’s grace is both freely given, yet worked for. We labor, yet labor is never enough. It is freely bestowed, yet it has a price.
We must walk as on a tightrope, and our only hope of remaining upright is by God’s mercy and grace. Certainly, this community has done well in maintaining that balance, and I encourage you all to continue to move forward, building up this community from the inside outward.