Fr. Dan Hesko

The Nativity of St. John the Baptist

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The Benedictus: Hymn of Thanksgiving of Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; because He hath visited and wrought the redemption of His people:  and hath raised up an Horn of Salvation to us, in the house of David His servant:  As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who are from the beginning:  Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us: To perform mercy to our fathers, and to remember His Holy Testament,  the oath, which He swore to Abraham our father, that He would grant to us, that being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve Him without fear, in holiness and justice before Him, all our days. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways:  To give knowledge of salvation to His people, unto the remission of their sins: Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us:  To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace. – Luke 1:68-79

My Dear Parishioners: Today is the birthday of Saint John the Baptist. In the Roman calendar, only three birthdays are recognized: Our Blessed Lord, December 25th; the Blessed Virgin Mary, September 8th, and today, June 24th, Saint John the Baptist. This day always marked for us as children the beginning of summer. Growing up in inner-city Philadelphia, we were not allowed to go to the public pool until today, when our Pastor would stand in front of the public pool and we all prayed and he blessed the water. I remember the absolute quiet of 200+ kids, as he prayed.Then the sign was given and the fun and splashing began! We were told that the Baptist’s birthday somehow signified the blessing of the waters. So as kids, we all looked forward to Saint John’s Day, when we could finally go swimming. What I like about that memory is that the summer began with a blessing, a sacred observance that somehow permeated the entire summer. I recall a steamy hot church with only the hum of two big fans on the Altar to keep us cool, and they were turned off during the sermon. All the neighborhood kids had a turn or two of going to the cemetery with their parents to wash the headstones, plant flowers and, most importantly, to say a prayer. Like most city kids, we lived our lives by the Church bells: the Angelus at noon, home for lunch; the Angelus at 6 p.m., home for dinner. Like so many my age and older, we lived in a community that simply breathed the Christian faith. I can remember all the kids picking up a piece of litter as a penance, being told that littering was – and still is today – a sin and offensive to God. (We were green before it was fashionable!) Today, sadly, that Christian air is no longer present in society. A new, poisonous air hangs over us, the air of indifference to God and the things of God. This indifference is manifest in rudeness, vulgarity, and disregard for others and their property. Saint John came to prepare the way of the Lord. He came as a witness. Today the world needs witnesses to the truth of our faith, to the true faith of Jesus Christ, and the truth that no one can get to Heaven except through Him. We witness first by example. Summertime is a laid-back time, yet we affirm our faith each Sunday by getting up, getting dressed, and coming to Mass (and let us recall that our dress should befit our presence in the Temple of God). For us as Catholics, there are no “free Sundays.” When we go on vacation, we seek out the Catholic Church and the time for Mass. We witness by our speech. I am shocked by the obscenities that I hear, even by young children, as they walk by the Rectory and the Church. I can only conclude that this is how their mothers and father talk in the house. Pray for these poor, wretched children doomed by their own parents to such poverty of soul! Saint John would have us speak a word of truth to our children and grandchildren about how offensive this type of vocabulary is before God. The secular press predicts an increase of violent crime by teenagers who come from homes where there is little moral or spiritual foundation. Saint John reminds us that we need God. Encourage your adult children who are trying to raise their family to come to Mass, not dismiss it as “a nice thing to do,” but because without God and a good moral and spiritual foundation, family life will be destroyed by drugs, gangs (yes, we have them here), and a host of other evils. Catholic family life must include daily family prayer (e.g., Grace before Meals, etc.) both at home and in public.  Let others see your faith in action! By living this faith like John the Baptist, “the rough places will be made plain and the crooked, straight.” By God’s grace, we can begin to build in our community a truly Christian environment. Happy Summer! God bless you all. Your friend and pastor, Father Dan Hesko.

Rogier van der Weyden (1400-1464)
St John the Baptist Altarpiece, Left Panel c. 1454
(oil and tempera on wood,  30¼” x 18¾”)
Staatliche Museen, Berlin, Germany 



Good Shepherd Sunday (2nd After Easter)

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My Dear Parishioners:

Next to the Crucifix, no other image of Our Lord is as dear to us as the image of the Good Shepherd. We are so blessed to have a Good Shepherd window in our Church. This very title of Christ brings comfort to our hearts. But Jesus is no sentimental Shepherd. His ‘shepherding” is serious business, a life-and-death struggle. The sheep that hear and follow His voice will remain in safety. The ones that go astray do so at their own peril. Today Jesus is Our Good Shepherd, the Way we must follow is clearly laid out for us in the Holy Scriptures and in the unchanged teaching of the Church throughout the ages. You and I must develop a spiritual “ear” for the Good Shepherd that allows us to discern between the false voices and empty promises of this world, which offers shallow answers to life’s tough questions. This is why we must all know our faith, what it teaches, and how we can apply it. We have printed the wonderful work, “My Catholic Faith” twice in the bulletin over the past few years, and it’s probably time to repeat it. As we know what the faith teaches, we are more ready to discern between the voices of truth, and the often cunning voice of error. By remaining close to Christ in a life of prayer and charity, we can walk confidently through life, knowing that, as we do, that Christ Himself is leading us, sometimes in green valleys where the waters roll sweet, sometimes through the darkness of sadness and despair, and sometimes through the fire of trials. But what we know with confidence is that as we remain close to Christ, He will bring us at last to our true and lasting Home in Heaven. May God help us all to remain close to Christ and listen to His voice. God bless you all. Your friend and pastor, Fr. Dan Hesko

“Amen, Amen, I say to you…I am the Good Shepherd; and I know Mine, and Mine know Me. As the Father knoweth Me, and I know the Father: and I lay down My life for My sheep…
My sheep hear My voice: and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them life everlasting; and they shall not perish for ever, and no man shall pluck them out of My hand.” – John 10:1, 14-15, 27-28

“Christ the Good Shepherd” from a homily on the Gospels by Saint Gregory the Great, Pope (Hom. 14. 3-6: PL 76, 1129- 1130)

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know My own” – by which I mean, I love them – “and My own know me.” (John 10:14) In plain words: “Those who love Me are willing to follow Me, for anyone who does not love the Truth has not yet come to know It.”

My dear brethren, you have heard the test we pastors have to undergo. Turn now to consider how these words of Our Lord imply a test for yourselves also. Ask yourselves whether you belong to His flock, whether you know Him, whether the light of His Truth shines in your minds. I assure you that it is not by faith that you will come to know Him, but by love; not by mere conviction, but by action. John the Evangelist is my authority for this statement. He tells us that anyone who claims to know God without keeping his commandments is a liar. (1 John 2:4)

Consequently, the Lord immediately adds: “As the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for My sheep.” (John 10:15) Clearly He means that laying down His life for His sheep gives evidence of His knowledge of the Father and the Father’s knowledge of Him. In other words, by the love with which He dies for His sheep, He shows how greatly He loves His Father.

Again, He says: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them; they follow Me, and I give them eternal life.” (John 10:27-28) Shortly before this He had declared: “If anyone enters the sheepfold through Me, he shall be saved; he shall go freely in and out and shall find good pasture.” (John 10:9) He will enter into a life of faith; from faith he will go out to vision, from belief to contemplation, and will graze in the good pastures of everlasting life.

So our Lord’s sheep will finally reach their grazing ground, where all who follow Him in simplicity of heart will feed on the green pastures of eternity. These pastures are the spiritual joys of Heaven. There the elect look upon the face of God with unclouded vision and feast at the banquet of life for ever more.

Beloved, let us set out for these pastures where we shall keep joyful festival with so many of our fellow citizens. May the thought of their happiness urge us on! Let us stir up our hearts, rekindle our faith, and long eagerly for what Heaven has in store for us. To love thus is to be already on our way.  

No matter what obstacles we encounter, we must not allow them to turn us aside from the joy of that heavenly feast. Anyone who is determined to reach his destination is not deterred by the roughness of the road that leads to it. Nor must we allow the charm of success to seduce us, or we shall be like a foolish traveler who is so distracted by the pleasant meadows through which he is passing that he forgets where he is going. 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

He leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul:

He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;

Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. – Psalm 23, KJV

Dominus regit me. Psalmus David

Dominus regit me, et nihil mihi deerit :

in loco pascuae ibi me collocavit.

Super aquam refectionis educavit me, animam meam convertit.

Deduxit me super semitas justitiae, propter Nomen Suum.

Nam, etsi ambulavero in medio umbrae mortis, non timebo mala, quoniam Tu mecum es.

Virga Tua, et baculus Tuus, ipsa me consolata sunt.

Parasti in conspectu meo mensam, adversus eos qui tribulant me;

impinguasti in oleo caput meum; et calix meus inebrians quam praeclarus est!

Et misericordia Tua subsequetur me omnibus diebus vitae meae;

 et ut inhabitem in domo Domini, in longitudinem dierum.

– Psalmus 22, Latin Vulgate

The Lord Ruleth Me. God’s spiritual benefits to faithful souls. A psalm for David.

The Lord ruleth me [1] and I shall want nothing.

He hath set me in a place of pasture.

He hath brought me up, on the water of refreshment:

He hath converted my soul.

He hath led me on the paths of justice, for His own Name’s sake.

For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evils, for Thou art with me.

 Thy rod and Thy staff, they have comforted me.

Thou hast prepared a table before me against them that afflict me.

Thou hast anointed my head with oil; and my chalice which inebriateth me, how goodly is it!

And Thy mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

And that I may dwell in the house of the Lord unto length of days.

[1] “Ruleth me”: In Hebrew, Is my shepherd, viz., to feed, guide, and govern me.

– Psalm 22 Douay Rheims Catholic Bible + Challoner notes

Lessons from Today’s Readings (2017)

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“The way we may be sure that we know Him is to keep His Commandments. Those who say, “I know Him,” but do not keep His Commandments are liars, and the Truth is not in them. But whoever keeps His Word, the love of God is truly perfected in Him.” – 1 John 2:3-5

These are the words of our Lesson at Mass today. We are reminded that Christ is risen, and that He is risen in His Body the Church, and that is ALL of us. By our Baptism, we have been made a part of His Mystical Body, and our vocation in life is to live the message of Christ, Who is alive and desires all to come to Him for salvation. St. John reminds us that if we say we love God, we must follow God, we must do His Will. And what is His Will? John tells us that we keep His Commandments. St. Peter will say to those who hear him speak, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.” (Acts 3:19) In other passages, he will say, “Repent and be baptized so that your sins might be washed away.” For us, the Easter message in many ways is linked to …prayer, fasting and charity. If our lives are oriented to this, then the natural outflow of our life will be to live and obey the Commandments of God. Jesus was made known to the disciples on the road to Emmaus after they showed Him charity, by constraining Him to come and stay with them because it was getting late. In showing kindness to a stranger, the Lord revealed His presence among them and they became witnesses of His resurrection. In the Gospel lesson from Luke 24:46, Jesus says: “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in His Name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” We always seem to come back to that idea of repentance. And just what is repentance? A turning away from my will and my idea of what is up or down, right or left, good or bad, to listen to the voice of Christ. May God help us as we go through this Easter season to make the risen Christ known where we work, where we live, among our family and friends. How do we do this? By keeping His Commandments. What is the first and greatest Commandment? To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is like to it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Caravaggio, The Supper at Emmaus, 1601, Oil on Canvas, National Gallery, London