Faith Matters: Finding God on earth

  • Holy Family Parish in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Father Jonathan Reardon at the Holy Family Parish in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Father Jonathan Reardon at the Holy Family Parish in South Deerfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Pastor, Holy Family Parish
Published: 8/5/2016 10:36:55 PM

(Editor's note: The following is a submission to The Recorder's weekly column titled “Faith Matters.” Each Saturday, a different faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal religious perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email religion@recorder.com or call 413-772-0261, ext. 265.)

In the New Testament, St. Luke tells of an event that happened early in the life of Jesus. He had traveled with His family to Jerusalem for Passover. On the return home, His parents noticed that He was not with them, nor was He with their other relatives. They had to go back to Jerusalem and look for Him. After three days, they found Him sitting at the feet of the scholars and doctors of the Jewish faith. His mother, probably with a stern-yet-consoling tone, asked him (and I am paraphrasing), “Why did you leave us? Your father and I were worried about you.” (Luke 2: 41-48).

His answer, as recorded by St. Luke, was just as striking for them in His own time as it is for us even now: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2: 49) The answer must have caught His parents off guard. The whole scene teaches us something about human nature and about God.

Human beings are religious by nature. Religiosity is built within the core of what it means to be a human being. It is even within people who consider themselves atheists. We know this because we all look for ways to tap into an inner spirit, something other than the earthly. Often people will say, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” Yet, this in and of itself, is a contradiction in terms. It simply means that a person does not hold to any one tradition. People of this mentality have a dislike of or aversion toward the mainstream, organized religions. One does not have to be a part of an organized faith such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Buddhism in order to be considered a religious person, because religiosity is part of the makeup of humanity.

I do not wish to suggest that a person should not belong to or identify with an organized religion. On the contrary, actually, I wish to propose that one should become a part of an organized religion. In particular, I wish to reach those who have left the Catholic faith and other Christians who feel that it is not necessary to go to Mass or attend church. My proposal depends on the story that was related at the very beginning of this article.

Jesus is said to have been found in the Temple area — the place of worship and the very center of the life of the Jewish people of His time. Jesus was found in the place that the Jewish people would consider the heart of their faith and way of life. Is not the same true for Catholics? To this day, Jesus can be found. He is found in the Church, which is, for Catholics, our spiritual home. This is where the temporal and the spiritual come together.

The Catholic Church teaches and believes that God does not occupy space and time. Human beings, however, do occupy space and time. We need a physical space, a place to go where we can find Him. We need a place of encounter. The parish grounds become for us a place to meet God, to connect to things spiritual in the midst of our temporal affairs. The church building itself has great significance: it reminds us of heaven. It is meant to make us feel like we have stepped into the eternal. Everything about the way a church looks, feels, and smells — windows, statues, artwork, incense, candles, etc. — is all meant to touch the senses in order to lift the soul.

The Church, therefore, is sacramental. As the sacraments themselves are the means to encounter God, so the Church is the place, the vehicle that gets us there. It becomes for us the place where time and eternity meet.

Not only is it a place to find God but it is also a place of communion — with God and one another. There is a real sense of the communion of the saints where the whole Church — earthly and eternal — come together in one divine gathering. It is here that we find a sense of belonging and identity. We would truly be lost without a place to call home.

About Holy Family Parish

In 2008, the parishes St. James and St. Stanislaus in South Deerfield (including St. Mark Mission in Conway) merged to form Holy Family. While the parish is fairly young, the church itself is over 100 years old. We are located on 29 Sugarloaf St. in South Deerfield. Our Mass times are: 4 p.m. on Saturday (preceded by confessions at 3 p.m.); 8 and 10:30 a.m. on Sunday and 9:15 a.m. at St. Mark’s in Conway. I welcome all Catholics, especially those who have been away, to come back to Church, come home to the place of encounter with God. I welcome all people of any faith to come and visit as well and hope that you may find God in this sacred space.

Fr. Reardon can be reached at 413-665-3254 orby email at reardon.j@gmail.com. Please visit our website: www.holyfamilysd.org 




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