If there is one thing that this past year has proven, it is that the Parish Family of Saint John the Evangelist is resilient and completely focused on our mission: To Know, To Love, and To Serve God in His Church and Our Community. Changes have come hard and fast at us, but we have risen to every challenge put in our path. One of my good friends, who runs the Optimist Soccer Program here in Naples, said it best: “We are Saint John. Our Church is not made up of a single priest. We are all the church together”. I want to thank each and every one of you for continuing to support and enliven our faith and our church. We have amazing priests and spectacular people who make St. John what it is, one of the most vibrant and engaging Catholic Churches in Southwest Florida.
We are now blessed to welcome a brand-new pastor, Father Thomas Zalewski, who is not a stranger to the area. He was a priest at Saint Agnes over 5 years ago, and comes to us from another amazing parish, Saint Joseph in Bradenton. Their bocce courts and gym were used frequently, and his leadership at a parish with a Catholic School was spectacular. Father Tom’s Gospel Reflection from last weekend spoke to me so deeply, I thought I would share it with our Parish Family as it may help us all move forward positively:
Today people live closer to one another than ever before. Therefore the influence they have on each other is greater. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are stumbling blocks in the path of others, or stepping stones for them on the road to salvation. Here are some of examples of the way we can be a scandal, that is, a stumbling block, to another person.
You are a scandal to me when you are unkind or unjust in the way you treat me. You make me feel small. You damage my self-confidence.
You are a scandal to me when you fail to understand my weakness, mistakes, and sins, and write me off as a result of them. When you condemn me you make me feel that I am evil.
You are a scandal to me when you humiliate me because I do not live up to your expectations. You hurt my pride and damage my self-image.
You are a scandal to me when you keep me down, or hold me back. When you grab the limelight I am forced to retreat to the shadows and made to feel inferior.
You are a scandal to me when you exclude me or ignore me. You make me feel a stranger and an outsider.
You are a scandal to me when you heap unjust criticism on me, and sour me with your own cynicism. You tear down my ideals, and destroy my dreams.
If you do any of these things to me you are a darkness to me. You are an obstacle in my path. You are a scandal, a stumbling block, to me in the road to self-development, and you make it difficult for me to reach the kingdom of heaven.
But you can also be a stepping stone to me.
You are a stepping stone to me when you support me in moments of weakness and doubt.
You are a stepping stone to me when you give me a belief in myself, when you boost my self-confidence.
You are a stepping stone to me when I’m feeling inadequate, and you help me to discover the special talents God has given me.
You are a stepping stone to me when you make demands on me, are challenging to me, not to hurt me, but to help me to grow and to develop my potential.
You are a stepping stone to me when you accept me, though others reject me.
You are a stepping stone to me when you refuse to join the mob and throw the stone of accusation and judgment at me when I sin.
You are a stepping stone to me when you forgive me. You liberate me from my past, and I am free to move forward again.
You are a stepping stone to me when you understand me and listen to me.
If you have done any of these things for me, you are a light to me in my darkness. You are a signpost to me in my moments of doubt. You are a bridge over troubled wa- ters. You make it easier for me to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said if you gave me as much as a cup of cold water, you would be rewarded for it. But you have done much more than that. You have led me to your own well and shared it with me.