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Deacon presents dynamics of the faith in Lenten mission

Powerful Preaching • Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers encourages parishioners to develop their spiritual muscle during a presentation March 9 as part of the Lenten mission in Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro.  Joe Moore photo


By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor

For anyone who questions why it is important to attend Mass regularly, Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers suggests thinking of it in terms of athletes who continuously practice their sport.

The results, he said, are pretty similar. For athletes, constant practice of the same maneuvers and plays helps them to build “muscle memory” – instincts that can enable them to excel and outwit the opponent. For Catholics, attending Mass and being nourished by the Word and the Eucharist, helps them to build “spiritual muscle memory,” which gives them the strength and the faith to deal with “out there” in the world.

‘The devil is out there,” Deacon Burke-Sivers said. “And we need to be armed, spiritually armed. We become armed by going to Mass and receiving the Sacraments.”

The internationally known and very dynamic Deacon Burke-Sivers was invited to return to the Trenton Diocese to present a two-day parish Lenten mission, “My flesh for the life of the world,” March 9-10 in Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro. The founder and director of DynamicDeacon.com, who travels the world speaking on topics related to the faith, visited the Diocese in 2014 to address the speakers at the Catholic Men for Jesus Christ Rally.

With a very worn Bible in hand, Deacon Burke-Sivers centered his March 9 presentation on the sacramental life of the Church by focusing primarily on the early chapters of the Book of Genesis. He referred to passages on the creation of the world and the lives and actions of Adam and Eve and noted how they are reflective of the Sacraments and other topics such as sin and temptation. Looking to the present day, he likened the devil’s tempting Eve to eat the forbidden fruit as being the start of the destruction of her family unit. Similarly, the devil is at work in the lives of families today, he said, then cited examples such as divorce, the devaluation of the Sanctity of Matrimony and women, pre-marital sex, same-sex unions or other vices that cause familial rifts.

As Lent is a time for faithful to repent for their sins and to practice the pillars of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, Deacon Burke-Sivers looked for Scripture references of God’s mercy and forgiveness and urged his audience to avail themselves to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist regularly.

Focusing his March 10 presentation on the Eucharist and evangelization, which also included directing a large portion of his session to the young people in attendance, Deacon Burke-Sivers spoke on how the Scriptures are intimately involved in Mass, why knowing the tenets of the faith and engaging in prayer is vital to keeping the faith nourished; the importance of going to Mass, and how to live out the faith in a secular world.

Though he admits to hearing the universal response that young people find Mass “boring,” Deacon Burke-Sivers reminded them that during the Mass, they are fed the true Body and Blood of Jesus.  When people look elsewhere for spiritual sustenance, they are being fed “junk food.”

“We are fed twice during Mass,” Deacon Burke-Sivers said. “In the Liturgy of the Word, God introduces himself to us...we are fed through his Word. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, we are given the Body and Blood of Christ to eat.”

Hope Boozan, a high school student from St. James Parish, Pennington, who traveled to Willingboro with her mother, Kathy, and brother, Jay, appreciated Deacon Burke-Sivers explaining The Book of Genesis “in a very instructive way, giving the story a deeper, more personal meaning” and how he addressed “more modern controversial issues such as gay marriage and premarital sex that society has adopted as the new norm.”

“A lot of times during Lent, I only think about giving up something, but from this presentation I thought about what it means to be Catholic, and how dynamic the faith is,” Boozan said, adding that she enjoyed  Deacon Burke-Sivers’ energy and excitement about the Catholic faith.

“He made me feel blessed to be a child of God and how important our Catholic faith is. It was powerful.”

Corpus Christi parishioner Maryann Helmer said, “Deacon Burke-Sivers’ insight helped to enhance my Lenten experience in that it showed me a new way of looking at and working out a deeper relationship with God and not just a superficial understanding of what being a Catholic is all about.”

“He had a very comprehensive program as he reached out to young and old alike with humor and candor. It is interesting how I came to this program with preconceived ideas of what he would present and how he would present these ideas. Again, I came away from it with a totally different stream of thought as to how as a Catholic and Christian I need to change and learn about my faith.  Hopefully, he will continue in this very important ministry,” she said.

“Wow, Deacon Harold certainly made me look at Genesis in a whole different way,” chimed parishioner Ellen Tiene. Noting that she had tried reading the Bible as a book a few times and found it to be “complicated,” she liked how he “broke down the beginning of Genesis so simply that  I now realize that I must have been over thinking what I was reading.”

“Who knew that God’s plan for us was laid out in the first two pages of Genesis?” she said.

Tiene said that she was particularly struck by the way Deacon Burke-Sivers focused on the role of women in the Catholic faith.

“God did create men and women to be equal in different ways,” she said. “Women are the heart of the home and the family; we are responsible for nurturing the faith of our family, something that my mother taught by example and continues to teach me.”

Men, Tiene continued, need to be “example setters for our faith.”

“The man needs to embrace the faith if our children are to continue embracing it as they leave our care and go out on their own.  I think this is so important and it is something that many families overlook. I think if more people heard the way Deacon Harold speaks to the role of women, they would see the Catholic faith in a whole different way.”  





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