Every Thursday evening the priests and parishioners of Sacred Heart Church in Rancho Cucamonga, California gather in their church to spend Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. At least three hundred people of all ages and from different cultural and ministerial groups participate regularly in this event.
It’s amazing to witness this hour of worship. The pastor, Fr. Benedict Nwachukwu, a Nigerian priest, would eagerly and passionately lead it. He would ask them to sing in praise and worship to God, to cast all their concerns and cares before the Lord, to pray quiet and listen to the voice of God within their hearts and through the prayers and reading of the Scriptures.
One would feel the genuine faith of the parishioners who come to this event. Adhering to their pastor’s pleading to enter into communion with God, they would kneel quietly, sing loudly, and pray solemnly. At the moment the priest raises the Blessed Sacrament, everyone looks at the Lord with profound devotion and endearment. Then at the end of the service, everyone leaves quietly manifesting peace, joy, contentment, and union with fellow parishioners.
“This is another time of the week when we gather together as one community,” a parishioner remarked to me. “There are no separate group meetings every Thursday night. Instead, Fr. Ben invites everyone to join the Holy Hour and everyone likes it,” he added.
Another parishioner calls this community event one of their “wow moments.” He has been a member of the parish for twenty-seven years and he has seen the community grow from worshipping in their old church that sits roughly around five hundred people to gathering in their newly constructed church that sits at least fifteen hundred people. The Holy Hour, he said, is one of the impressive events they have every week aside from the Sunday Masses, the different retreats, the youth and school activities, and the regular meetings of the fifty-four ministries of the parish.
I sat at one of the pews with the people of this parish reveling at the awesomeness of this community worship and the zealousness of the priests and the parishioners. Sacred Heart Church is absolutely an engaging and active parish. It truly gives you a lot of “wow moments!”
On this Second Sunday of Lent, as we listen to the Gospel on the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus, perhaps we should take time to think of those “wow moments” when we are captivated by the presence of the Lord or by the faith of other people. In these times when we hear and see so much violence, hatred and divisions in the world, we can experience depression, sadness, and helplessness. Any “wow” moment with God in the church or around us can bring hope in our lives and inspire us to keep on spreading love, kindness, and mercy and building a peaceful, just, and loving world.
In Gospel, we find the disciples reveling at the transfiguration of our Lord as “his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.” They were amazed at seeing Moses and Elijah appearing and conversing with Jesus. And they did not want to end that “wow moment” with God. Jesus gave them a taste of what it is like to live in true peace and harmony with God and with others.
Indeed, the priests and parishioners of Sacred Heart Church experience a “wow moment” with God every Thursday evening when they spend Holy Hour. And they see this “wow moment” extended to other gatherings and service to people.
May we all have “wow” moments with God and others!
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1999-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.