As we observe the Fifth Sunday of Lent this weekend, we enter into the third and final part of the season. We began on Ash Wednesday by hearing the call to fully enter into Lent with everything that we’ve got and to embrace the traditional penances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. This invitation was repeated throughout the first two weeks of Lent. Then, as we realized that we could not do all this on our own, we were reassured that the Lord would give us all that we need to respond to his call.
During the Third and Fourth weeks of Lent our focus shifted to the sacraments, the ways in which God would redeem us. Multiple images of water in the daily Scripture readings reminded us of the life God gave us in the Sacrament of Baptism and helped to prepare us for the Easter Vigil Baptisms of the Elect and our own renewal of our Baptism commitment.
In these final weeks of Lent, our attention shifts to the Cross. Many might be surprised to hear that the Cross has not been a focal point in Lent until this weekend. Up to this point, the Lenten focus has been upon our call to change. Now our Scripture readings and Mass prayers remind us of the great price by which we were redeemed. God delivered his own Son, the innocent Lamb of God, into our hands as the gift offered for our redemption. God faithfully loved us when we were at our worst. This week’s Scripture readings will set the stage for our hearing of the Passion according to Mark next Sunday on Palm/Passion Sunday. We now turn our full attention toward the Cross. These final days of Lent lead us into the Triduum, the three-day commemoration of the dying and rising of the Lord. These are the holiest days of the church year. Let us do all that we can to prepare well for them.
As we have heard over the past several weeks of Lent, this season is the primary season of reconciliation within the church year. One of the best ways for us to prepare for the renewal of our Baptism commitment at Easter is by celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Many of us have already celebrated this Sacrament as Lenten Reconciliation Services have been held for the Grade School, for each of our Faith Formation classes, and at the Parish Mission in early February. Our parish Lent Reconciliation Service will take place this Monday evening at 7:00pm. We will celebrate this sacrament as a community. We will have additional priests with us to serve as confessors. Additional times for the Sacrament are offered this Saturday from 8:45-10:00am. This season is an ideal time for each of us to celebrate this powerful sacrament of God’s healing.
We remember in our Lenten prayer all those who spend this Lent in preparation for their initiation into the church community at the Easter Vigil. We celebrate the Third and final Scrutiny with our “Elect” (those called to celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) at the 10:00am Mass today. Within our own parish community, the “Elect” and the Candidates for Full Communion (baptized in other Christian churches and intending to celebrate the Sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist) are in the last stages of their journey to become Catholics. They are living signs of the conversion and change of heart that we are all called to make this Lent. We promise them the support of our prayers throughout this season and look forward to the time when they can join with us at the table of the Lord. Their photos are on a bulletin board in the Narthex.
Many of us have been using Bishop Ken Untener’s “The Little Black Book” during these past few weeks of Lent. The Lenten “Little Books” have given us daily six-minute reflections on the Passion according to Luke. We now have copies of “The Little White Book” available for the Easter Season. “The Little White Book” begins on April 6th, Easter Monday, and provides us with daily six-minute reflections on the Resurrection Narrative according to John. The Easter season will conclude on Pentecost Sunday. They are now available in the Narthex of the Church and are an excellent guide for us “to spend some quite time with the Lord.”
Thank you to all who have already pledged to the 2015 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, and especially to those who responded to the “Follow-up In-Pew Weekend” last weekend. This Follow-up weekend was rescheduled by the Diocese when additional snow and below normal temperatures were predicted for the original Follow-up date. Thank you to our parish Administrator, Tom Norton, for guiding us through the Follow-up In-Pew process. Our pledges support the work of the diocese, our larger church. The Campaign’s primary objective is participation. If you haven’t had a chance to respond to the 2015 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, please do so as soon as possible. We are looking for 100% participation in the Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, even if a family’s participation is “I do not wish to contribute at this time.” Please join me in responding to the 2015 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.
As we celebrated the Solemnity of St. Joseph last Thursday, our Council of Catholic Women is holding their 53rd annual St. Joseph’s Table today, March 22nd, from 2:00-5:00pm in the Ministry Center. All are welcome to come together and celebrate this great Saint of our church.
Please note that our Holy Week and Easter Triduum schedule is printed in the “Lent 2015” flier and is still available at the Hospitality Desk. It is also printed elsewhere in this weekend’s bulletin and posted on our parish website. Please make a note of it as many of our services are celebrated at different times throughout the week.
As we move into the final stretch of Lent and make our final preparations for our celebration of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum, let us continue to pray for and support each other in our Lenten practices. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy