As we mark the Third Sunday of Lent today, we shift gears a bit in our Lenten journey. Throughout the past week the daily Scripture readings have been our guide. Last Sunday, the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration gave us a glimpse of the glory to which each of us is called. On Monday, we were given the path to that glory – stop judging, stop condemning, forgive. Tuesday – do not perform works in order to be noticed. Wednesday – if we take this path seriously, expect opposition and persecution. Thursday – trust that God will help us in our efforts to change. Friday – if we ignore the invitation, the invitation will be given to others who will respond. And Saturday – while we can’t succeed on our own, God’s overwhelming gift of forgiveness can overcome our failures.
Once we realize that we cannot make the changes in our lives that we would like to make on our own, we are reminded that God is on our side and working with us. God has taken many steps to bring us back. The primary image in the Scripture readings during this week is the image of water – a symbol of new life. We remember how God gave us new life in our Baptism. This third week of Lent invites us to look back at what God initially did for us in the past and to look ahead to the Easter Vigil when we will renew our Baptism promises.
We were very blessed last week to have had Mr. Michael Page lead us in “Celebrate Mercy!” – our 2016 Parish Mission. He invited us at each of our Masses last weekend to open our hearts to the mystery of God’s mercy, and then led us in our reflections on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings. He helped connect our church stories with stories in our own lives and lead us to deeper understandings of the person of God. There was no better way to close our time on Tuesday night than by celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. With twelve priests available for the Sacrament, no one had to wait long to celebrate God’s amazing gift of mercy! Thank you to all who were able to be with us. Our 2016 Parish Mission was a great way to honor the Holy Year, the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis.
Today we begin the Scrutinies, or Rites of Inner Healing, with the elect – those who have been called to the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. These Rites will be celebrated at one of our Masses each Sunday over the next three weeks. This week they will be celebrated at the 10:00am Mass. Even though we are currently hearing the Cycle C Readings this year, the Cycle A Readings lead us in our celebration of the Scrutinies. This Cycle gives us the traditional “coming to faith” stories that were used to prepare those to be baptized in the early church. For the First Scrutiny, we hear the account of the Woman at the Well from John’s Gospel. Her story is really the story of those who are preparing for their Baptism. We promise to support the elect and candidates for Full Communion with our prayers throughout this special season of preparations.
As our Lenten Penitential Rite at Mass reminds us, Lent 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. Lenten times for the Sacrament of Reconciliation are on Saturdays following the 8:15am Mass until 10:00am. There will be an opportunity to celebrate this sacrament as a community at our Lenten Reconciliation Service on Monday, March 14th. Lenten Reconciliation Services are being celebrated with our Faith Formation classes, grades 2-6. Our Grade School students will celebrate the Sacrament on Thursday, March 10th. Faith Formation grades 7-8 and Confirmation students have times scheduled as well. This season is an ideal time for each of us to celebrate this powerful sacrament of God’s healing.
In a universal effort to make Christ’s mercy more manifest during the season of Lent, the Vatican is asking parishes worldwide to make the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharistic adoration more available for a 24-hour period on this Friday/Saturday, March 4-5. Called “24 Hours for the Lord,” the initiative, now in its third year, places the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the heart of what it means to be a people and a Church of mercy. As this date is the First Friday of March, we already have Eucharistic adoration taking place, following the 7:00am Friday morning Mass and concluding just before the 8:15am Mass on Saturday. We will have an additional opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Friday morning from 7:30-8:30am and from 12:40-1:30pm on Friday.
Next Sunday we will join with Catholic parishes throughout our diocese in responding to the annual Catholic Relief Services Collection. Funds raised through this annual collection go directly to Catholic Relief Services and are used to make an immediate response to natural disasters as they occur throughout the world. Envelopes for this appeal are included in the packets mailed to our homes. Thank you for your generous response to this annual appeal.
Many additional things are happening in our parish at this time of year. All are described elsewhere in the bulletin. Please take time to read about them.
A recent Catholic Update pointed out that the medieval mystic Meister Eckhardt said that the spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than with addition. Yet Christians today are involved in a spirituality of addition. Consumer culture has convinced us that more is better! God wants us to let go. In many cases, less is actually more. Let us continue to pray for and support each other in our Lenten practices. Know that your priests pray for you each day. May God continue to bless us with everything that we need, and more.