It doesn’t seem possible that we are already observing the Fourth Sunday of Lent today. We are now past the half way point of this season. During these middle weeks of Lent we continue to focus our attention on the ways God helps us to respond to his call to be disciples of the Lord Jesus and the call to conversion. The main image in the Scripture readings of this week is the image of light. We are called to see as God sees. As we heard in today’s Gospel, God’s desire is that no matter where we have been or done, we experience mercy and forgiveness and that we all find life and salvation in his Son. We were made for life and God sent his Son among us so that we might follow his ways and come to eternal life. God sent his son Jesus into our world to be the one who leads us to forgiveness and to the Father. We pray for the grace to see ourselves and our world as God sees us.
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 have been celebrated with many of our Faith Formation classes. Our Grade School students will celebrate the Sacrament on Thursday, March 10th. This season is an ideal time for each of us to celebrate this powerful sacrament of God’s healing, and especially during the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
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 do this in a public and formal way with the celebration of the Scrutinies, or Rites of Inner Healing with our Elect during the middle weeks of Lent. Today, we celebrate the Second Scrutiny at the 11:30am Spanish Mass. Next week we’ll celebrate the third and final Scrutiny at the 10:00am Mass. The Elect are living signs of the conversion and change of heart that we are all called to make this Lent. As they prepare for their Baptism at the Easter Vigil, we prepare for the renewal of our Baptism at Easter. 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 now displayed 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 weekday Gospel readings of Lent. We now have copies of “The Little White Book” available for the Easter Season. “The Little White Book” begins on March 28th, Easter Monday, and provides us with daily six-minute Scripture reflections. The Easter season will conclude on Pentecost Sunday. They will be available next weekend 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 2016 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, and especially to those who responded to Bishop Conlon’s homily and pledged during the in-pew “Commitment Weekend.” Our pledges support the work of the diocese, our larger church. If you haven’t had a chance to respond to the 2016 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, please do so as soon as possible. In order to give everyone a chance to participate in the Appeal, our “Follow-Up In Pew Weekend” is scheduled for the weekend of April 9-10. The Campaign’s primary objective is participation. 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 2016 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.
This weekend we are able to 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, including Friday’s Fish Fry prepared and served by our Knights of Columbus and next Sunday’s St. Joseph Table, sponsored by our Council of Catholic Women. This and other events are described elsewhere in the bulletin. Please take time to read about them.
As Lent progresses, 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.
Father Jim Murphy