As we celebrate the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, we continue to make our way through this initial stretch of this season between the celebrations of Christmas and the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, March 1st. We begin our year-long reading of Matthew’s Gospel today. Matthew opens the curtain on Jesus’ public ministry in Galilee. Jesus begins his ministry in the part of Galilee known for its large Gentile (non-Jews) population. He approaches those whom many Jews regarded as outside of God’s offer of salvation, announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom among them. His first proclamation is to Gentiles – outsiders – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus not only includes Gentiles in God’s kingdom, he proclaims it to them before approaching fellow Jews. Once the outsiders have been invited and made welcome, Jesus invites the Jewish brothers Peter and Andrew along with James and John to join him as disciples. The pattern is set – he will invite all people, making no distinctions. Fortunately, that includes us!
This weekend we have witnessed one of the great benefits of our American democracy – the peaceful transition of power. No matter what our preferences regarding the November elections were, one president has fulfilled his commitment and stepped aside and a new president has accepted responsibility for leading our country. There were no midnight coups or military uprisings. While one political party replaced another and security was high, we witnessed the peaceful transition of power. It was democracy at work, a moment of which we can be proud.
But then there are moments when we are called to repent. In most circumstances, anniversaries are normally happy and welcome celebrations. Not so with today’s 44th anniversary of the US Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision permitting abortion on demand in our country. Since that decision on January 22, 1973, the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that approximately 42,697,003 legal abortions have taken place in our country. That statistic should provoke shame in us. Over forty-two and one half million lives have been taken through abortion. The new Appendix to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal states: “In all dioceses of the United States of America, January 22nd … shall be observed as a particular day of penance for violations to the dignity of the human person through acts of abortion and of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee of the right to life.” As this anniversary falls on a Sunday this year, the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children is transferred to Monday, January 23rd. We are all invited to remember this intention and to make Monday a day of penance in reparation for all victims of the violence of abortion. Monday’s daily Masses will focus on this day of penance and witness to our belief that life is God’s gift to us and that all life is sacred – from conception through natural death.
We remember our parish 2nd graders and their families in prayer this week as they celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time. Services will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and on Saturday morning.
We are currently in the midst of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which concludes on Wednesday, January 25th, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. Since 1968 we have joined with other Christians throughout the world in praying as the Lord prayed, “that all may be one” (John 17:21). Throughout this week we keep the cause of Christian unity before us in our community and personal prayer. It is good to remember that in spite of our differences, there is more that unites us rather than divides us.
Next Sunday, we begin our annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week. To help us begin the week, the Grade School choir will join with us at the 8.30am Mass and lead us in prayer. They will continue their celebration of Catholic Schools Week throughout the week and especially at their regular Wednesday School Mass at 8:15am.
We join with the rest of the parishes of our dioceses today in responding to the annual appeal for the Church in Latin America. This is one of eleven extra collections taken up over the course of the year for the support of the needs of the larger church community. It is an important way for Catholics in our country to express solidarity with our brothers and sisters to the south whose pastoral and material needs are great. In response to this appeal, we will tithe 5% of our Offertory collection to the appeal for the Church in Latin America.
Once we get past the holidays, January seems to be a very long month. It can seem even longer when the Bears end their season before the playoffs, as they did this year. Even though the days are gradually getting longer, the winter has had a few frigid moments. In a little over a week we begin the shortest month of the year. Can spring be too far off? May God continue to bless us with all that we need, and more.
Father Jim Murphy