A word from Pope St. John Paul II: “There is no place for selfishness – and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, the, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.”
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 the 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 (Cycle C), God’s desire is that we all experience life and salvation in his Son. God is always looking for us while we are still “a long way off.” At the slightest opening on our part, God offers us the gift of reunion and unconditional reconciliation. God’s desire is welcome, healing, and celebration. 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. We have added an additional time on the Fridays of Lent, following the 12:05pm Mass until 1:30pm. There will be an opportunity to celebrate this sacrament as a community on Monday, April 8th. Our March Teen Mass was replaced with a Lenten Reconciliation Service for our Faith Formation Confirmation candidates. The students of our Grade School will have an opportunity on April 4th. Additional times are scheduled during Holy Week. 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 do this in a public and formal way during the middle weeks of Lent with the celebration of the Scrutinies, or Rites of Inner Healing with our Elect. Today, we’ll celebrate the Second Scrutiny at the 8:30am Mass. Even though we are currently hearing the Cycle C Readings this year, we read the Cycle A Readings 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 Second Scrutiny, we hear the account of the Man Born Blind from John’s Gospel. Like him, we are brought from the darkness of sin into the light of faith through our Baptism. His story is really the story of those who are preparing for their Baptism. The Elect and Candidates 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 Eucharist.
We recently received an audio message from Bishop Conlon addressing the extreme abortion bills introduced in the Illinois Legislature. His message was played at the announcement time at each Mass last weekend. Bishop informed us that HB 2495 & SB 1942 would repeal the current state ban on partial-birth abortions, permitting legal abortions on demand up to the moment of natural birth. They would also remove the requirement that only doctors can perform abortions. These and other changes introduced by these bills challenge our belief that human life begins at conception and that an unborn child is a human person. Additional information on these abortion bills is available through the Catholic Conference of Illinois at www.ilcatholic.org . Our parish Respect Life team will provide additional information for us as it becomes available.
Thank you to all who have already pledged to the 2019 Joliet Diocesan Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal. As this year-long Appeal is the major source of funding for all of our Diocesan ministries and charities, we are doing everything possible to reach our 2019 CMAA goal of $180,100. As we saw last year, we can reach our parish goal in paid pledges with the participation of each family in our parish. We had planned on holding our “Follow-Up Commitment Weekend” at the beginning of each Mass last weekend but needed to push it back a week to this weekend when we received Bishop Conlon’s audio message on the “Extreme Abortion Bills Introduced in IL Legislature.” So the “Follow-Up Commitment Weekend” will take place before each Mass this weekend. If you haven’t had a chance make a pledge to the 2019 Catholic Ministries Annual Appeal, now is the time to do so. Your generosity is deeply appreciated.
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.
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