A few days ago I read about a story of Christian missionaries visiting a pagan king. They preached a new religion that he was uncertain about accepting. He consulted his advisors, and one of them told him the story of a bird that quickly flies into a hall during a cold winter night and just as quickly leaves.
“A person’s life is much the same. We are here for a short time. We don’t know what went before, and we cannot see what follows us. But if the new religion can speak with certainty of these questions, then it is well for us to follow it.” At the story’s conclusion, the authors tell us, “They found the answer they sought in the message of Jesus.”
What is this message? Jesus tells us, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:25-26). Unlike the king in the story, we know we come from the creative hand of God and we are destined to return to God’s embrace when our time on earth ends if we die in his friendship and grace.
Pope Francis has often addressed the Christian meaning of death. He said if we look at life’s painful moments, when we have lost a loved one. We realize that even amid the tragedy of loss, the conviction arises in the heart that everything cannot be over, that the good given and received has not been pointless. “There is a powerful instinct within us that tells us that our lives do not end with death. This thirst for life found its true and reliable answer in the Resurrection of Jesus.”
If we are to die in Christ, we must first live in him and then be raised up to dwell with him. To live one’s life in Christ means to allow the pattern of his life to become ours. This pattern comes into focus during Holy Week and Easter. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus told his disciples, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem” (Mk 10:33). Do we hear this as an invitation? Are we ready to go with him to the place of his death and Resurrection? Can we see ourselves in his story and make it our story in faith?
A verse in a hymn often sung during Holy Week asks, “Were you there?” at the passion, death and Resurrection. We can’t say we were there physically, but we can say, “Yes, I’m present there now in faith as I try to walk the same journey as Jesus did.” We do not walk this road alone. Together with our brothers and sisters in the faith, we unite our lives in Christ when we receive the sacraments, pray alone and with others, meditate on God’s word, and engage in the works of charity and justice, particularly for those with whom Jesus identifies.
“For I was hungry, and you gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink…whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:35,40). Pope Francis has said that we express our belief in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come in a special way “by caring for the bodily and spiritual wounds of our neighbor…sharing sorrow and infusing hope.”
He continued, “The one who practices mercy does not fear death. Why? Because he looks death in the face in the wounds of his brothers and sisters, and he overcomes it with the love of Jesus Christ.”
During this Lenten season, each of us will no doubt have many opportunities to be there for our brothers and sisters. The question is: will we respond courageously and generously to these opportunities, or will we just pass them by or not even allow them to enter our consciousness? You might want to re-read Pope Francis’ Lenten Message published in last week’s bulletin to get an even fuller understanding of his commentary on the place of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, especially during Lent. It really is a call to conversion and forgiveness that orients us to the fullness of Resurrection in Jesus Christ.
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
The season of Lent offers a time to grow in the life of Christ. The reading from the book of Genesis reminds us of our solidarity with all humanity: we are born into a situation of alienation from God. In the beginning, God created humanity as good. God’s will was not forced upon us. Instead, God gave us the gift of free will. In this narrative of our first parents, the gift of freedom was used to reject God’s will. Within our being, we too experience the same desire to do things our way, relying on ourselves and turning away from God’s grace and guidance.
In our reading from the Letter to the Romans, Paul celebrates Jesus Christ’s victory over sin and death through his Resurrection. Christ’s grace empowers us to overcome this alienation from God and restores us to the relationship God intended from the beginning: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man [Adam], the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one [Jesus Christ], the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
Today’s Gospel contains an account of Jesus’ temptations in the desert. Like the people of Israel who spent forty years in the desert, Jesus, the new Israel, spends forty days in the desert where he is also tempted. Unlike the people of Israel, Jesus remains faithful to his Father’s will and mission: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
When Jesus refused Satan’s temptations, he was looking past himself and the momentary awards giving in would bring. He did this through faith and hope. In Spes salvi, the encyclical on hope, Pope Benedict XVI writes of the necessity of seeing past oneself. He states, “Reason becomes human only if it looks beyond itself. Otherwise, man’s situation, in view of the imbalance between his material capacity and the lack of judgment in his heart, becomes a threat for him and for creation” (#23).
Paul writes in Romans that through the obedience of Jesus, humankind was saved. In the Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et spes (the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), the Council Fathers state the belief that Christ offers humanity the light and strength for “his supreme destiny.” That is in contrast, the document states, to those who rely on earthly powers. “There are still others whose hopes are set on a genuine and total emancipation of humankind through human effort alone and look forward to some future earthly paradise where all the desires of their hearts will be fulfilled” (#10).
The reading from Genesis tells how God blew into man “the breath of life.” Pope John XXIII, in his encyclical Pacem in terris, states that within humanity is a reflection of God. The pope states, “But the world’s Creator has stamped man’s inmost being with an order revealed to man by his conscience. Men ‘show the work of the law written in their hearts. Their conscience bears witness to them.’ And how could it be otherwise? All created being reflects the infinite wisdom of God. It reflects it all the more clearly, the higher it stands in the scale of perfection.” (#5).
For Your Reflection: How does pride influence your decisions? Where in your life do you want to ask God for mercy? Satan tempts Jesus with power. What is your response to power given to you?
A LENTEN OPPORTUNITY
As part of your Lenten journey, why not consider attending our four-part Lenten series entitled, “Catholics in Chains: Mentalities that Bind”? The presentations will be offered on the four Tuesdays in March (4, 11, 18 and 25) in the St. Clare Auditorium from 12:10-12:50.
March 4: “Pride: The Narcissus Within Us” by Fr. Robert Hutmacher, O.F.M.
March 11: “The Invisible Bonds of Materialism—Exploring the Bonds of Detachment” by Fr. Brad Milunski, O.F.M. Conv.
March 18: “Three Classical Bible Stories of Liberation” by Fr. Ed Shea, O.F.M.
March 25: “Informed or Denounced? Conscience Formation of Today’s Adult Catholic” by Fr. Derran Combs, O.F.M.
THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS
Every Friday during Lent we pray the Stations of the Cross publically in church at 4:15 P.M. This devotion began in Jerusalem many centuries ago when Christians began walking the path that was thought to be the one Jesus walked on Good Friday as he moved from being condemned to death by Pilate, travelled the streets where he met Cyrus of Cyrene, the weeping Women, and the Blessed Mother, fell several times and then arrived at Golgotha to be crucified. Even though many of us may never get to Jerusalem to trace the steps of Jesus, we can walk with Him as we move from station to station in church, meditating on his sufferings, death and burial for our salvation.
You are most welcome to join others each Lenten Friday afternoon to make this journey; you may either stay in one pew or join us as we physically move around the church. I remind you that on these Lenten Fridays Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will take place shortly after 4:00 P.M. so that we can begin the Stations on time at 4:15.
LENTEN UPDATE FOR OUR YOUNG ADULTS
I am happy to report that SPYA (St. Peter’s Young Adults) is still meeting on a weekly basis here at St. Peter’s, every Monday from 5:30 to 7:00 P.M., and they are always open to newcomers! For Lent this year they are focusing attention on the classic stories that we read from the Gospels each week: The Temptations of Jesus, the Transfiguration, the Woman at the Well, the Man Born Blind, and the Raising of Lazarus. Each week they’ll take a look at one of these Gospels and share some of their own faith journeys with each other. This week, on Monday, March 2nd, they will reflect on the Gospel story of Jesus’ Transfiguration and will do so in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in our Second Floor Friary Chapel. Meet at the Baptismal Font immediately after Evening Prayer—ALL are WELCOME.
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
We remind you that Daylight Saving Time goes into effect this year at 2:00 A.M. on next Sunday, March 8. Be sure to set your clock ahead one hour before you go to bed on Saturday so that you will be able to arrive on time for Sunday Mass. All too often we hear people asking us something like, “Father, when did you change the Mass times?” The answer: “We didn’t change the Mass times; the government changed the time throughout the United States.” I happen to be a fan of the longer hours of daylight in the evening, so I welcome the change.
BRINGING ALL WE ARE INTO WHAT WE DO
The Spirituality of Lawyers
Saturday, March 21, 2020, 8:30-4:30 P.M.
Spiritual traditions boldly claim we are more than what we seem. There is a spiritual dimension, a hidden fullness, to our make-up. When the dimension releases, it empowers our mental, physical and social lives and allows us to see possibilities for action that we did not previously see. But how does this happen? How do we bring soul into our work as lawyers? Our retreat day will explore this spiritual path.
This all-day program concludes with a Vigil Mass and is open to all lawyers, judges and those in the legal profession. Breakfast, lunch and coffee breaks will be provided. Pre-event registration is required to attend. Cost to attend is dependent on your years of service in the legal profession.
Retreat Leader: Jack Shea, Theological Reflection in Parish Life
Location: Archbishop Quigley Center, 835 N. Rush St.
Cost: General: $65.00
Government and Non-Profit $50.00
Lawyers in Practice for Five Years or Less: $50.00
Student and Clergy: No Cost
Please e-mail [email protected] for more information, if you have questions, or if you are interested in sponsoring this Retreat Day.
A CHUCKLE FOR LENT
I hate the idea of going under the knife, so I was very upset when the doctor told me I needed a tonsillectomy. Later, the nurse and I were filling out an admission form. I tried to respond to the questions, but I was so nervous that I couldn’t speak.
The nurse patted my hand and said, “Don’t worry. This medical problem can be easily fixed, and it’s not a dangerous procedure.”
“You’re right. I’m being silly,” I said. “Please continue.”
“Good,” the nurse went on. “Now, do you have a living will?”