I have always had a soft place in my heart for individuals who were born on February 29th. I am sure they have found a way to accommodate the celebration of their birthday, but officially it only occurs every leap year—what a bummer! On the other hand, they are also considered special people since they are different as a result of vicissitudes of a calendar-maker and the results of scientists who have determined how we can keep our world somewhat regular in relationship to the sun.
A similar thing can happen with our liturgical year. The season of Lent, although always having the same number of days, varies from start to finish as far as dates are concerned because of the date of Easter. That certainly is the case this year with Easter occurring on Sunday, March 27. One liturgical change is that the Feast of the Annunciation, ordinarily celebrated each year on March 25, this year will be transferred to April 4 because March 25 is Good Friday and the first available date after that is Monday, April 4 (the week after Easter is considered a privileged octave which means that no feasts can supersede those days).
The second somewhat oddity this year is that the Feast of St. Joseph on March 19 falls on a Saturday instead of during the work week. Here at St. Peter’s we ordinarily celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph with a Solemn Mass and Solemn Vespers, but we are not able to do so on a Saturday. Therefore we invite you to our noonday celebration next Saturday to honor this glorious saint, the foster father of Jesus, the husband of Mary, the patron of the dying and the Protector of the Universal Church.
Everything we know about Joseph comes from Sacred Scripture, and that has seemed too little for those who made up legends about him. We know he was a carpenter, a working man, for the skeptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” (Mt 13:55). He was not rich, for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified, he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Lk 2:24).
Despite his humble work and means, Joseph came from royal lineage. Luke and Matthew disagree some about the details of Joseph’s genealogy, but they both mark his descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Mt 1:1-16 and Lk 3:23-38). Indeed, the angel who first tells Joseph about Jesus greets him as “son of David,” a royal title used also for Jesus.
We know Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been betrothed, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary according to the Law, but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. He knew that women accused of adultery could be stoned to death, so he decided to divorce her quietly and not expose her to shame or cruelty (Mt 1:19-25).
We know Joseph was a man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome. When the angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately and without question or concern for gossip, took Mary as his wife. When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt without question until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Mt 2:13-23).
We know Joseph loved Jesus. His one concern was for the safety of this child entrusted to him. Not only did he leave his home to protect Jesus, but upon his return settled in the obscure town of Nazareth out of fear for his life. When Jesus stayed in the Temple, we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched with great anxiety for three days for him (Lk 2:48). We also know that Joseph treated Jesus as his own son, for over and over the people of Nazareth say of Jesus, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” (Lk 4:22).
We know Joseph respected God. He followed God’s commands in handling the situation with Mary and going to Jerusalem to have Jesus circumcised and Mary purified after Jesus’ birth. We are told that he took his family to Jerusalem every year for Passover, something that could not have been easy for a working man.
Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus’ public life, at his death, or at the resurrection, many historians believe Joseph probably had died before Jesus entered public ministry. Joseph is also the patron of the dying because, assuming he died before Jesus’ public life, he died with Jesus and Mary close to him, the way we all would like to leave this earth.
Joseph is also the patron of the Universal Church, of fathers, carpenters, and social justice.
There is much we wish we could know about Joseph—where and when he was born, how he spent his days, when and how he died. But Scripture has left us with the most important knowledge: who he was—“a righteous man” (Mt 1:18).
FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
Today’s text from Isaiah is attributed to the anonymous prophet referred to as Second Isaiah. Writing near the end of the Babylonian exile, he provides a message of hope. As happened in the Exodus story, once again the Lord “opens a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters.” They are about to be brought back to the promised land. “In the desert I make a way,” the Lord says, a way to bring “the people whom I formed for myself” back to their homeland.
Paul tells the Philippians that all else is as nothing when compared to “the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus.” But his faith is part of a process; he has not “already taken hold of it or already attained perfect maturity.” He writes, “I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling.” Like Paul, we are called to continually pursue this goal as we strive to live out our faith more fully each day.
The story of the woman caught in adultery is another encounter between Jesus and “the scribes and Pharisees,” who are frequently depicted in the Gospel tradition as opponents of Jesus. The fact that she “had been caught in adultery” means there is no doubt about her guilt. By bringing her to Jesus, they are testing him “so that they could have some charge to bring against him.” But Jesus reminds them that we all stand under God’s judgment, for we are all sinners. His words to them—“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her”—challenge them and lead to their walking away “one by one, beginning with the elders.” His judgment on her is not to condemn but to forgive and to love. It is the same judgment he offers us in his suffering and death.
For Reflection: Do I appreciate the fact that my personal spiritual development is in constant need of growth and strengthening? What has been my response to experiencing Christ’s judgment of love and forgiveness? Does the story in the Gospel make my celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation even more fruitful and meaningful?
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
This weekend (Sunday, March 13, 2016) we begin Daylight Saving Time throughout the United States. Daylight saving time was begun as a way of saving electricity by extending the daylight hours longer into the evening and thereby encouraging people to not use lights in their homes until truly needed. It was also a way of helping to have children going to school in the daylight during the fall days of the school year. It has been argued over and over whether either or both of these goals has actually been accomplished, but the fact of the matter is that daylight saving time seems to be an accomplished reality for now and for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, be sure to set your clocks ahead by the witching hour of 2:00 A.M. this Sunday so that you will arrive in church at the correct time for Sunday Mass. We look forward to seeing you all here at St. Peter’s wide awake despite the fact that you may have lost an hour of sleep due to the time change. We will try to make our liturgies even more worshipful and our homilies more interesting to assist you in that process!
LENTEN COMMUNAL PENANCE SERVICE
The sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the hallmarks of the season of Lent. As we move through this special time of the year, we come to realize our faults and failings as well as our gifts and blessings. Here at St. Peter’s we have the wonderful opportunity to celebrate this sacrament either within the confessional setting every Monday through Saturday or within the context of a Communal Penance Service twice during Lent. The second of these Lenten Penance Services will be held this week on Friday, March 18, at 12:15 P.M. It will consist of prayer, Scripture reading, a short homily, an examination of conscience, and then face-to-face confession with more than ten priests stationed around the church. The entire service will last about fifty minutes. We hope you will be able to participate with us on Wednesday. Please note that the Penance Service will take the place of the 12:15 Mass on this day.
We friars at St. Peter’s want to offer everyone the possibility of celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation (confession) between Friday, March 18, and Holy Thursday, March 24. Therefore during most times of these days there will be at least two priests hearing confessions and on many days and times as many as four priests available in the confessionals. Please plan your personal schedules during these days leading up to Easter in such a way that you avail yourself of this opportunity. Please Note: we will stop hearing confessions in church on Holy Thursday at 4:30 P.M. and will not begin again in church until the Monday after Easter. There will be a priest available on the mezzanine for face-to-face confession on Good Friday from 10:30-3:00 only.
A CHUCKLE FOR LENT
I was driving down the road when I saw a lady standing by her car. When I pulled over to see if I could help, she turned around holding a rabbit. She explained that she had run over the rabbit and she thought it was going to die.
I so wanted to help her that I went back to my car and came back with a can of spray. I sprayed some in the rabbit’s mouth, and it twitched its head a little. I waited a little while and sprayed some more in its mouth, and it twitched its head a couple of times.
Not much later I sprayed more in its mouth, and the rabbit sprang from her arms and ran to the fence by the field, stopped, turned around and waived its paw at us. We watched it run fifty more feet, stop, turn around and waive its paw at us again.
The lady looked at me in amazement and said, “WHAT WAS THAT YOU GAVE THAT RABBIT?” I replied, “Oh, just a little hair rejuvenator with permanent waive!”