For many of us the psalms of the Old Testament do not always resonate with us in our contemporary setting. Even when we hear them recited or sung in the Responsorial during the Eucharist, we may not always see their relevance either to the Scripture reading we have just heard or to the message of the Liturgy of the Word for that day. If, by chance, you are trying to pray the Liturgy of the Hours or are joining us for Vespers in church on Monday and Wednesday afternoons following the 5:00 Eucharist, you are regularly being exposed to some of the psalms and using them as a form of prayer. While the psalms were written in the context of times long ago, still they can find resonance with our present condition and circumstances if only we give ourselves a little time for reflection and contemplation.
Take, for example, Psalm 90, which is very apopos at all times but especially now during the Lenten Season. Read it over carefully and allow its message to penetrate your heart and mind:
O Lord, you have been our refuge
from one generation to the next.
Before the mountains were born
or the earth or the world brought forth,
you are God, without beginning or end.
You turn men back to dust and say:
“Go back, sons of men.”
To your eyes a thousand years
are like yesterday. Come and gone,
no more than a watch in the night.
You sweep men away like a dream,
like grass which springs up in the morning.
In the morning it springs up and flowers:
by evening it withers and fades.
So we are destroyed in your anger,
struck with terror in your fury.
Our guilt lies open before you;
our secrets in the light of your face.
All our days pass away in your anger.
Our life is over like a sigh.
Our span is seventy years
or eighty for those who are strong.
And most of these are emptiness and pain.
They pass swiftly and we are gone.
Who understands the power of your anger
and fears the strength of your fury?
Make us know the shortness of our life
that we may gain wisdom of heart.
Lord, relent! Is your anger for ever?
Show pity to your servants.
In the morning, fill us with your love;
we shall exult and rejoice all our days.
Give us joy to balance our affliction
for the years when we knew misfortune.
Show forth your work to your servants;
let your glory shine on their children.
Let the favor of the Lord be upon us:
give success to the work of our hands,
give success to the work of our hands.
This psalm reminds us that in the big picture our lives are short, but we need to use each and every day in a positive way: to give praise and thanks to God as well as to be there for our neighbor, especially when in need. It is all too easy for us to start the day well but then to slack off as the day goes on. And we ask God to give us joyful moments to offset any suffering and crosses we must bear. “Make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart!”
SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT
Glory will come our way if we but stand firm in the Lord! This is the theme of today’s Scripture readings. The First Reading is the second of three accounts of God’s covenant with Abram, who is later known as Abraham. This covenant is what scholars call a royal grant treaty, because God blessed Abram with this promise of land and descendants with no strings attached. Abram did not earn this honor but only believed God and, for that, God credited it to him as righteousness, meaning “right relationship” with God.
Today’s Gospel is suggestive of the Sinai covenant. As the story unfolds, we learn that Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) appear beside Jesus, and the three of them converse about Jesus’ “exodus” that will take place in Jerusalem. The evangelist uses this scene to prefigure Jesus’ death and Resurrection, but the disciples do not understand. The three tents are perhaps a reminder of the pilgrimage during the Feast of Tabernacles, which commemorates the Israelites’ desert wandering during the Exodus.
In the Second Reading, Paul urges the Philippian Christian community to imitate him, humbly following God’s calling to be “perfectly mature” in their conduct. Why? So that they may one day be transformed and conformed to the Risen Christ’s glorious body. This is our inheritance, as well, if we but stand firm in the Lord.
When they went to the mountain, the Apostles only knew that they were going away to pray. But there, as proclaimed in the Gospel, they saw Jesus’ face change in appearance and his clothes become “dazzling white.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that Jesus discloses his divinity to the three Apostles during the Transfiguration and begins preparation for his suffering in Jerusalem (#554).
In the account of the Transfiguration, a cloud casts a shadow and then from the cloud is heard a voice that says, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the images of cloud and light recur throughout the Scriptures as a veil for the glory of the living and saving God. It notes that this begins with Abraham and the covenant ritual, Moses on Mount Sinai, and the Transfiguration scene, and follows through the Ascension (#697).
For Your Reflection: What impact has another had on the way you live your faith? How can knowing that your citizenship is in heaven make a difference to you this Lent? Why might you want to stay in a place where you had encountered God?
SOLEMNITY OF SAINT JOSEPH
Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the foster-father of Jesus, was probably born in Bethlehem and probably died in Nazareth. His important mission in God’s plan of salvation was “to legally insert Jesus Christ into the line of David from whom, according to the prophets, the Messiah would be born, and to act as his father and guardian.” Most of our information about Saint Joseph comes from the opening two chapters of St. Matthew’s Gospel. No words of his are recorded in the Gospels; he was the “silent” man. We find no devotion to St. Joseph in the early Church. It was the will of God that the Virgin Birth of Our Lord be first firmly impressed upon the minds of the faithful. He was later venerated by the great saints of the Middle Ages. Pius IX (1870) declared him patron and protector of the universal family of the Church.
St. Joseph was an ordinary manual laborer although descended from the royal house of David. In the designs of Providence he was destined to become the spouse of the Mother of God. His high privilege is expressed in a single phrase, “Foster-father of Jesus.” About him Sacred Scripture has little more to say than that he was a just man—an expression which indicates how faithfully he fulfilled his high trust of protecting and guarding God’s greatest treasures upon earth, Jesus and Mary.
The darkest hours of his life may well have been those when he first learned of Mary’s pregnancy, but precisely in this time of trial Joseph showed himself to be a man of absolute faith and trust in God. His suffering, which likewise formed a part of the work of the redemption, was not without great providential import: Joseph was to be, for all times, the trustworthy witness of the Messiah’s virgin birth. After this, he modestly retires into the background of Scripture.
Of St. Joseph’s death the Bible tells us nothing. There are indications, however, that he died before the beginning of Christ’s public life. No doubt his was one of the most beautiful deaths one could have, in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Humbly and unknown, he passed his years at Nazareth, silent and almost forgotten. He remained in the background through centuries of Church history. Only in more recent times has he been accorded greater honor. Liturgical veneration of St. Joseph began in the fifteenth century. He is now also venerated as the patron of a happy death.
At present there are two major feasts in his honor. On March 19 our veneration is directed to him personally and to his part in the work of redemption, while on May 1 we honor him as the patron of workers throughout the world and as our guide in the difficult matter of establishing equitable norms regarding obligations and rights in the social order.
We invite you to join us on Tuesday, March 19, for a Solemn Mass at 11:40 A.M. and for Solemn Vespers in church at 5:40 P.M. There will be no 12:15 Mass on this day due to the length of the Solemn Mass.
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 first of these Lenten Penance Services will be held this week on Thursday, March 21, 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 Thursday. Please note that the Penance Service will take the place of the 12:15 Mass on this day.
This year the celebration of St. Patrick’s feast day is taken over by the Second Sunday of Lent, but I suspect that many people will still celebrate it this weekend in a merry fashion. Let’s spend just a few minutes reviewing certain things about his life for our edification.
Legends abound about Patrick, but truth is best served by our seeing two solid qualities in him: he was humble and he was courageous. The determination to accept suffering and success with equal indifference guided him as God’s instrument for winning most of Ireland for Christ. In a vision it seemed “all the children of Ireland from their mothers’ wombs were stretching out their hands” to him. He understood the vision to be a call to do mission work in pagan Ireland. He suffered much opposition from pagan druids and was criticized in both England and Ireland for the way he conducted his mission. In a relatively short time, the island had experienced deeply the Christian spirit and was prepared to send out missionaries whose efforts were greatly responsible for Christianizing Europe.
What distinguishes Patrick is the durability of his efforts. When one considers the state of Ireland as he began his mission work, the vast extent of his labors, and how the seeds he planted continued to grow and flourish, one can only admire the kind of man Patrick must have been. The holiness of a person is known only by the fruits of his or her work.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE LENTEN SEASON
As a new school principal, Mr. Mitchell was checking over his school on the first day. Passing the stockroom, he was startled to see the door wide open and teachers bustling in and out, carrying off books and supplies in preparation for the arrival of students the next day.
The school where he had been a principal the previous year had used a checkout system only slightly less elaborate than that at Fort Knox.
Cautiously, he asked the school’s long-time custodian, “Do you think it’s wise to keep the stockroom unlocked and to let the teachers take things without requisitions?”
The custodian looked at him gravely, “We trust them with the children, don’t we?” he said.