As a priest, Franciscan, disciple of Jesus, member of the Catholic Church, citizen of the United States, and a pastor, my thoughts continue to come back to the question of immigration. We are an immigrant Church, a pilgrim people on a journey of faith, hope and love. We are fellow travelers on the way to our heavenly home. As members of Christ’s body, we are an exceptionally diverse group of people who are called to unity in Christ (cf. Jn 11:52).
Unity in diversity is the vision that the bishops of the United States proclaimed in their pastoral letter “Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity” which was published in the year 2000 during the Great Jubilee year.
Looking back on the history of Catholicism in our country, the bishops called attention to the waves of immigration that shaped the character of our nation and of our local Churches. The bishops also observed that the immigrant experience, which is deeply rooted in our country’s religious, social and political history, is changing. Whereas previous immigrants came to the United States “predominantly from Europe or as slaves from Africa, the new immigrants come from Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific Islands, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia” (p. 1).
During the past half century, these new waves of immigration have challenged our society and our Church to remember where we came from as the descendants of immigrants, and where we are headed as a people who are on the way to a better life, a more secure world characterized by unity, peace and prosperity for all. “As Catholic Christians, the presence of so many people of so many different cultures and religions in so many different parts of the United States has challenged us as a Church to a profound conversion so that we can become truly a sacrament of unity” (p. 2).
As a Catholic community, we vigorously support our nation’s right and responsibility to provide secure boundaries for the protection of our people and to guard against those who would do us harm. At the same time, we reject all positions or policies that are anti-immigrant, nativist, ethnocentric or racist. Such narrow and destructive views are profoundly un-American. They oppose the principles of human dignity and freedom that are the foundation of our American way of life—a way that has historically been extended to all who have come to our shores seeking life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in a just and prosperous society. These divisive and exclusionary attitudes are also profoundly anti-Catholic. They deny the dignity of human persons who are made in God’s image, and they contradict the essential unity and catholicity to which we are called as members of the one family of God.
Every member of the Catholic community, regardless of his or her place of origin, ethnic or cultural heritage, economic or social position and legal status, should be welcomed as Christ and should be encouraged to feel a genuine sense of membership and belonging in our parish communities. When we encounter a stranger, we meet Christ. When we welcome new neighbors, we welcome the Lord who comes to us in and through the needs of others. When we love our neighbor, we discover the face of God and we experience the power of God’s love for us—poured out above all in the sacrificial love of Christ who suffered and died to secure for each of us an everlasting welcome in his father’s house.
On January 22, 1999, in Mexico City, St. John Paul II stood beneath the figure of Our Lady of Guadalupe and proclaimed a message of hope to all the peoples and nations of the Americas. In his Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in America (The Church in America), the Holy Father spoke of the diverse gifts and talents of our peoples, the natural beauty and vast resources of our lands and the many distinctive cultures and traditions that have contributed to the way life is lived in the great metropolitan centers, small towns and rural villages in which we live. May we always be open and welcoming to others, especially the poor and the downtrodden, and may Our Lady of Guadalupe lead us to be a beacon of hope around the world.
FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
Today’s readings offer sober prompts for reflection. In the First Reading, from Jeremiah 31, God promises to renew the old, broken covenant by putting his law within the people, and the psalmist, in Psalm 51, cries out for the grace of internal renewal on a personal level. These passages are easily understood. But the Second Reading and Gospel demand pondering.
Both readings focus on Jesus’ agony in anticipation of the passion. In Hebrews, the author recounts that because of Jesus’ reverence, God, the only one who could save him from death, heard his “prayers and supplications, loud cries and tears.” Jesus was certainly not spared from death, but he was indeed saved from death in the sense of being raised from the dead.
The Gospel conveys another insight about Jesus’ reflections (placed by John among the Last Supper discourses rather than in the garden at Gethsemane): “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour.” Jesus was not backing off from trust in the Father. After acknowledging his inner state, Jesus was able to move through the natural human fear to see the place his coming death would have in the victorious plan of the Father—that his Crucifixion would result in a “lifting up,” bringing about an ingathering of “everyone.”
Finally, how can the author of Hebrews say that Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered” and “was made perfect?” He was, after all, the eternal Son of God! These are assertions about the consequences of his humanity. Incarnate as Jesus, the Son really did learn experientially what it was for a human being to suffer. And in the experience of solidarity with humanity, he was perfected precisely as a mediator between the divine and the human.
In the Gospel, we hear Jesus say, “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” We continue to be drawn to Christ in the liturgy. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy states, “By recalling in this way the mysteries of the redemption, the Church opens up to the faithful the riches of the saving actions and the merits of her Lord, and makes them present to all times, allowing the faithful to enter into contact with them and to be filled with the grace of salvation” (#102).
As Jesus celebrated the Passover with his Apostles, the Church gathers during the Sacred Paschal Triduum to celebrate the mystery of the passion, death, and Resurrection. Paschale solemnitatis states: “The greatest mysteries of the redemption are celebrated yearly by the Church beginning with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday until Vespers of Easter Sunday. This time is called ‘the triduum of the crucified, buried and risen’; it is also called the ‘Easter triduum’ because during it is celebrated the paschal mystery, that is, the passing of the Lord from this world to his Father. The church, by the celebration of this mystery through liturgical signs and sacramentals, is united to Christ, her spouse, in intimate communion” (#38).
For Your Reflection: We hear in the reading from Hebrews that Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered.” Has suffering helped you to obey the Lord? How did Jesus’ becoming human help him enter into your suffering? How has your heart been cleansed during Lent?
SOLEMNITY OF SAINT JOSEPH
Monday, March 19, 2018
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.
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 Monday, 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 second of these Lenten Penance Services will be held this week on Tuesday, March 20, 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 Friday. Please note that the Penance Service will take the place of the 12:15 Mass on this day.
2017 ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL
Recently we received the second installment rebate check from the 2017 Annual Catholic Appeal. The notice indicated that people from St. Peter’s had given $34,874.00 to that appeal, our goal was $13,508.70, so our total rebate back to the parish from the archdiocese was $21,365.30. I want to thank everyone who made a gift or pledge last year, since that rebate certainly helped us pay our regular bills in a timely fashion.
It is my hope that once again this year we might not only meet our goal but greatly exceed it as we did last year. If you have not yet made a gift or pledge, there are envelopes in the Front Office for this purpose. It is important that these completed envelopes be returned as soon as possible. You may either put them in the collection basket or drop them off at the office. Thank you so much for this consideration.
A FEW LENTEN REMINDERS
Don’t forget that Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament takes place Monday-Friday in church from 1:45-4;45. This is an opportunity to spend some time with the Lord, letting Him speak to you from the quiet of the church directly into your heart. Of course it also allows you to pour out your love, your needs, and your hopes and dreams to him as well. Try to make a little extra time at least once or twice a week for this purpose.
Also during Lent in church we pray the Stations of the Cross in common at 4:15. This traditional devotion encourages us to walk the path of Jesus that he did on that first Good Friday and to experience the pain, the sorrow, and the reality of the crucifixion and burial of Our Lord and Savior. These stations are another way of preparing for the Sacred Triduum of Holy Week.
A CHUCKLE FOR LENT
They had been up in the attic together doing some cleaning. The kids uncovered an old manual typewriter and asked her, “Hey, Mom, what’s this?”
“Oh, that’s an old typewriter,” she answered, thinking that would satisfy their curiosity.
“Well, what does it do?” they asked.
“I’ll show you,” she said and returned with a blank piece of paper. She rolled the paper into the typewriter and began striking the keys, leaving black letters of print on the page.
“WOW!” they exclaimed, “that’s really cool…but how does it work like that? Where do you plug it in?”
“There is no plug,” she answered. “It doesn’t need a plug.”
“Then where do you put the batteries?” they persisted.
“It doesn’t need batteries either,” she continued.
“WOW! This is so cool!” they exclaimed. “Someone should have invented this a long time ago!”