Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent and traditionally called, Laetare Sunday or Rejoice Sunday. We are half-way through the season of Lent. Holy Week and the Easter season are quickly approaching. Though we have many reasons to be concerned about our present realities of war, violence and diseases, this "Rejoice Sunday" reminds us to rejoice in the saving grace of God available to each of us in our daily life.
In this weekend's Gospel passage from St John, we hear the story of the man born blind who not only receives healing from his blindness but also forgiveness from Jesus. Jesus makes clear in the Gospel that the man's blindness was not a result of sin but a part of our human reality. Sin comes from our human actions and not from God.
One of the disheartening… discouraging things for me to hear… is of people who have lost contact with family, with Church, with God because of misunderstanding, a painful word spoken between others or hurtful actions…or their own pride. Nothing… ever…no way… should keep anyone from being welcomed back into the embrace of God and the warmth of the Church. Are you divorced or know someone who is and you or they are afraid to come to Church… to participate in the life of the Church? Do you know someone who holds on to an often misunderstood teaching of the Church from years ago or even presently and feels they can’t belong today? The Good News that today's Gospel reminds us of is… God loves us and offers us healing and forgiveness if we but ask for God's help.
One of the important ministries and sacraments that we celebrate here at St. Peter's is the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). We offer the opportunity to be reconciled with God, others and the Church six days a week and for over five hours each of those days. [The times and days when a priest is available for confession are listed in today's bulletin or on our church website.] If you or someone you know have not celebrated the healing power of this sacrament, come and be welcomed into the loving embrace of God.
I urge everyone who plans on coming for confession before Easter to plan on celebrating the sacrament BEFORE Holy Thursday. The schedule for when we offer the sacrament is in the bulletin, on our website or you can call the front desk during office hours. We will have two priests available for confessions March 20 - 25 and March 27 - 29. There are no confessions scheduled after 11:00 am on Holy Thursday, and no confessions scheduled on Good Friday or Easter. Please be sure to check our confession schedules and plan on celebrating the sacrament by Holy Thursday.
Lent is not meant to be a dreary moment in our faith life but rather a special time to come closer to God and those around us. As the name of this Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Rejoice Sunday) reminds us... we have great cause to rejoice for our God, as did Jesus in today's Gospel, is only waiting for us to return to him. And if we make even the most tentative move to return... our God will lovingly embrace us into his arms.
Forty-three years ago on March 24, 1980, Bishop Oscar Romero, the Archbishop of El Salvador, was killed by an assassin’s bullet while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel in San Salvador. Bishop Romero had been appointed Archbishop because he was considered “safe”. He was opposed to activist priests, nuns and lay people. He was well respected by the wealthy and ruling families of El Salvador.
But when his good friend, Fr. Rutilio Grande, SJ, an elderly laymen and a young boy were murdered by soldiers as they tried to visit the sick in Fr. Rutilio’s parish, the Archbishop was deeply shaken. When he asked for information about the deaths he was told to forget about such people and not associate with “such communists.”
As El Salvador experienced more and more killings, especially of Catholics and church workers, the Archbishop began to speak out loudly and forcefully against the violence and poverty. The repression of the ruling government, backed by funds from the USA continued to grow stronger and more oppressive. Archbishop Romero began to receive threats and more priests, nuns and lay people were murdered by the ruling government.
A year before his death the Archbishop said, “When we speak of the church of the poor, we are simply telling the rich also: turn your eyes to this church and concern yourselves for the poor as for yourselves. At Puebla (a Latin American Bishops Conference Meeting) we said the poor are a concern of Christ, who will say at the end of life: “Whatever you did to one of these poor ones, you did to me.”
On October 14, 2018, Pope Francis celebrated the canonization of Archbishop Romero as saint. Pope Francis on February 21, 2020 approved for beatification Fr. Rutilio, and his two companions who were martyred alongside him (Manuel Solorzano and Nelson Lewis) in 1977.
In December, 2016 Pope Francis recognized the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City who was serving the poor in Guatemala when he was killed for the faith. Fr. Stanley is the first martyr to have been born in the United States. Fr. Stanley was martyred on July 28, 1981. He was beatified on September 23, 2017.
As we gather to celebrate Masses this weekend, let us remember the sacrifice of Archbishop Romero, Fr. Stanley and hundreds of religious and lay Catholics who gave their life for Christ in the persecutions of Central America. Let us keep in our prayers all of our brothers and sisters in the faith who continue to suffer persecution and death throughout the world because of their belief in Christ. Remember especially our fellow Catholics in Ukraine, Syria, and other war-torn areas.
LENTEN REFLECTION IDEAS
You will find books by Fr. Albert Haase, OFM, Fr. Bob Hutmacher, OFM, Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM and many other books for your Lenten reflections in our St. Peter's Book Store. I encourage you to check out the great variety of spiritual books and DVDs that are available for your journey this Lent.
In today's bulletin and on our website you will find the schedule for Holy Week services here at St. Peter's. Please note the times for confessions for the coming weeks and especially the first three days of Holy Week.
UPDATES ON ST. PETER'S CHURCH
Next weekend, March 25-26, I and a member of the church Finance Council will speak at all the Masses here at St. Peter's to share with you some updates on our ministries, our finances and some reflections on ministry as we look to the future.
We welcome to our Franciscan community at St. Peter's, Fr. Francis Kang, OFM a friar from the Korean Province who has begun his studies of English and will then study in a Master's Program.
The weekend of May 6-7, Br. Vagner and Br. Erlison will speak at all the Masses about the ministry of the Franciscans in the Amazon River area of northern Brazil. Both Br. Vagner and Br. Erlison will be returning to Brazil later in May and will be ordained priests in June. We'll have a farewell reception for both of them in May and share more details in future bulletins. Mark the date for our 2023 St. Peter's Gala to be held Thursday, July 13 and plan on attending. More details in the next couple of months.
May you have a prayerful and joyful Lenten week!