March 27, 2022

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. The past two years we celebrated Lent in the midst of the dangers of the COVID pandemic. Though the dangers of this disease have been eased through the development of vaccines and adherence to safe health practices, we continue to need to be diligent in helping one another to remain safe from infection. Though we have many reasons to be concerned about our present realities 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. Luke we hear the familiar story of the Prodigal Son and the saving message of Jesus for each of us in the words of the father in the story, "...now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found." (Luke 15:32)

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 will run to embrace us with a loving hug… If we make the first steps… if we start on the path back to him… Recall the Father did not send his older son out to look for the younger. He did not send his servants out to bring the young son back. He did not send an army to drag him back to the estate… But he patiently waited ready to run to his son as soon as he saw him on the horizon.

If we are like the younger son…or know someone who is….pray that we/they will come running back to God. If we like the older son… pray that our faithfulness to God’s rules and laws may not make us cold hearted and unable to embrace those who have run away from God/Church/us and now want to return.

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 web site.] If you or someone you know have not celebrate the healing power of this sacrament, come and be welcomed into the loving embrace of God.

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 the father in Luke's Gospel, is only waiting for us to start returning to him. And if we make even the most tentative move to return....our God will lovingly embrace us into his arms.

CONGRATULATIONS

On Saturday, March 26, our Franciscan brothers, James Bernard, OFM, Erlison Campos de Almeida Filho, OFM, Maxwell Klug, OFM, Steven Kuehn, OFM, James Seiffert, OFM and Vagner de Sena Ferreira, OFM were ordained deacon here at St. Peter's Church by Bishop Mark Bartosic (Auxiliary Bishop for Vicariate II of the Archdiocese). At the ordination Mass Bishop Bartosic prayed, "O God, who have taught the ministers of your Church to seek not to be served but to serve their brothers and sisters, grant, we pray, that these your servants, whom you graciously choose today for the office of Deacon, may be effective in action, gentle in ministry, and constant in prayer."

The Bishop addressed those to be ordained deacon with these words, "As a deacon you will serve Jesus Christ, who was known among his disciples as the one who served others. Do the will of God generously.  Serve God and all people in love and joy. Look upon all unchastity and avarice as worship of false gods; for no man can serve two masters. Like the men the apostles chose for works of charity, you should be a man of good reputation, filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit. Show before God and mankind that you are above every suspicion of blame, a true minister of Christ and of God's mysteries, a man firmly rooted in faith. Never turn away from the hope which the Gospel offers; now you must not only listen to God's word but also preach it. Hold the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. Express in action what you proclaim by word of mouth. Then the people of Christ, brought to life by the Spirit, will be an offering God accepts.  Finally, on the last day, when you go to meet the Lord, you will hear him say: "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord."

And when each of the new deacons received the Book of the Gospels they were instructed, "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become.  Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach."

Each of the men who were ordained deacon will continue their studies in theology and God willing they will be ordained priests in the coming year to serve the people of God and the Franciscan Order in various places here in the USA. After completing their studies here in the USA, Br. Erilison and Br. Vagner will return to Brazil to serve the people in the St. Benedict of the Amazon Custody. Please keep these newly ordained deacons in your prayers and please pray for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life. Encourage young people to consider a vocation as priest, sister or brother.

PRAY FOR PEACE

Please continue to keep in your thoughts and prayers the people in Ukraine who continue to suffer so much due to the continuing onslaught of military forces of Russia. The increasing attacks upon so many innocent civilians, hospitals, schools and those seeking to escape the war is beyond belief.

Pope Francis at the Angelus on Sunday, March 20 spoke forcibly saying, "Dear brothers and sisters, This week again missiles and bombs have fallen on civilians, the elderly, children, and pregnant mothers. I went to see the wounded children who are here in Rome. One was missing an arm; one had a head injury...innocent children. I think of the millions of Ukrainian refugees who must flee leaving everything behind, and I feel a great pain for those who do not even have the possibility to escape. So many grandparents, sick and poor people separated from their own families, so many children and fragile people are left to die under the bombs without being able to receive help and find safety even in the air raid shelters. All this is inhuman! Indeed, it is also sacrilegious because it goes against the sacredness of human life, especially against defenseless human life, which must be respected and protected, not eliminated, and this comes before any strategy! Let us not forget it is inhuman and sacrilegious cruelty! Let us pray in silence for those who are suffering." The Pope then invited every community and all the faithful to unite with him on Friday 25 March, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, for the Solemn Act of Consecration of humanity, especially Russia and Ukraine, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, so that she, the Queen of Peace, may help us obtain peace.

HOLY WEEK

In today's bulletin, or on our web site and in coming bulletins 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 Holy Week. The last scheduled time for confessions for April 10-17 is Holy Thursday morning.

May you have a prayerful and joyful Lenten week!

Fr. Michael