Well, my brothers and sisters, we are about to begin one of the most sacred times of the year, namely, Lent. We have been moving along nicely during this month of February, sometimes hesitantly because of the many overcast and dreary days and other times with uplifted spirits because of a bit of sunshine, but now is the time to double down and try to see the advantages of this special Lenten season. Are you ready? You know Mardi Gras is this coming Tuesday, so if you are going to celebrate that tradition of partying the night away, you’d better get your duds ready and your reservations made!
Lent really began when Constantine made Christianity the primary religion of the Roman Empire. Literally thousands of people, many of them pagans, began asking to join this religion, and the Church had to find a way to teach and to bring about good moral behavior based on these teachings to these candidates. In most places this became the catechumenate: a three year period of instruction and modeling before the candidates were ready to be baptized. During the final six weeks before the Easter Vigil, those preparing for the sacrament intensified their prayer and those already baptized accompanied them in prayer. This became the original Lent, so Lent today still has this baptismal accompaniment as one of its elements.
However, human nature and original sin also were things that each individual had to continue to deal with in his/her life. Therefore the Church also exhorted the baptized to use this Lenten period as a time of renewal, purification and penance. From early times, fasting and abstaining from meat (sometimes other foods as well) became means of disciplining ourselves to ward off temptation and to come closer to God. How often and for how long these were mandated varied from place to place, but there was a common strain of both throughout the Christian world.
Lent, then, is a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation for the celebration of Easter. In the desire to renew the liturgical practices of the Church, The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of Vatican Council II stated, “The two elements which are especially characteristic of Lent—the recalling of baptism or the preparation for it, and penance—should be given greater emphasis in the liturgy and in liturgical catechesis. It is by means of them that the Church prepares the faithful for the celebration of Easter, while they hear God’s word more frequently and devote more time to prayer” (#109).
Over the years, modifications have been made to the Lenten observances, making our practices not only simple but also relatively easy. Ash Wednesday still marks the beginning of Lent, which lasts for 40 days, not including Sundays. The present fasting and abstinence rules are very simple: On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, the faithful are to fast (having only one full meal a day and smaller snacks to keep up one’s strength) and abstain from meat, but not eggs, milk products, or condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat. On the other Fridays of Lent, the faithful abstain from meat. The rule of fasting applies to everyone between the ages of 18 and 59; abstinence applies to all those 14 years of age and older.
Our bishops have always encouraged prayer, acts of self-denial, almsgiving and works of personal charity during Lent. A few examples of what these might be are attending Mass daily or several times a week, praying the rosary, making the Way of the Cross either individually or communally (at St. Peter’s at 4:15 on the Fridays of Lent), spending some time each week before the exposed Blessed Sacrament, reading to the blind, helping at a soup kitchen, visiting the sick and shut-ins, giving an overworked mother a break by babysitting, etc. What is important is that each of us decides to do something that is doable and that we can really commit to for Lent. Last year I recommended that you consider putting into your Lenten observance the actual living of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy; that could be excellent this year as well. Don’t try to do them all; rather, single out one or the other and set up a practical way of accomplishing that one or two throughout these six weeks of Lent.
Now is the time to plan how you will begin Lent on Ash Wednesday. We will celebrate Masses at 6:00, 6:45, 7:30, 8:15, 9:00, 10:00, 11:15, 12:15, 1:15, 4:30, 5:15, and 6:00. Confessions will be heard continuously from 7:00 A.M. until 6:00 P.M. Ashes will be distributed down in the auditorium beginning at 6:00 A.M. and continuing uninterruptedly until 7:00 P.M. The Gift Shop will be open for your convenience from 6:00 A.M. until 7:00 P.M. Don’t hesitate to invite some of your friends from work to accompany you to St. Peter’s on Ash Wednesday. Non-Catholics may receive ashes; they may be excited to know that you thought enough of them to invite them to come along.
We look forward to seeing you often during this Lenten Season. Let’s together make it one of the most productive Lents in a long time. After all, we can all support one another in the faith community by the example we give, by our joyful countenance even when we are fasting and abstaining, by our works of charity, and by our prayer for each other.
EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The integrity and credibility of a person is evident in the words that he or she speaks. Today’s readings help us to reflect on our tendency to overlook our faults but judge others. These Scriptures provide an opportunity to examine our tendency to act harshly toward others while acting kindly to ourselves. As we are only a few days before entering the season of Lent, this is an apt time for such reflection.
In today’s First Reading, we hear several wise sayings of Ben Sira, the author of the Book of Sirach. Each is a metaphor to help us recognize that our secret motives and intentions will be revealed in our words. Whether good or bad, we cannot keep them hidden.
In the Second Reading, Paul recalls the words of the prophet Hosea and exclaims, “Where, O death, is your victory?” This question is rhetorical insofar as it is designed not to elicit an answer but to emphasize a point. He knows without a doubt that death will never be victorious, because God gave us victory over sin and death through the crucified Christ. Earlier in this letter, Paul describes Christ as God’s wisdom (1Cor 1:22-24).
The Gospel presents Jesus as introducing a parable with the rhetorical query “Can a blind person lead a blind person?” What follows is a collection of wise sayings about not judging others lest you come under judgment yourself. The teaching follows upon promises that the poor and disenfranchised will be blessed in God’s kingdom and that one’s enemies should be loved.
St. Paul lets the Corinthian community know that their witness to the Christian life matters when he tells them to “be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord.” Likewise, the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes the Christian’s duty to act as a witness. “The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known” (#2472).
In the Second Reading, Paul tells the Corinthians how Baptism makes a difference. For Christians, death will not hold its sting because they have been clothed with immortality. The Catechism explains: “By death the soul is separated from the body, but in the resurrection God will give incorruptible life to our body, transformed by reunion with our soul. Just as Christ is risen and lives forever, so all of us will rise at the last day. Jesus conquered death once and for all time” (#1016).
For Your Reflection: Do you consider how your words and actions actually reveal your basic motivations and intentions? Are you satisfied that you have integrity in that regard as a follower of Christ? How do you try to give witness to your faith in the everyday things of your life? Are you willing to let your words and actions bespeak who you are called to be as a Christian?
THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS
Every Friday during Lent we pray the Stations of the Cross publically in church at 4:15 P.M. This devotion began in Jerusalem many centuries ago when Christians began walking the path that was thought to be the one Jesus walked on Good Friday as he moved from being condemned to death by Pilate, travelled the streets where he met Cyrus of Cyrene, the weeping Women, and the Blessed Mother, fell several times and then arrived at Golgotha to be crucified. Even though many of us may never get to Jerusalem to trace the steps of Jesus, we can walk with Him as we move from station to station in church, meditating on his sufferings, death and burial for our salvation.
You are most welcome to join others each Lenten Friday afternoon to make this journey; you may either stay in one pew or join us as we physically move around the church. I remind you that on these Lenten Fridays Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament will take place shortly after 4:00 P.M. so that we can begin the Stations on time at 4:15.
BREAKING BREAD WITH OUR NEIGHBORS IN NEED
The friars and staff of St. Peter’s in the Loop are once again inviting people in need to join us for a meal and companionship here at the church (you might remember that we did this for the first time last November in conjunction with the World Day of the Poor) now on Wednesday, March 13, at 12:00 noon. We are preparing to serve as many people as possible in our auditorium along with the help of many restaurants in the Loop who are donating food. We are hoping that many of our needy brothers and sisters will join us for this occasion. If anyone would like to volunteer to help us prepare for the meal, serve the meal, or clean up after the meal, we would welcome your assistance by contacting Fr. Ed Tverdek at [email protected]. This is an opportunity to feed the hungry, a corporal work of mercy, and a great Lenten practice.
AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG WOMEN
The Little Sisters of the Poor invite young women in vocational discernment to join them for a weekend service trip among the elderly poor. This experience from 6:00 PM on Friday, March 22, until 2:00 PM on Sunday, March 24, is open to single Catholic women ages 18-35 who are considering a vocation to the consecrated religious life. There is no cost to participate; meals and accommodations will be provided. Register at [email protected] or 773-484-8444. The registration deadline is March 18th.
DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME
We remind you that Daylight Saving Time goes into effect this year at 2:00 A.M. on next Sunday, March 10. Be sure to set your clock ahead one hour before you go to bed on Saturday so that you will be able to arrive on time for Sunday Mass. All too often we hear people asking us something like, “Father, when did you change the Mass times?” The answer: “We didn’t change the Mass times; the government changed the time throughout the United States.” I happen to be a fan of the longer hours of daylight in the evening, so I welcome the change.
2019 ANNUAL CATHOLIC APPEAL
“Come, Follow Me…and share the Word”
This weekend our parish will be conducting a Follow-Up for the Annual Catholic Appeal so that any regular weekend participants at St. Peter’s who were not able to be here last weekend may have an opportunity to make a gift or pledge to the campaign. Please remember that the Annual Catholic Appeal is much different than a one-time special collection. It is a pledge campaign where you can make a gift payable in installments.
The ACA theme, “Come, Follow Me…and share the Word,” was selected to remind us that our contributions to the Annual Catholic Appeal enable the funded ministries and services to share God’s love with many others in our parish and in our Archdiocese.
Each pledge makes a difference because all parishes participate in the campaign and the gifts of many enable our Archdiocese to deliver needed ministries and services. Once we have reached our goal of $12,964.44, all monies received above that amount are returned 100% to St. Peter’s in order to help us pay our regular bills.
Thank you for your prayerful consideration and generous response.
A CHUCKLE FOR THE LENTEN SEASON
A lawyer, a doctor, and a preacher went hunting together. When a prize buck ran past them, they all fired at the exact same moment and the buck dropped.
However, there was only one bullet hole, and they didn’t know which of them shot it. So they took it to the registration center, not knowing who should tag it.
The agent said, “Let me look at the deer. Sometimes I can figure it out.”
He asked a few questions, examined the deer carefully, and declared, “The preacher shot this buck!”
Amazed, they all asked how he knew. Stooping down, he pointed out the wound. “See here. It went in one ear and out the other.”