This Tuesday, March 23rd at 7:00 pm, we will have our Lenten Reconciliation service. Two of my Salvatorian confreres, Peter Schuessler and Alan Wagner, will assist me in hearing individual confessions in a safe manner. I invite you to take advantage of this opportunity to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation in preparation for celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ.
Please note the Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday Masses will be prerecorded and available on our website, as well as on our YouTube and Facebook pages. Holy Thursday and Good Friday will be live streamed at 7:00 pm and Holy Saturday will be live streamed at 8:00 pm. I hope you can join us. If you plan to attend any of these services in person, remember you need to register to secure a place. Those who show up without registering will be seated if space is available.
Often the picture that comes to mind when I think of Christ is the strong, radiant, risen Christ. But our scriptures keep reminding us that Christ was a human being like us, with the same emotions, who had to find his way to His Father’s will and accept it. He wasn’t always in control. In our reading from Hebrews we hear, In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death… “With loud cries and tears”! It wasn’t easy.
In the Gospel, Jesus realizes that things are getting closer and closer to a deadly confrontation with the religious leaders. He says that “His hour” has come. He then says, 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. We can see Him going back and forth in His mind: be saved from this hour or accept it? The same dynamic plays out in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus ultimately says, not my will but yours be done.
How was Jesus able to arrive at this point of accepting such a brutal, unjust death? Through His consistent pattern of going off by Himself to be in His Father’s presence and seek guidance. As He started His ministry, He went into the desert for 40 days. During that time, He realized that He was not to be a powerful political leader, thus rejecting Satan’s temptations and accepting His Father’s will. He went off to pray by Himself before He chose His apostles. When He was tired, overburdened, confused, etc., He went off by Himself to be in His Father’s presence and calm down, finding His direction forward. The final time was in the Garden of Gethsemane, when, as I noted above, He uttered the ultimate words of obedience, not my will but yours be done.
Like Jesus, we are not in control. “Life happens” and it is sometimes very difficult. How do we cope? How do we find our way forward? Jesus shows us how: give God time and space to be with us and we will surely find our way.
As we enter into the final stage of Lent and prepare for Holy Week and our memorial celebrations of Christ’s suffering and death, I invite us to spend extra time in quiet conversation with the Lord. Like Jesus, we can complain and share our troubles, even with “loud cries and tears,” but we also need to be quiet and listen. Ultimately, we need to be able to say, not my will, but yours be done.
Church sign of the week: If Jesus can rise from the dead, you can get out of bed on Sunday morning.
Each day of the week I post a reflection on the readings of the day on our website, Facebook, and YouTube (except Sunday, because the reflection is the homily in the Mass). On average they are between 1½ and 2 minutes long. My hope is that they will be a help to you for spending a few minutes of quiet time with the Lord each day. I invite you to try them out, if you haven’t done so.
This weekend we begin our discernment process for a trustee and two pastoral council members. Please click here to learn more and submit a nomination.
This weekend we celebrate Laetare Sunday. “Laetare” means “rejoice”; we rejoice because we are halfway through Lent and getting closer to celebrating the wonder of God’s mercy and our Salvation.
Our readings this weekend tell us how loving, compassionate, and merciful our heavenly Father is. Our first reading lists all the horrible sins the Israelites committed, yet God used a pagan emperor to bring them back from exile to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple.
Listen to the phrases we hear in the second reading from Ephesians: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us…; and …the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
Finally, in the Gospel from John, we have one of the most well-known phrases from the Bible: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
All of these remind us that God is our Prodigal Father. He is not out to get us: He is waiting with open arms for us. He gave His Son so we would be saved and He wants that salvation to happen. We just have to accept it.
Lent is a time to evaluate how we are doing at accepting and responding to God’s offer. We are at the halfway point in Lent, a perfect time to evaluate how I am doing. Am I spending quiet time listening to the Lord each day? Am I working to improve in areas where I am failing to show love of God through love of neighbor? Am I becoming more generous and compassionate, in short, merciful, as my Father is merciful?
The Prodigal Father is waiting; are we on the way back to Him? Let us pray for each other as we struggle to grow into the best disciples we can be! God bless.
Church sign of the week: God might call you, but not on your cell phone. Turn it off during church.
Often the mail brings thank you notes from organizations that we support. I opened one this week from the Tosa Community Food Pantry, thanking us for our support. They noted, “We need your donations to keep our shelves full at this time of need.” Our support does make a big difference for these organizations. Thank you.
I am writing the first draft of this letter on Friday, February 26th, the first anniversary of the shooting at the Miller brewery. The community where I live is right behind the brewery and we were locked down into the night.
Shortly after it happened, I described for you what two of my community members experienced. Fr. Jim, who is White, approached the check point closest to our house, showed his driver’s license with his address, and was allowed to go home. Simon, who is Black, did exactly the same thing and was refused entry multiple times. There is no explanation for the difference except skin color.
This incident came to mind, as well as what happened to George Floyd and others, as I reflected on this weekend’s Gospel. Jesus is angry at what is happening in the temple: vendors, conspiring with the religious leaders, are fleecing the poorest of the poor and lining their own pockets. The “perfect Jesus” was angry and took action, but it was a righteous anger, an anger directed at those who would take advantage of the poor and vulnerable.
If we are to be true followers of Jesus, if we want to live as he lived, we, too, need to have righteous anger about social injustices. However, it needs to be a righteous anger that impels us to positive commitment and action towards correcting the social injustices that surround us.
It is much easier to pray, go to church, and follow the Ten Commandments than to get involved in trying to help and protect those who are poor and vulnerable. Sr. Mary McGlone, a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet, stated this very clearly in a recent reflection. She said, “We join ranks with those who rejected Jesus' message to the extent that we allow a focus on Christ's presence in our temples and tabernacles to dwarf our awareness of his real and much more disturbing presence outside the church walls. The host in the tabernacle is silent, but the prophetic poor tend to clamor for justice, dignity and even love”.
Jesus suffered consequences for His actions in today’s Gospel. It is generally accepted that this happened on Monday of Holy Week and was the last straw that led to His arrest and crucifixion. We need to be willing to sacrifice our comfort, and even security, to bring justice to our world.
Standing up to injustices is an integral part of bringing about the Kingdom of God in this world. I invite us to reflect on this Gospel challenge: am I doing my part to bring justice and equality to our world? Am I willing to sacrifice so that others can be safe? How can I do better? As we struggle to be better disciples, let us support each other in prayer. God bless.
Church sign of the week: The reason a dog has so many friends is because he wags his tail instead of his tongue.