The fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally is called Laetare Sunday (Rejoice Sunday). This week each of the three readings characterizes one of the many facets of Easter joy. In many ways, we have been dead, but through God’s grace we have come to life again; we have been lost, but have now been found. We have every reason to rejoice.
This Sunday we have the parable of the Prodigal Son. The parable of the prodigal son is called "the greatest short story in the world" (Charles Dickens), "the gospel of the gospels", “the gospel of the outcasts," and the "parable of the prodigal father." The prodigal father takes home the returning son and gives him new clothes, ring, sandals so on. It is an expression of acceptance, love, and forgiveness.
When the elder brother came from the field, he refused to come in because of the broken relationship. What did the father do? The father went out to the elder son and begged him to be reconciled with his younger brother and to share in his joy. He assured the elder son of his continuing love and of the son’s secure inheritance and place in the family by saying, “All I have is yours.”
Look at that Father and Son encounter. So much warmness is there. One side a father, who is waiting on an everyday basis to see his son, is coming back. On the other hand a son who ran away realizes his mistake and coming back in confidence of his father’s love and forgiveness. Rembrandt's return of the prodigal is masterpiece work. If we take a closer look at his work, we can see that the father emprise his son. His two alms are two different sizes. It represents one mother’s arm (gentleness) and the other represents the father’s arm (strong). This father was waiting for his son, holding so much love in his heart.
The context of this parable, Pharisees, and scribes, who kept the commandments and served, but Jesus was showing mercy and sharing with everyone. They couldn’t accept it, they criticized Jesus for his mercy towards sinners. Look at the elder son, he served his father and obeyed, now he is not happy with his father, because he took his prodigal son in.
In the gospel, the joy is that of a young son’s “coming home”. It is a precious moment. Lent is all about coming to that precious moment: an encounter with God. It is precious, emotional. We have all the reasons to rejoice in the middle of the Lenten season. I suppose we all are making a wonderful journey in this lent. And let us help someone else make that journey of Lent. We have a wonderful, loving and caring God the Father. A father who runs to the son who went away, at the same time we have the father going to the older son and want to invite him to the feast. In a way both of them are still in learning the true love of the father. In this lent let us pause and look at the face of Jesus and learn the love of the father expressed for each one of us.
There is a story of how King Frederick II, an Eighteenth-Century King of Prussia, was visiting a prison in Berlin. He was going from inmate to inmate, and every one of them was trying to prove how they had been unjustly imprisoned. They all proclaimed their innocence, except one. That one prisoner was sitting quietly in a corner, while all the rest protested their innocence. Seeing him sitting there oblivious to everything else that was going on, the King walked over to him and said, "Son, why are you in here?" He said, "Armed robbery, your Honor," The King said, "Are you guilty?" He said, "Sire, I am guilty, and I deserve to be here." The King then gave an order to the guard and said, "Release this guilty man, I do not want this man corrupting all these other innocent people."
This weekend in a way all of the reading talks about exodus. The first reading tells us how God shows His mercy to His chosen people by selecting Moses as their leader and liberator. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob reveals Himself to Moses from the burning bush and assures Moses of His divine presence with His people and of His awareness of their sufferings in Egypt. God prepares Moses for the exodus, Israelites liberation from slavery to freedom.
In the second reading Paul retelling the exodus story. He said, our ancestors walked through the sea, they ate spiritual food, drank spiritual drink, but in most of them God does not pleased. They were given so much, but they threw it away.
In today’s Gospel, citing two tragic events, Jesus exhorts the Jews to repent and reform their lives. Eighteen people were killed when a tower in Siloam fell on them. A large number of people from Galilee, we don’t know how many, were killed by Pilate’s soldiers during a temple service. All had plans for their lives. All of their lives came to a sudden end with their plans unfulfilled.
Jesus told them those people faced these tragedies not because they were worse than others. Jesus uses two local tragedies to teach them and now us about our need for repentance and a renewal of life. The farmer has a fig tree and it didn’t give any fruit for three years. Jesus was going to cut it down, but the gardener convinced him to give one more year. If at the end of another year, it still hasn’t accomplished its purpose, then it will be cut down.
Today, during this lent, Jesus reminds us to look at our life. He gave everything for Israelites in their journey from slavery to freedom. Jesus, through his new exodus, passion death and resurrection, he gave himself for our journey to freedom. He gave us scripture, gave us sacraments, especially Eucharist. He has given us lot, but are we ready to receive. The burning bush was bursting with fruit of Divine presence. On the other hand, the fig tree in full is barren. Which one of the tree we want to be. Our God is a merciful God who always invites to receive his mercy. He wants us to become the burning bush, and burst with fruits of Divine presence. During this lent, let us grow in our relationship with God and help one another in this journey.
In his autobiography, Out of My Life and Thought, Albert Schweitzer said that one of the main things his parents did for him as a child was to take him to worship services, even though he was too young to understand much of what was going on. He claimed it is not important that children understand everything. What is important is “that they shall feel something of what is serious and solemn....” Can you see Peter, James, and John as they contemplated what it meant to be in the presence not only of Jesus but also Elijah and Moses, and then on top of all that, to hear the Voice of God as well?
On the Second Sunday of Lent we hear from the Gospel of Luke, the Transfiguration story: Jesus, Peter, John, and James, go up a mountain to pray. Jesus’s face changes, his clothes become dazzling white, and Moses and Elijah appeared. What did they say? They talked about the Exodus. We know in the first exodus Moses led Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, and finally built the city of Jerusalem.
In the Gospel we see Jesus was conversing with Moses and Elijah. They talked about Jesus’s New Exodus. At the first exodus there was a lamb that shed blood. In the new exodus Jesus is the new lamb who is going to shed the blood for the entire humanity. In the old exodus started from Egypt, travelled through the wilderness for forty years and reached in the earthly Promised Land, and finally built Jerusalem. In the new exodus Jesus came to Jerusalem to begin the new exodus, to lead us to the heavenly Promised Land, the New Jerusalem; heaven. His exodus is passion, death, resurrection and ascension. It is a greater exodus.
At the transfiguration Jesus revealed His glory. Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents…” Peter loved that mountain top experience, loved to remain there, but they had to go down for the new exodus. Jesus shows his glory at the transfiguration, but transfiguration pointing us to the Cross, the Sacrifice, death, resurrection and ascension.
Every time we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, it is our opportunity to participate in Jesus’s new exodus, his passion, death, resurrection and ascension. Every time we kneel in front of the Blessed Sacrament, we have a great opportunity to adore and praise him. Do I use the opportunity to prepare and celebrate the Eucharist? Do I use the opportunity to spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament?
We have a great opportunity to learn about this greatest gift on our FORMED website. It is a Catholic Version of NETFLIX. And it is free for you. Please sign in at FORMED.ORG and click on access code, and enter the code for our parish GB88ZX. Then you can watch movies, or a documentary or listen to talks. I encourage you to watch the video called Presence. We have a session every Sunday during Lent at 1:00 pm at the Padua Center. If you don’t have time you can watch it at home. Let us learn the meaning and depth of the Eucharist. Jesus had to give his life to give us Eucharist.
As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, "Are you trying to break this bridge?" "No," the builder replied, "I'm trying to prove that the bridge won't break." In the same way, the temptations Jesus faced weren't designed to see if He would sin, but to prove that He couldn't. (Today in the Word, March 14, 1991).
The first Sunday of Lent starts with forty days of Jesus’ fasting for 40 days and nights, to do battle with the tempter, the devil. 40 is an important number in the Bible. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights while Noah and company were in the ark. For 40 days Moses, Elijah and Jesus fasted and prayed to prepare themselves for a life's work. In the New Testament, not only did Jesus fast for 40 days and nights, His Ascension into heaven occurred 40 days after the Resurrection.
Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, culminated in the temptations of the devil. He was strong enough to survive them. Our 40 days of Lent are given to us to strengthen us to continue the battle against the tempter. The Church gives us this time to listen more closely to God, and to grow in our relationship with him – and that means putting God first.
There is a story of Mary. There was a bowl of candy sitting on the coffee table in the living room of Mary's house. Mary's mother noticed that she was looking at the candy and said, "Now, don't you eat any candy until after dinner or you will spoil your appetite." The candy looked so good and the temptation was so great. "Surely just one little piece won't hurt - and mother will never know the difference," Mary thought to herself.
Food is good, necessary, satisfies the hunger temporarily, but it won’t fill our hearts.
Success is good, necessary to make out life valuable, but it won’t fill our hearts.
The honor of others is good, necessary to feel accepted, but it won’t fill our hearts.
We need all of these to a certain extent, but above all we need God, who can fill emptiness in our heart… so if we want to invite God, death should take place in our life. Lent is a season of death and resurrection. Our life is ongoing death and resurrection.
Prayer: die to something in order to grow in personal prayer, participate in weekend Mass, and if our schedule allows, attend weekday Mass.
Fasting: Fast from something and try to increase our ability to share our time/treasure with someone and/or with God.
Lent, a pilgrimage in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving!
Ash Wednesday marks the season of Lent, in a sense, a time die. Take inspiration for your Lenten journey from prayer and to the reading of Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms. Fasting is prescribed to reinforce our penitential prayer during this season.
Pope Francis writes in his Lenten message, “Once God’s law, the law of love, is forsaken, then the law of the strong over the weak takes over. The sin that lurks in the human heart (cf. Mk 7:20-23) takes the shape of greed and unbridled pursuit of comfort, lack of concern for the good of others and even of oneself. It leads to the exploitation of creation, both persons and the environment, due to that insatiable covetousness which sees every desire as a right and sooner or later destroys all those in its grip.”
On Ash Wednesday, when we received the ashes, we hear the words: "Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return." The custom of distributing the ashes arose from the practice observed in the early Church by penitents. The church recommends three means of conversion and renewal of life, during the period of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is an outward expression of our inner craving for a deeper relationship with God. In the Old Testament fasting, prayer and almsgiving were public. But if we look at the Gospel passage for the Ash Wednesday from the Gospel of Mathew, it talks about a more interior aspect of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. It does not mean we don’t have to do the exterior action, but the season demands interior discipline.
Prayer: We devote ourselves in prayer: in personal prayer, participating in Atweekend Mass, and if our schedules allow, attend weekday Mass.
Fasting: Fast from anything that harms ourselves and others. It could be food or other things, habits, or situations.
Almsgiving: Freeing ourselves from greed and helping others. It can be through prayers, inviting others to pray at Mass, spending time with others, and/or giving financial help.
The season of lent we increase our regular prayer, intensify our regular fasting and regular almsgiving to prepare for the feast of Easter and the Christian Passover.
Fasting and Abstinence: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence. For members of the Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.
Take a Prayer Button for Lent: At the entrances of the Churches in our cluster, there will be a basket with Prayer Buttons. Please take one and place on your jacket during this Lent to remind yourself about the sacrifice of Jesus, the gift of Eucharist and to remember every Sunday to prepare and actively participate in the Eucharist. I invite everyone to take a few minutes to prepare for Mass by looking at the reading for the Mass and by fasting for an hour before Mass. And invite someone you know to come with you to Mass. Jesus had to give everything to give us the Eucharist. What are we going to give up to celebrate the gift of Eucharist more meaningfully?
I have extended an invitation to Rev. James R. Horath to come to our parish on the weekend of January 26-27, 2019. Father Horath will speak to you about the work being done by Unbound (previously known as CFCA), and how this provides a trustworthy way to actively participate in the social outreach of the Catholic Church and answer the Gospel call to serve the poor.
Founded by lay Catholics, Unbound is an organization that has served more than 600,000 children, youth and elderly in 18 developing countries since 1981 - empowering them to make more choices in their lives, live with dignity and reach their potential.
Unbound’s unique sponsorship program is highly personalized. It matches a child, youth or aging person at a project overseas with a sponsor in the U.S. who cares about and encourages that person. With a monthly contribution, a sponsor helps to provide much-needed nourishing food, medical and dental care, the chance for a child to go to school, livelihood programs for families and much more. All of these efforts are directed at affirming the dignity of every person in their local community.
Please join me in welcoming Father Horath to our parish.
Sincerely yours in Jesus Christ,
Rev. Shaji Joseph Pazhukkathara, Pastor
Few scattered thoughts….
As I write this my mind is preoccupied about tomorrow mornings drive to airport. Tonight, I hope there won’t be too much snow.
I would like to share with you few thoughts for your reflection and prayer…
March 6th will be Ash Wednesday. During lent we all like to do something special for the season and prepare ourselves for the Jesus’ death and Resurrection.
Charismatic Prayer group: We are in the process of forming a Charismatic prayer group. Tuesday, March 12, 2019 Fr. Dean Buttrick will be celebrating 5 pm Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church and giving homily on Charismatic movement. After the Mass we will have Charismatic prayer group. If you would like to know more about it, please contact Deacon Chet at 715-762-4959. Thank you.
During Lent we are planning to start Adoration on Wednesdays at Immaculate Conception after the Mass. We will continue first Friday Adoration at St. Anthony’s. In addition we will start Wednesday at Immaculate Conception.
During Lent we will be doing a study on Presence. If you did sign up on Formed website, you can watch the video in advance to prepare yourselves for the study. If not, please sign up. Please go to stanthonysparkfalls.formed.org and sign up. Pete (Patrick) Pritzl will be leading the study. There will be more info on book study later. Thank you.
Little Tommy was so impressed by his sister’s wedding that he announced. “I want to have a wedding just like Linda had.” “That sounds great,” said his father. “But whom will you marry?” Tommy announced: “I want to marry grandma because she loves me and I love her.” “You can’t marry grandma,” his father said. “Why not?” Tommy protested. “Because she is my mother.” “Well,” reasoned Tommy, “Then why did you marry my mother?”
The last two weekends we celebrated Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord: God the Fathers reveals his son, Jesus, the Messiah. This weekend we see Jesus at the wedding of Cana: another revelation. Pope St. John Paul II gave us a beautiful gift when he introduced the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary. The second mystery is the subject of today’s Gospel, the Wedding Feast at Cana where Jesus changed water into wine. The miracle at Cana is the first of seven “signs” in John’s Gospel - miraculous events by which Jesus showed forth his Divinity.
Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the Covenant relationship between God and His chosen people. God is the faithful Groom and humanity is His beloved bride. We hear about divine marriage in the first reading. God is like a bridegroom who rejoices in his bride. Israel is God's bride. Jesus takes up the theme of divine marriage. He begins his public ministry by calling himself "the bridegroom." And in today's Gospel, Jesus the divine bridegroom attends a human wedding feast. He performs his first miracle on behalf of a young bride and groom.
The presence of the Lord at this marriage feast has resulted in our associating Cana with Catholic marriage. But this miracle is more about the sacrament of the Eucharist than marriage. The first sign, Cana, points to the Final Sign in the Gospel of John, the crucifixion, when Jesus is raised upon the Cross. First of all, today’s Gospel passage points to the extraordinary transformation of the world begun at Cana. Its completion is at Calvary. Every reception of the Eucharist is a union with the crucified Savior whose blood has defeated the power of evil and transform our world. Mary’s instruction is very important, "Do whatever he tells you."
The miracle at Cana invites us to become Jesus and Mary. The question is how? Let us look at tragedies around our lives. Most of the time we wonder about it, try to find an answer. It is ok, beyond that discussion; the miracle at Cana invites us to perform another miracle by giving a helping hand through our thoughts, prayers, and actions. It is an invitation to become Mary and Joseph. Jesus breaks and shares with us at every Mass and we sent out do the same. When our hearts move towards the needy, the miracle happens, this celebration becomes meaningful… the celebration will continue in our life. Mary told Jesus, “they have no wine”….a thought for the other!
Trip to India: I will be leaving for India on January 23rd and will be back February 20th. We have priests for every weekend and on weekdays Deacon Chet, Bob, and Rick Harter will be leading the services. Please keep me in your prayers, I will keep you all in my prayer. I hope it won’t get too cold here and too warm in India either. It should be 80’s in Kerala, India.
Do you remember your baptism? I don’t. Once I was baptizing a baby. When I poured the water on his head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, he turned his head and looked at me with a question “where is this coming from?” In a recent baptism, a baby was ready to jump in the baptismal font. He looked content and happy. What did you do at your baptism?
Last weekend we celebrated Epiphany, the revelation of the Lord. This weekend again we celebrate that God the Father reveals his Son: Baptism of the Lord. We can see a beautiful painting in the Gospel: the Baptism of the Lord. We can see here that all three persons of God was present. Jesus Christ, the second person of God, standing at the Jordan River. We hear the voice of the Father from heaven and Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove.
The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord concludes Christmas and begins the meditation on the ministry of Jesus. Why baptism for Jesus? God’s love was so generous to humble him for us. The Son of God humbled Himself to such a degree that He was born in a manger. He humbled Himself accepting the baptism of John even though He was sinless. We celebrate what happened in him to us. When Jesus was baptized a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased." The same thing happened to us on the day we were baptized. On that moment God said to us, “you are my beloved son/daughter.”
There are three effects of the Baptism. The first effect of baptism is that washes away our Original Sin. We fall again in the life and other Sacraments gives us the mercy of God, and we revisit that baptismal innocence. The second effect of baptism is an indelible mark upon the soul. Here we so closely conformed in Jesus Christ. We become adopted sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. God is the spirit, at the same time he revealed to us as a Father. So we pray the prayer Our Father… We call him Aba Father. The third effect of the baptism is that the third person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit breathed in our soul and allows us members of the mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
Every time we come into the Church, we dip the fingers of our right hands into the holy water font and bless ourselves. Why? This blessing is supposed to remind us of our baptism. And so when I bless myself with holy water, I should be thinking of the fact that I am a child of God; that I have been redeemed by the Cross of Christ; that I have been made a member of God’s family and that I have been washed, forgiven, cleansed and purified by the blood of the Lamb.
On the day of our baptism, as in St. Pope John Paul II’s writings, "We were anointed with the oil of catechumens, the sign of Christ's gentle strength, to fight against evil. Blessed water was poured over us, an effective sign of interior purification through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We were then anointed with chrism to show that we were thus consecrated in the image of Jesus, the Father's Anointed One. The candle lit from the paschal candle was a symbol of the light of faith which our parents and godparents must have continually safeguarded and nourished with the life-giving grace of the Spirit."
The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of our mission, mission of the Church.
Young people announce when they become engaged and want to begin preparations for their wedding. They are excited, but at the same time they have questions and concerns about the future. What makes a man a real man; what makes a woman a real woman? And we can add, what makes a child a real child? The answers are found if we look at the Holy Family.
The mission of Mary and Joseph was to bring up the child Jesus and give Him to the world. It was not an easy journey for them. We all know that. Some of you may have a perfect family, but most families often face challenges. They had all kinds of problems in front of them. If you think you don’t know your spouse well enough, look at the Holy Family. Mary was not sure what she was doing. Joseph was struggling to receive Mary as a wife. Mary and Joseph had dreams, they didn’t exactly know what they were all about. But they followed. If you ever think that you don’t know your child, look at the Holy Family, Mary and Joseph didn’t fully understand either. We know the story of when Jesus went into the temple. On the way back, they lost him. It took three days to go back and find him. When they found Jesus in the temple, what did he say to Mary and Joseph, why are you looking for me? Three things to do as a family: pray together, love, and forgive each other. The Holy Family trusted in the Lord, and asked constantly for his guidance.
In few days we are about to say good bye to the year 2018 and getting ready to embrace the New Year 2019. Are we all prepared to embrace the New Year? Every year on January 1st we celebrate the feast of Mary, Mother of God. The Feast of Mary, is a very appropriate way to begin a new year reminding us to rely on the powerful intercession of our heavenly mother. The church observes this day also as the World Day of Peace and invites us especially to pray for lasting peace in the world throughout the New Year.
Let us take a moment to look at the Year 2018 and thank God for his many blessings. And let us pray for one another and wait for the New Year 2019! Through the intercession of Mary and Joseph, may the Child Jesus bless all of us in the Year 2019!!
Happy New Year!
Once I heard a life story of a father who had two children with special needs. They were twins and they died month apart. When Dad started to talk about his two children, his eyes would open wide and a big smile would rise on his face. He explained, God was looking down from heaven. God was holding two precious babies in his hands and was waiting in search of parents who would take care of the children with love and care. And God saw me and my wife, and gave us those two children. We took care of them. We relocated our lives for their care; one of us gave up our job to find time to spend with them.
Two thousand years ago, God the Father was searching for a mother with whom to entrust His Son, to share the Good News with His people. Every Christmas reminds us of the Good News, “God is with us.” A question to ponder, “Am I with God?”
During the American Civil War, a lady exclaimed effusively to President Lincoln: “Oh Mr. President, I feel so sure that God is on our side, don't you?” “Ma'am,” replied the President, “I am more concerned that we should be on God's side.”
Christmas reminds us of endless giving. God gave himself for us, but do we find him? At the first Christmas, we primarily see two groups of people who came to visit and adore Child Jesus. The first group was shepherds: they were not well-educated, but the message was delivered to them, they felt it in their hearts, believed it, and went to worship the newborn king. The second group of people were a well-educated group: the Magi. They studied, and they had intellectual knowledge about the appearance of the star. They followed the star and came to Child Jesus to offer gifts and to worship him.
God completed the promise he made to Adam and Eve at Christmas. The chosen people were waiting for centuries for the coming of the Messiah. He was born in Bethlehem. These last four weeks we were waiting with hope, peace, and joy to celebrate Christmas.
For us, God is us always. Once again the celebration of Christmas came.
Jesus, the miracle of love was born in a manger…
He was born to die…
Jesus’s death starts at the manger…
When he left his glory and became a vulnerable baby…
Jesus did it for us…
A gift from our Heavenly Father, Baby Jesus!!
His first coming changed history: before Christ and after Christ. It was the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Let every Christmas bring new beginnings in our Lives, Families, Church, and World. Let us adore him, praise him, and thank him. With a grateful heart let us celebrate this Christmas!
Let us kneel at the manger in adoration and sing with angels, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
I wish you all a Blessed Christmas!