Lent – Season of Grace
Pope Francis, in his Lenten message for 2021 reflected, “In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who ‘humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross' (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the ‘living water’ of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Lent is forty days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that begins on Ash Wednesday. The season of Lent is a season of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection at Easter. It is a time of renewal of faith and follows in his footsteps more faithfully.
Ash Wednesday is the Church’s ‘Day of Atonement'. It is not only the first of the forty days of Lent, but along with Good Friday, the Church describes it as a day of full fast and abstinence from meat for Catholics from the age of 18 to 59, meaning only one full meal and two smaller meals not equal to a full meal are permitted. Fridays during lent are obligatory days of abstinence from meat. These are not just a rule for the season of Lent, but it is a means to grow in our relationship with God and one another.
The readings for Ash Wednesday remind us of the spiritual nature of the Lenten season. The first reading is from the book of the prophet Joel. The message of the book of Joel can be summoned up as a call to repentance in the face of coming judgment, which the prophet refers to as “the day of the Lord.” He insists in the reading that we should experience a complete conversion of heart and not simply sorrow for our sins. In the book of Leviticus 16:30, we read that “For on this day atonement is made for you to make you clean; of all your sins you will be cleansed before the LORD.” Saint Paul, in the second reading, says, Christ took on our humanity and became the victim in a sacrificial act so “we might become the righteousness of God.” The sacrifice of Christ has infinite value and enables us to be reconciled to God.
Today’s Gospel instructs us to embrace the true spirit of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount which begins in chapter 3 and ends in chapter 7. In this Gospel reading, the sermon continues with a warning against doing good to be seen and gives three examples, almsgiving (Mt 6:2–4), prayer (Mt 6:5–15), and fasting (Mt 6:16–18).
Forty days of prayer is a time to reflect on the part we play in God’s one human family. Part of that prayer journey may include praying our prayer card, which is a prayer for our cluster community. Forty days of fasting is a time to remove the obstacles getting in the way of loving God and our neighbor. Forty days of almsgiving is a time to experience the spirit of poverty and come closer to those who are in need.
What can I do this Lent? A simple suggestion: 1. Take a few minutes for daily prayer (please include praying our prayer card, which is a prayer for our cluster community). 2. Find time to attend Mass every Sunday. And if you go every Sunday, try to find time for weekday Mass at least once or twice? Or go for the Stations of the Cross. 3. Pray for one or two of your friends/families each week and invite them for the weekend Mass and come with them for Mass.
Lenten Reading - The Wisdom of Fulton Sheen
On Ash Wednesday you can get a book named "The Wisdom of Fulton Sheen" - 365 days of inspiration- is an easy, short read for each day. It is designed to read the whole year. We can start on March 2, Ash Wednesday, and finish on March 1, 2023.
I would like to express my gratitude to our St. Anthony CCW, Immaculate Conception Christian Women, and St. Francis Sodality. Their generosity made these books available for all of us.
This weekend's reading is about christian love. Do we make choices out of love? We read about David in the first reading from the first book of Samuel, his love and respect for God’s authority. Israelites looked at the neighboring kingdoms and wished for a King. They asked Samuel, the last judge to ask God for a King. Saul was their first King. Young David took the defeated Goliath and gained the admiration of the people and jealousy of King Saul. Saul and his “three thousand picked men” went to kill David. On the other hand David, with Abishai, entered Saul's camp while they were asleep. God put Saul in deep sleep. We read different times God put different people to sleep for different reasons, especially for the new covenant. God put Adam to sleep (Genesis 2:21); Abram fell into deep sleep and God established a new covenant (Genesis 15:12). Even though Saul was in deep sleep, David refused Abishai’s offer to kill Saul. David had a great love and respect for God. David didn’t want to kill Saul because God anointed him as King. At the same time by taking Saul’s spear and jug, he made sure Saul knew David entered his camp. David is an image of Christ and a great example for loving and forgiving his enemy. David’s love for God led him to make the right choice.
In the Gospel we see Jesus, from the house of David, teaching to love enemies. This passage is a continuation of last Sunday's Sermon of the Pain. Last Sunday we reflected on beatitudes in which Jesus gave us perfection of following the Ten Commandments. There are different words for love in Greek. Philia is affectionate love or friendship. Eros is passionate desire, and agape is unconditional love. Do things out of love without expecting any reward. When Jesus taught to love your enemies, he meant agape: unconditional love. Agape is the love that cares deeply for others simply because they are created in the image and likeness of God. He not only taught us to love our enemies, but he gave us a great example on the Cross. While hanging on the Cross Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
In the Old Testament we see retaliation: “eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Exodus 21:24); “Anyone who inflicts a permanent injury on his or her neighbor shall receive the same in return” (Leviticus 24:19): “Do not show pity. Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot!” (Deuteronomy 19:21). Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek” (Mark 6:28-29), Jesus asks us to show unconditional love.
In the second reading from the first Corinthians, St. Paul tells us that we are born like the first man, Adam, inclined to disobey God. But when Jesus died and rose from the dead, he sent us his life giving spirit. So even now we bear his heavenly image because of our baptism. Through baptism Christ lives in us. While we are here on earth, we may not be able to completely let go of the earthly man, but God’s grace is there for us through our baptism and other Sacraments.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that love consists in two desires: one, a desire for the good, for the beloved person, and two, a desire for union with that person. Jesus says, “love your enemies” means to come in union with others. Let us grow in love for God and for others.
Synod on Synodality
Northwoods Catholic Communities gather on Saturday, February 19 from 8:30 am to 11 am at Padua Center for Prayer and Discussion…Please join!
In September 2021, Pope Francis invited Catholics worldwide to take part in the Synod on Synodality in preparation for the Synod of Bishops in October 2023. There are three phases: Diocesian phase, National phase and final is Synod 2023.
Bishop Powers invites each parish cluster in our diocese to gather for prayer and discussion. Our cluster is gathering on February 19, 2022 from 8:30 am to 11 am. Following our gathering we have to submit a report based on our discussion. In March representatives from our cluster gather with other representatives from other clusters with the Bishop and other Diocesan leaders. After hearing from each cluster, the diocese will develop a report for our diocese and submit it to the United States Bishops Conference. Then the Bishops Conference will submit a report based on the report from each diocese to Rome. This report will be coming from every country and it will be the document for Synod 2023.
I am sure all of you have lots of questions about our gathering. It is a time of prayer and discussion. We gather at 8:30 am with a cup of coffee, first listen to the Bishop’s message (Video), then we pray on the Gospel passage of Mark 2:1-12 (Lectio Divina). Most of the discussion happens in small groups. There will be a group leader who will guide and take notes to present in the large group. There will be a set of questions for the small group discussion. The mask is not required, but everyone is encouraged to wear one. If you are concerned about mingling with people who don’t have masks, you may be guided to a designated area. It will be a great opportunity to gather together and listen to each other and find out how we can live out the Gospel in a meaningful way.
Synod means journey together, which helps to listen, discern to go forward as a Church. We ask guidance of the Holy Spirit as we listen to the Gospel (Mark 2:1-12) passage and see the faith of those people and look at our community to see what the needs of our time are. Pope Francis has three main key words: communion, participation and mission.
Communion: Unity in diversity. The Holy Trinity is the example for us. Christ came to reconcile us to the Father and unites us in the Holy Spirit. Synodality, journey together, so, the Pope seeks to hear what everyone has to contribute.
Participation: It builds on communion and encourages everyone to participate at a deepest level by listening to each other. Encourage and invite each other to involve in the life of the Church.
Mission: After the Pentecost, the disciples went out to proclaim the Gospel. The Holy Spirit led the Apostles and continued to guide the Church. The Holy Spirit leads us to go forth and share the love of God with humanity. How do we share in our community?
It is a beginning, I think we should continue this dialogue as a parish, and as a cluster. Please mark your calendar for Saturday, February 19 and sign up. The more people sign up, the better we can prepare for the day. We will have coffee and donuts as you come. We will be preparing booklets for everyone. So please call the office as soon as possible, or sign up at the entrance. Thank you very much in advance for your participation.
This weekends reading reminds us of our baptismal call. The first reading from the book Isaiah explains his vision of the heavenly temple, the first divine revelation Isaiah received, and calls for God’s mission. Isaiah is caught up to the heavenly temple in the year of King Uzziah’s death, where he beholds God’s glory and the ministry of the six-winged seraphim. We read in the second book of Kings 6, the building of the Jerusalem Temple. A high and lofty throne: within the holy of holies of the Jerusalem Temple stood two cherubim, or winged sphinxes, whose outstretched wings served as the divine throne (1King 6:23).
When he received the call, Isaiah expressed his unworthiness and said “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” But a seraph purifies his lips with a coal from the heavenly altar. After the purification, Isaiah volunteered to answer the divine call and said, “Here am I! Send me!” Isaiah was called to bring the people of Israel and Judah to trust in the Lord. Those days the chosen people of God were divided into two: the northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern kingdom of Judah. They were cooperating with neighboring kingdoms to strengthen their safety, instead of trusting in the Lord. Isaiah was sent to bring them to the Lord and remind them to trust in the Lord.
The Gospel story takes place by the sea of Galilee, where the manifestation of Jesus’ divine power. The story of the miraculous catch of fish, Simon Peter recognizes his unworthiness, and calls for discipleship. Peter said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. Jesus' answer to him was, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Then they left everything and followed Jesus. Christ’s call for his first disciples show the essence of vocation. True discipleship shows radical detachment. It is the call of the first three: Peter, James and John, (Luke 5:1-11) and it is evident that there is a special relationship with Peter.
Like Isaiah, Peter recognizes his unworthiness. But Jesus accepted him and prepared him to be the fishers of men. We know the rest of the story of Peter. One time proclaimed, “You are Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Another time he denied Jesus and said, “I do not know the man” (Matthew 26:72).
The miraculous catch of fish in today’s Gospel is similar to John 21:1-11 Jesus’ appearance to disciples after the resurrection. In both passages Jesus asked Peter to lower the net for a catch. First, Peter said to Jesus, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am sinful man” (Luke 5:8) and after the second miraculous catch in John 21:1-11, Peter said, “It is the Lord” (John 21:7) and sprang into the sea. Here in the passage we can see the real transformation of Peter.
What does our discipleship look like? What is our story? We might have gone through lots of low and high moments. Like Isaiah and Peter, we might have felt our unworthiness. The second reading from St. Paul to Corinthians 15:1-11 reminds us that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, who died for our sins and was raised from the dead. Let us give ourselves to the Lord, he makes us worthy and prepares us to proclaim the Gospel and make his name known and loved.