Working to change.

The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.

Throughout Lent we have focused on the change and reform necessary in our lives. We delved into the Lenten disciplines of fasting, sacrifice (or giving), study, and prayer. There is one discipline left – proclamation.

If we have taken these disciplines seriously, we should each be seeing change in our lives, or at least more clearly hear the call to conversion, change and reform. By now we should be walking each day as more ardent and faithful livers of Jesus’s gospel way. Sins like anger, resentment, and their like should be more foreign to us.

Of all the disciplines of Lent, proclamation may be the hardest to achieve.  We can take time to fast, sacrifice or give a little more, study, pray. Most of that we can do on our own, almost stealthy, unseen to the outside world, but proclamation – everyone sees that.

Proclamation is very important to me personally. Let me tell you about that.

I often wonder if people think I am a little off, maybe not quite aware of what’s going on. Perhaps I do not see reality? They see me often thanking and congratulating people for what they might consider insignificant or even something the people I am thanking should just do – you know it is their job…

There are reasons for that. Most of my early life was marked by ongoing encounters with two kinds of people, those who recognized kindness and those who could not find a good thing in a basket of gold. Two types of proclaimers modeled. Who would I be?

Our first reading from Isaiah 50 points to Jesus Whose whole life was proclamation. He came speaking the Good News. It was His constant message. He showed us the kingdom. He told people – and tells us – what we have to do, repent and believe in the gospel

Isaiah says in Chapter 52: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation.

The beauty of Jesus’ proclamation was that there was nothing in His entire being –  including every trial, wound, scourge, humiliation, thorn, nail, lack of breath, and curse heaped on Him that was not Him speaking out about our value before God. His death on the cross was proclamation of that value.

If we want to bear Christ’s name in honesty and integrity, we must be proclaimers of the kingdom. We must proclaim good news, peace, happiness,and salvation. We have to let people know, and in the end let people hear the change and reform Jesus caused in us. Could we rather nitpick, focus on the one mistake someone made, or criticize even the smallest gift shared? Sure. But then, what kind of proclaimer are we?

This week’s memory verse: Pray without ceasing

1 Thessalonians 5:17
  • 3/21 – Philippians 4:6
  • 3/22 – Jeremiah 33:3
  • 3/23 – James 5:16
  • 3/24 – Ephesians 6:18
  • 3/25 –  1 Timothy 2:8
  • 3/26 – 1 John 3:22
  • 3/27 – Luke 18:1

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, grant that my life be one continuous prayer. Help me in faithfully praying without ceasing and with the same passion and determination as with which You prayed. 

Working to change.

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, and He was heard because of his reverence.

So far in Lent we have focused on the change and reform necessary in our lives. We have been focusing on the various Lenten disciplines, the means and methods by which we achieve conversion, change and reform. These disciplines help us become more ardent and faithful livers of Jesus’s gospel way.

The subjects of fasting, sacrifice (or giving), and study have been covered thus far. Next week we continue with the consideration of proclamation. Today, we focus on prayer.

This year we study from the Gospel according to St. Mark. In the first chapter of that Gospel, we hear that Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Prayer was a regular part of Jesus’ life. In Mark 11 we hear of Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.’ In the same chapter Jesus reminded His disciples of the power of faithful and right prayer: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Jesus’ time on earth was a time of “prayers and petitions.” These two words portray a life of constant and persistent supplication. Not only did Jesus pray constantly and persistently, He prayed fervently. “Fervent cries” could also be translated “loud crying” or even “powerful shouts.” It makes us think of Jesus in Gethsemane, where He was “very sorrowful even to death”: And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And He said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray…” And going a little farther, He fell on the ground and prayed.

Yet all this still does not exhaust the agonizing depth of Jesus’ prayers, for He prayed “with tears.” Jesus sobbed as He prayed. He threw Himself completely into prayer.

Jesus knew every facet of human suffering. He groaned under the depth of it. Through all this agony, Jesus learned something: He learned what it was like to obey as a suffering human in a fallen world and for that faith He was heard.

We are called to the same constant discipline of prayer that Jesus lived. Our prayer must be faithful and right. Our prayer must not be limited. Our prayer, heartfelt even when it groans without words, must call out to God. With prayer, like Jesus, we learn and are given just what we need to endure and cross into glory.

These are extraordinary times we are living through. Our Parish and our entire Church, no less than any other institution, is adapting to these new realities in ways we have informed you of in recent calls, in social media, and via our website.

We remain committed to carrying out the worship and devotions of God’s Holy Church and to continue to plead for our people, and the whole world, before the altar of Jesus. We remind all to remain home and to join us in worship online, if you are able, or privately through prayer, scripture reading, and the joining of our hearts together as God’s holy people, a nation of priests pleading before the throne of God together.

Holy Week and the celebration of the Solemnity of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ are the true central point of our liturgical year. In this time, we are called in a special way to walk with Jesus from His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, to the Last Supper, through His passion, death, and entombment, to His glorious resurrection.

We have received direction from our bishops related to certain adjustments to the rubrics (the way we do things) for Holy Week and Easter. These adjustments will allow you to participate more fully while at home. We are to be mindful of the fact that the celebrations of the Passion of our Lord and His triumph over death in the Resurrection are not canceled but rather they must be celebrated by each of us separately in our homes, joined in prayer while the celebrations occur within our parish churches.

We have posted our schedule for Holy Week and the celebration of the Solemnity of the Resurrection of our Lord below.

  • April 5: Palm Sunday. Holy Mass with Blessing of Palms broadcast at 9:30am. Palms will be stored at church and you may pick them up once the current crisis is over.
  • April 9: Maundy Thursday. Holy Mass with Reposition and Stripping of the Altars broadcast at 7pm.
  • April 10: Good Friday broadcasts. Reflection on the Seven Last Words at 12pm. Liturgy of the Presanctified and Opening of the Tomb at 3pm. Bitter Lamentations, 7pm.
  • April 11: Holy Saturday, Liturgy of New Fire, Renewal of Baptismal Promises, broadcast at 4pm.
  • April 12: Solemnity of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (Easter). Proclamation of the Resurrection and Holy Mass broadcast at 9:30am.

Please know that this message is so difficult for me, as your pastor, to write. It represents a painful separation from you that I feel very deeply, and that I offer up to Jesus.  I could not be missing you, my family, more.  For now, we cannot safely join in the worship of our great God and in the celebration of the suffering, death and resurrection from the dead of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ.  But rest assured family of God, brothers and sisters all, one day soon – we will.

Fr. Jim

Seven.

“I am going to awaken him.”
“Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go”
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him
[Martha] went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.

Throughout this Lent we delved into the problem of sin and have used our study to set strategies that move us from hard-hearted self-centeredness and spiritual shortcoming to a life deep in line with the life of Jesus. Walking through the seven deadly sins and their antidote, the seven contrary virtues, we have found what is required of us. In doing what is required we took the time to grow stronger. Having grown stronger, we will walk out of Lent armed with God’s grace and we will overcome!

We have covered pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, and greed. Today we tackle the last, Sloth.

Being cooped up at home these days, it might be easy to let sloth creep in. We may have cleaned everything there is to clean, have organized everything there is to organize — Right? Perhaps we are working or studying from home? Being active in those pursuits?

Getting things done may seem less of an activity and more sedentary now. Keeping that in mind, it is vitally important that we keep busy, not just doing whatever, but active in organizing our prayer and scriptural reading, in reaching out with cards, letters, and calls; in making good use of this time to grow deeper in relationship with Jesus and each other. Let us not be slothful – another term for wastefully lazy. Let’s not be Gilligan or Patrick.

It is said that there are special punishments in Hell for the slothful. This one is very apropos: You’ll be thrown into snake pits. Dance, sinner, dance!

Jesus, and those closest to Him, loved by Him, did not avoid physical and spiritual action. Even when Jesus told His disciples to come away and rest – it was to rest in prayer.

Our contrary virtue, our call in these extraordinary times, is a call to diligence, to doing the physical and spiritual work necessary for our sanctification and that of the world. We are called every day, and most poignantly in these times, to redouble our efforts so that walking out of Lent, out of crises, we enter Easter strong in faithful diligence across the board.

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Not the
Conclusion

The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Through Lent we encountered Dismas. We learned who he was and what brought him to the life he led.  

We discussed the issue of his equality and possibility; our call to rightly measure both; to recognize inherent human dignity. The image of God is in all. We are all provided the same possibility all those around Jesus have. 

Like Dismas, we are called to come to Jesus and be saved. We, like Dismas, must set aside the fear we have in the face of God’s honesty. 

As we heard today, Dismas, on the cross, examined his life, asked questions, saw his innate dignity, the possibility before him, overcame fear, and grabbed the chance to grow and become, even in the last moment of his life. 

From the cross, Dismas proclaimed his faith in Jesus, confessed his sin, and allowed Jesus to take hold of him.

Today, we walked with Jesus, from the supper table, to the garden, through arrest, questioning and torture, prison, conviction, the journey to Calvary, crucifixion, and this encounter with Dismas and Gestas. Seemingly the end.

There is so much here but reflect on the words of Dismas: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Isn’t that what we all want. Isn’t that what touches us so deeply.

We, who await the supper of the Lord, who have joined ourselves to Him, who are dedicated to Him, have come to realize that all He did, His finishing of the work the Father sent Him to accomplish, was exactly for this reason. God remembered us.

As we reflect on what Dismas asked and what Jesus did, what His sacrifice promises us, let us give thanks. Jesus indeed remembers us eternally. Our life is now, like Dismas, without conclusion.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices which they had prepared.

They came, so sad, with faces stained;
Behind them the rays of a new dawn flamed.
All about them heaven with glory began to open…

The partial stanza above is from the poem The Resurrection by Fr. Walter Hyszko. This and other poems by Fr. Hyszko can be found in his book, Ode to Great Men and Great Things in Poetry and Prose.

This poem is so appropriate to us. It reflects on the early morning walkMary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women took to the tomb. They were deeply saddened, faces tear stained from prolonged crying. Their hearts were broken.

In their sadness, they set out to commit a final act of love toward Jesus, to anoint His dead body with spices. He was dead.

Fr. Hyszko paints a picture in words. They reflect what we may be experiencing Easter Sunday morning if we have walked with

Jesus throughout Lent, if we actually spent time in church from Maundy Thursday through Holy Saturday. The weight of Jesus betrayal, arrest, torture, death, and the ensuing silence after burial weighs heavy on us. Our sinfulness, our failures, our unwillingness to be there for Jesus, presses on us. We feel death’s press and we miss it.

As Fr. Hyszko points out, the Marys, Joanna, and the other women missed it too: Rays of a new day flamed / heaven with glory began to open. All those things that weigh on us, all the tears and regrets in our lives have been covered in the redeeming blood of Jesus. We have been washed and made new. That day burned forth as new – a new era – rebirth into a time where heaven is open. The doors have been unbarred. Death has been crushed by death. He lives!

The last line of the poem’s first stanza says: Yet the thrall of grief remained unbroken. Do not let your grief remain unbroken this Easter for we are made new. Rejoice!!!

Join us this April for the conclusion of our Lenten and Passiontide journey. Join us in our Lenten retreat on April 6th. Join in directed giving. Palm Sunday is April 14th, then Holy Week – a full schedule of events taking us on a journey through every emotion – by which we grow so close to Jesus. In the end, grief will not win.

Read more in our April 2019 Newsletter.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1
  • 4/7 – Romans 2:1-5
  • 4/8 – 1 John 3:20
  • 4/9 – John 3:17
  • 4/10 – Isaiah 35:3-6
  • 4/11 – Psalm 34:22
  • 4/12 – John 3:18
  • 4/13 – Romans 5:1-5

Pray the week: Lord Jesus, take possession of me fully. Grant me Your Spirit so that I may press onward in becoming more like You.

Our Lenten Journey
with Dismas – Part 5

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

We have to wonder if Dismas, as he was encountering Jesus on the cross, thought back to the words of the prophet Isaiah: Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!

As one who encountered death so often, and who perhaps murdered, who likely saw his criminal colleagues similarly crucified, he was certainly seeing and experiencing something new. In the midst of this horrific tortuous death, he found freedom and forgiveness. Outside himself, he saw Jesus take care of His mother and he saw the executioners also pardoned by Jesus.

Paul’s words to the Philippians would have therefore rung true for Dismas, for this is what he experienced. I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus… I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession.

What happened to Dismas was beyond his comprehension. Dismas’ sinful and failed life was not his final testament. Rather, his testament is that of mercy, of a new way of life. It was something he had missed, he could not posess, yet here it was.

Dismas, just like the woman caught in adultery, was taken possession of by Jesus and was given the chance to respond. They were both set free by meeting Jesus. Neither had a claim on mercy and freedom. They had no possession they could claim. Yet, they allowed themselves to be brought into the something new Jesus provides. They both allowed Jesus to fill their lives with His newness. 

As we enter the Passiontide, the Holy Church offers us the great reassurance that is so apparent in these readings. Jesus is ever near to us, ready to take hold of us. He has new life for us – the past is no more. All we need do is respond as Dismas and the woman did. 

In these two weeks, let us reflect on how unready we are, how lacking in perfection, and despite that, how much we want to draw ever closer to Jesus. We are His possession. Because of this, let us press forward growing in our discipleship and witness to Him

Please join us and walk with Jesus throughout Holy Week, particularly during the Sacred Triduum (the three days between the Last Supper and Jesus’ Resurrection). Then join us as we celebrate our Easter joy. Our schedule as follows:

  • Maundy Thursday, March 29th – Reception of Oils, Holy Mass, Procession to the Altar of Repose, Stripping of the Altars at 7pm.
  • Good Friday, March 30th – Cross walk at 11:30am, Bitter Lamentations at 3pm, Liturgy of the Presanctified and Opening of the tomb at 7pm.
  • Holy Saturday, March 31st – Liturgy of New Fire. Renew Your Baptismal Vow. Blessing of Easter Baskets, 4pm.
  • Solemnity of the Resurrection/Easter, April 1 – Procession and Solemn High Holy Mass at 8am and Holy Mass at 10am. Easter repast after each Holy Mass.

Please remember the Church’s requirements for Lent Holy week requires fasting and abstaining from meats from Wednesday, March 28th through Saturday, March 31st.