Sunday, March 29, 2020

Fifth Sunday of Lent

Today's Gospel for the fifth Sunday of Lent, is the well-known story of the Raising of Lazarus.  Every time I hear this Gospel proclaimed or read it I am always struck by something new.   We hear that Jesus receives word that His friend Lazarus is ill – near death.  Jesus sets off at once to go to His friend in his time of need.  Before Jesus arrives Lazarus dies and is place in the tomb.  Lazarus’ grieving sister meets Jesus and says, “If you had been here our brother would not have died.”  Jesus assures her that Lazarus was not dead merely sleeping.

In today's Gospel Jesus responds to our grief. We see Jesus both in his humanity as he grieves for his friend, Lazarus, and as he mourns with his friends Martha and Mary. We also see Jesus' divine power to raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus himself shows us that grief is a deep expression of love, not a lack of faith or trust.

How does Jesus respond to our grief? He is with us, comforting us, as he did Martha and Mary. He helps us, as he did them, to grow in our belief that death (or loss of something that we love) is not the end for any of us.  In this most unsettling time Jesus is right there with us, encouraging us and comforting us.

It is hard to believe that it is already the fifth Sunday of Lent.  Time is seemingly flying by.  Each year the Lenten readings seemingly are on target and are what we need to hear.  We can trust in Jesus even when he seems to be absent. Jesus weeps with us. Jesus is fully human. And in that we have hope.  May we take time this day to praise our God for His continuous blessings upon us.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Laetare Sunday

Today we celebrate Laetare Sunday.  It is the fourth Sunday of Lent, in the Western Christian liturgical calendar. Traditionally, this Sunday has been a day of celebration, within the austere period of Lent. This Sunday gets its name from the first few words of the traditional Latin entrance (Introit) for the Mass of the day. "Laetare Jerusalem" ("Rejoice, O Jerusalem") is Latin from Isaiah 66:10 (Rejoice, Jerusalem, all you who love her…) Today the celebrant will wear rose colored vestments and the atmosphere is much more uplifting.  We are at the midpoint of the Lenten journey and today is meant to be one of rejoicing to encourage the faithful for the final push to Easter.

In the Mass readings, Psalm 23 promises us that we will lack nothing with the Lord as our Shepherd. Some of us are at home right now, experiencing still waters for the first time in a long time. We pray God is restoring your soul. Others are serving on the front lines of hospitals and doctors' offices or at home with extra demands. We pray God is giving you everything you need. May we all hold on to the hand of our Good Shepherd.

In the lengthy Gospel we hear the familiar story of the man born blind.  There is much to reflect on in this story – you have the man born blind who is healed by Jesus, the Pharisees who are eager to condemn Jesus for healing him, the man’s parents who are too afraid to get involved and Jesus.  Who do you see yourself relating to in this story?  Which person is God calling you to be?

We are living through a rather dark time right now as we embrace our new normal -- living through the restrictions of the coronavirus.  Now is the time to turn to our faith knowing that our God of love and compassion is walking with us.  As we continue to live the journey toward what promises to be a different Easter let us remember that our God desires us to be filled with light, love and peace.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Woman at the Well

Today’s Gospel, I believe is one of my favorites.  I love the story of the Woman at the Well.  In this story Jesus goes to the well during the day and discovers the woman who is there drawing water.  There are many things wrong with this scene.  First the woman should never have been at the well during the day, she was supposed to go to the well in the early morning or the early evening.  No woman was to be out alone during the day.  Secondly, Jesus should never have spoken to this particular woman for she was a Samaritan – the enemy of the Jewish people at that time.  It was an encounter that never should have taken place yet it changed a woman forever.

Jesus invited this woman to talk. She finds Him engaging all right, but this man shouldn’t be talking to her.  The woman knew what was at stake and probably thought that Jesus had no idea of what was wrong with this picture.  She tried to get Him to leave and not speak to her but Jesus had another plan.  Jesus knew what truly mattered and was determined to help her to see His perspective.  Ultimately she drops her agenda and begins to listen to Him.  For some reason she was not threatened by Jesus and begs Him to give her the life giving water He spoke of. 

She doesn’t cower in fear rather she listens to Him as He reveals her life in detail.  He gently stripped way all that held her back from feeling like a valued person.  As Jesus revealed her life she experienced His healing touch. 

As I think about this Gospel during Lent I think about what is Jesus desiring for me?  What do I need to let go of to receive His healing touch?  Can I let go of the things that hold me back from receiving His healing touch?  May we always try to be open to the amazing grace of our God.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

International Women's Day

Women’s rights and gender equality are taking center stage in 2020.  The UN observance of International Women’s Day is Sunday, March 8, 2020.  Twenty-five years have passed since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action—a progressive roadmap for gender equality. 

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day (8 March) is, “I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”.  The Generation Equality campaign is bringing together people of every gender, age, ethnicity, race, religion and country, to drive actions that will create the gender-equal world we all deserve.

Together, we want to mobilize to end gender-based violence; we are calling for economic justice and rights for all; bodily autonomy, sexual and reproductive health and rights; and feminist action for climate justice. We want technology and innovation for gender equality; and feminist leadership.

Around the world and through the decades, we have all shared in the global struggle for gender equality. Regardless of our age, country, background or gender, the fight for equal rights has collectively defined our lives and we must take action together to achieve it. This International Women’s Day, UN Women’s multi-generational campaign, Generation Equality, brings together past and present advocates to demand gender equality in this generation.

Let us give thanks for the countless women who have gone before us and may we always treasure those who have directly impacted our lives.  Take some time today go give thanks for those women and celebrate their lives in a special way.  May we never take for granted our abilities and talents as women of faith, hope and abundant love.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday begins our forty-day season of Lent that leads to Easter. On Ash Wednesday, we come together as the people of God to remind ourselves that we don’t always follow God’s ways and need to ask God for His mercy and forgiveness. Like God’s people in the time of the prophets, we wear ashes to show that we want to turn away from whatever keeps us from God, and to have a change of heart, so that we can live in right relationship with God and each other.

For Catholics, Ash Wednesday is also a day of fasting and abstaining from meat. Fasting reminds us that food alone cannot make us happy. We must also be fed with prayer, with God’s Word and by meeting Jesus in the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and Eucharist. The small sacrifices we make during Lent makes room in our hearts to welcome the risen Christ at Easter.

This Lent let us look at things a little differently.  Instead of “What will I give up?”  Consider “What does God want to give you?”  Before you think about what you are going to give up think about what God might be inviting you to.  God wants us to be happy, caring and compassionate toward ourselves and others.  We are meant to be free and not burdened down.

Let us embrace this Lent with a spirit of hope and be ready for big surprises!

Sunday, February 16, 2020

One Step at a Time

There is a story of a coach who challenged his runners to run in a marathon.  As they trained each day they were encouraged to push themselves just a little bit further each day.  Soon several dropped out so that there were six runners and their coach left to run the marathon.  After six months of training the day for their marathon arrived.  All completed the thirteen mile marathon with their best times ever.  Recounting their success they attributed it to the fact that their coach had encouraged them to run further then they had the day before.
Our Scriptures today challenge us to go a step further.  Each of our readings call us to look deep within.  For the past two Sundays we have listened to the Sermon on the Mount that calls us to look long and hard at how we are living our lives.  As we pray this day let us all look deep into our hearts and see where we can go one step further, where we can grow closer to our God.  We are called to look beneath the surface and examine our hearts how we are living our lives.  May we always make the choice to choose life and make more room for God in our lives – moving closer to God one step more each day.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Salt and Light

Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”  (Mt. 5: 13 - 16)

Today’s Gospel from the Sermon on the Mount is one of my favorites.  In this story Jesus states clearly what we are called to do in life.  As luck would have it I attended two liturgies today one with our Ursuline sisters and the other at a local parish where our Honor’s Choir was signing.  The homilies the priest shared today were inspiring. 

The first one shared the story of a young boy who was living in a residential treatment facility in the 1960’s.  Each week the children would earn an “allowance” where they could use the money to buy some candy in the facilities store.  Week after week the young boy never received his “allowance” because of his behavior.  After several weeks he finally was going to receive it and was excited throughout the day.  Finally the moment arrived for him to go purchase his two Hershey candy bars.  After his purchase he went outside and noticed a boy who had just arrived.  He went over to the other boy and handed him his two prized Hershey bars.  When asked why he did this he simply responded, “Because he needed them more than I did.”  What an incredible statement and gift of sharing.

The second story was one about a young man who had lived in a homeless shelter and after he got back on his feet was hired to help out.  He did so with great enthusiasm.  His job was to clean the sidewalk outside the shelter.  While doing his job he always greeted those who passed him by.  Year after year he did his job well with pride and joy.  Ultimately he succumbed to AIDS and his funeral gathering scattered onto the street.  He died serving others and never felt sorry for himself.  The priest ended the homily with the statement, “He was Christ to all who he encountered.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the same could be said of us?”  Another profound statement.

As I reflected this afternoon on these homilies I realized that today was a true gift for me.  As I prayed I could feel the impact of the words I had heard earlier.  May we always remember to be Christ for one another.