St. Paul reminds us in the Epistle today, that it is God who gives and we who receive, by this beautiful passage, and that even if we are “dead in our sins”, as were the exiled people of Judah, God awaits us with healing and saving grace.
“For God so love the world that He gave His only Son, that all who believe in Him might not perish but might have eternal life”. John 3:16.
A therapist tells the story about a patient who had been in a terrible cycle of depression and self-disgust ever since high school. Nothing seemed to help. One day, the therapist met the patient in front of a Catholic church. They ducked inside when it began raining, and witnessed people going to confession. “Should I go too?” asked the patient, who had received the sacrament as a child. “No!” said the counselor. The patient went anyway and emerged from the confessional with her first smile in years, and she kept improving in the weeks to come.
We are all aware of recent tragic shootings in our country and around the world, and attacks on innocents in the streets as well as in churches. Following the killing of 26 in a church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas in November, and now the recent school shootings in Florida, many have asked what security steps should be taken to prepare for the unlikely, but terrifying potential of an active shooter or similar criminal attack on any Church campus.
Who doesn’t love Lent? Lent begins this Wednesday with Ash Wednesday and begins the season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, ancient practices dating back to the Israelites. Mentioned in a number of places in the Old Testament – particularly in Job, Jeremiah, and Daniel – the sprinkling of ashes, wearing of sackcloth, and practices of fasting were the central gestures of sorrow and repentance for the chosen people.
Recently, I had an all too familiar conversation with a parish member about their schedule and life situation. The parent was speaking about the many activities and schedules that they must go through with children’s activities at school, sports, etc. They were lamenting the fact that they are so busy, they find it difficult to even get to Church.
When St. Paul describes the gifts God has given the Church, he includes teaching among the most important (1 Cor 12:28). No surprise there. “Go teach!” was the final mandate of Jesus. History has long taught that without teachers to announce the Gospel and educate the young, the Church struggles to survive. Evangelization through good teaching is essential to Catholic life. Pastoral leaders in developing nations say that Catholic education is what attracts people to Jesus and his Church.
Jesus’ proclamation in the Gospel this weekend to repent and believe in the Gospel, parallels Jonah’s call to the Ninevites to repent, as heard in the first reading. What is unique in Jesus’ proclamation is the preface to his announcement in which he states, “This is the time of fulfillment.” It is through Jesus that we should grow in trust; in the possibilities of what following Jesus could bring.
I am very grateful for the generous gifts of prayer, talents and financial support that you share with our parish family throughout the year. I believe that our first responsibility is to our own parish needs, but it should not stop there since we are always pushed by our God to be truly Catholic, meaning we are called to be Christ to every person in our world. We are fortunate that so many of our parishioners respond with such generosity to the needs of our faith community.