This past week the principals from our Catholic elementary and secondary schools and the clergy from our diocese came together for our annual Lent Faith Formation. This year the gathering was virtual, and the facilitator was Catholic teacher, missionary, and speaker Joe Farris from North Carolina. Joe has spent the last 25 years serving the Catholic Church. He has worked as a youth minister, teacher, missionary, and leader of three nationwide ministries.
There is one thing in particular that Joe spoke about that jumped out at me. He noted the need to “create space to encounter Jesus.” Whether we are in Church or in our homes, we need to set everything aside. We need to set aside the grocery list, what I need to remember, the things that I have to do later today. We simply need to create a space to be fully present to our God.
I really appreciated this for as you know, at the beginning of Mass I will often say that we bring our petitions to the foot of the cross, and also our prayers of thanksgiving. But going one step further, in order to be fully present, we need to set aside as Joe says, or again place at the foot of the cross, the grocery list, all the things that need to be done, whatever it may be that is distracting us and perhaps pulling us away, and simply be. Be still. Be in the moment. Listen to the words of Sacred Scripture and how God is speaking to us. Listening to the Eucharistic prayers as if we were listening to them for the first time, or even the last time, because those prayers are for us, the church, for we make up the church, the Body of Christ.
Going even one step further, it is my prayer that we continue to create a space to encounter Jesus here at St. Julia. I truly believe that our new crucifix has done exactly that by transforming our worship space and giving us focus, focus on what Jesus did for us.
That is what this week, Holy Week, is all about. It is my prayer that I create a space for us to journey with Christ into Jerusalem as we cry out “Hosanna” this Palm Sunday. On Holy Thursday, to create a space where we gather around the table to listen to Jesus’ command to each of us to “take this all of you and eat of it.” On Good Friday, a space where we will hear Jesus give a loud cry and breathe his last. Then at our Easter Vigil, a place of prayer, silence, and darkness as we wait for Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This is Holy Week, and it is at our spiritual home of St. Julia where I want to create a space, where we as a parish family will create a space, to encounter Jesus.
I pray that each of you have a truly blessed and grace-filled Holy Week.
May God bless each of you and those that you love,
I don’t know if you are like me, but I am just in awe that this is the final Sunday before Holy Week. This Sunday in our Gospel from John 12:20-33, we will hear Jesus proclaim, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”
I can’t help but sit and pray in our church and be drawn into the mysteries of our faith by just taking everything in that is found in our sanctuary. Our lent banners, “He died so that I may live,” and “Forgiven,” speak so beautifully to this passage from Sacred Scripture. Jesus died for each one of us so that we may live. Jesus died for our sins. So many times, in our world the message is you only live once, and if it feels good, just do it. Many around us act like this is the only life and there is no life other than the one we know today. As disciples of Christ, we know otherwise. We believe that there is a life after this one here on earth. When we die, we journey from life to life, life here on earth to life to eternal life. There is a resurrection. All of this and so much more helps us to understand that there is more to living, and that everything we do today helps us to prepare for the life to come.
This is what Lent is all about. Preparing, striving to move closer and closer to being one with Christ, and mirroring Christ here on earth. Jesus’ death opened the gates of eternal life. He died for our sins. When we turn to God and confess our sins, we are forgiven, and receive grace, the sharing in the supernatural life of Christ, so that we may live. Our crucifix and Jesus’ dying on the cross makes this real for us, now in the most profound of ways.
As we journey through this Fifth Week of Lent together and prepare for Holy Week, the holiest of weeks for us in the Church, please know of my prayers. I pray that you will open your heart to encounter Christ in the sacraments, and receive the graces you need live. Embrace these days ahead. Consider coming to weekday Mass. Join us for our Lent Penance Service, either in person or virtually. Pray the Stations of the Cross with our community this Friday. Immerse yourself into the mysteries of our faith, so that you may live today, in this life, and prepare for the life to come.
Keep safe, and may God continue to bless you and those that you love.
P.S. Happy first day of Spring
Rejoice! This Sunday at Mass we celebrate Laetare Sunday. The Latin word Laetare means ‘rejoice’ and its origin is rooted in the Introit (opening chant) for the Fourth Sunday of Lent – Laetare Jerusalem: “Rejoice, O Jerusalem and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.”
Laetare Sunday marks the midpoint of Lent and the rose-coloured vestments that I will be wearing at Mass give us a glimpse at the light of the end of the 40-day tunnel of penance. Yes, Lent is a penitential season. It is a time that we allow the spot light to shine in on our hearts, looking at the nooks and crannies to see what needs to pushed out, that is sin, in order to fully allow Christ to enter our hearts at Easter, with the new Easter light, the true light of Christ. This is what this Sunday is all about. Lent is not all about being somber. This Sunday we are called to rejoice in the reality of Easter – the promise of Easter – the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
At this midpoint I ask myself the question, “How has my season of Lent been going?” I ask you the same question. If you can say it has been a good season and that you have experienced God’s graces and blessings, that you feel closer to Christ, that you have experienced spiritual renewal, then thanks be to God! If you say it has been a little rough, that your Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving have fallen short of what you set out to embrace at the beginning of the journey, fear not. We are at the midpoint. Consider this a reboot, a new start. Rejoice in the fact that our God is a God of second chances and fresh starts. That is what the Sacrament of Reconciliation is all about. Make the most of these next three weeks by striving to realign your heart with the heart of Christ, returning to Christ through prayer, and take the time for your spiritual renewal. Remember that Christ fell three times carrying the cross. Now we too get back up, as people of hope.
Remember that we are united in prayer. May God bless you and those that you love.
3 Things to Know About Laetare Sunday
Click here to watch a YouTube Video about Laetare Sunday
This Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew 2:13-25 recounts the “cleansing of the Jerusalem temple” by Jesus, as it is usually called. When I am visiting our St. Peter Catholic Elementary school classrooms (now virtually), sometimes I will get the question “Did Jesus ever get angry?” This is usually when I pray that the bell will ring. And so, we begin to unpack the answer together. Jesus was just like us, for he was fully human, (and as our faith teaches us, and fully divine). Taking it one step further, he was like us in all things but sin. This brings us to our Gospel, one of the best examples of Jesus getting angry.
The temple-market in the court of the Gentiles, as well as the money exchange tables, were meant for the benefit of the many pilgrims who would come to Jerusalem for Passover. Jesus, wishing to see the temple as something other than a market-place, sought to drive out the sellers and exchangers. “Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace,” Jesus said.
So, is it a sin to get angry? Jesus used his passions with zeal, with great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. He saw what was taking place in God’s house, His Father’s house, and spoke up. This zeal could in fact have cost Jesus his life. So, was this a sin, to speak with zeal, and what we may say get angry? No. We once again return to the commandments of “Love of God” and “Love of Neighbour.” Jesus saw what was taking place in the temple and spoke up because of His love for God. This was the use of passions for something good.
When we see offences taking place against our God and our neighbour, we too are called to use our passions, our emotions, given to us by God, to speak up. An example of this is abortion and medically assisted suicide. Every life, from conception to natural death, is a precious gift from God. Treating our Church, the House of God, with respect, is another example. Our belief in the Eucharist being the real presence of Christ is yet another. Any offence is most troubling, and would cause us anger.
So how do we speak up? This is done with the help of the Holy Spirit, and with a message delivered in love. Taking the very best of our passions, our emotions, and setting out to change the hearts of those that believe likewise, can bring about change. And as you know, we do not pray just for change, but transformation, so that there is no going back to former ways. And all of this is done delivered in a message of love.
As I am writing this, other examples come to mind, and perhaps as you are reading this some examples are popping into your head. Let us pray for transformation. May we call upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we received at Confirmation, for the courage to speak up, by our words, deeds, and action. All delivered in a message of love, using the very best of our passions and emotions.
Please know of my continued prayers. I look forward to coming together this weekend for the celebration of Mass, for many in person, at our spiritual home of St. Julia.
Welcome home, and may God bless you and those that you love.
From Our Pastor