Monday, April 17, 2017

Sacred Days indeed

    Our paschal journey through the week called Holy and the Three Sacred Days of the Triduum has reached its end.  Now begins the true celebration of New Life in the Easter Mysteries which will be the thrust of the next fifty days.  We sat at the Table in the intimacy of a supper meal ... we prayed quietly in the garden with our friend and brother, Jesus ... we contemplated the account of his passion and death, we bowed before the starkness of the Cross, and we found nourishment as we continued our journey ... we entered into the darkness of Good Friday night praying in song and word the prophecies relating to this moment in time as we experienced Tenebrae ... and we waited, waited for the Vigil.

     Then we began the Solemn Vigil.  A new fire dispelled the darkness.  A candle, blessed, lit and set apart, led the people of God into their House to contemplate the mystery of salvation.   A great proclamation, the Exultet, spoke of this night in beautiful terms, and of the Happy Fault, the necessary sin of Adam that brought to us so loving of a Redeemer and the fulfillment of a longstanding Promise.   The Church then invited us to listen with quiet hearts to the Word of God - elaborated through nine readings with psalms and prayer.  After breaking open the Word, we moved into the Baptismal Liturgy.

     This year we at the parish had one young man of catechetical age who we shared the gift of Baptism with and then later brought to the Table of the Lord for Eucharist.  His name is Conner, and he was ready and willing with his "YES" to his desire to be baptized and his "I DO'S" at the Baptismal Promises.  In the newly blessed water he entered into the family of God and all of us, renewing our Promises, were reminded of our baptisms in the Rite of Sprinkling.  Conner was welcomed, embraced by the community, prayed over, washed clean in baptism and anointed, entrusted with the Light of Faith, and made ready for the Table.

    And then we returned to the Table that we had left on Thursday to celebrate with Easter joy the Eucharist which is our life-blood.  Having been inspired, having been renewed, having been nourished, we prepared to go forth and proclaim the Good News.  The blessing that sent us forth prayed:

May almighty God bless you
through today's Easter Solemnity
and, in his compassion,
defend you from every assault of sin.
And may he, who restores you to eternal life
in the Resurrection of his Only Begotten,
  endow you with the prize of immortality.
Now that the days of the Lord's Passion have drawn to a close,
may you who celebrate the gladness of the Paschal Feast
come with Christ's help, ans exulting in spirit,
to those feasts that are celebrated in eternal joy.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The vanquished foe

     As our journey through Holy Week continues, I would like to share the words from Preface II of the Passion of the Lord from the Roman Missal which is prayed this week.  We hear it for only a few days, but its beauty deserves our attention.

"It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Lord, holy Father,
almighty and eternal God,
through Christ our Lord.
For the days of his saving Passion
and glorious Resurrection
are approaching,
by which the pride
of the ancient foe
is vanquished
and the mystery of our redemption in Christ
is celebrated.
Through him the hosts of Angels
adores your majesty
and rejoices in your presence forever.
May our voices, we pray,
join with theirs
in one chorus of exultant praise."
     We celebrate our redemption in Christ's passion, death and resurrection, but we also celebrate the defeat, the conquering, the vanquishing of the ancient foe.  There are countless enemies facing us in this world and beyond, but none compare to "the ancient foe".  And it is with confident assurance that we acknowledge his being vanquished and the freedom that his defeat brings into our life.  The power of these days awakens in us great joy. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Monday of Holy Week

     On this Monday of Holy Week, the Prayer Over the People reads:

"May your protection, O Lord, we pray,
defend the humble
and keep ever safe those who trust in your mercy,
that they may celebrate the paschal festivities
not only with bodily observance
but above all with purity of mind.
Through Christ our Lord."
     These next few days are days of quieting of our lives, quieting of mind and heart, so that the Triduum may bring forth within us the sacredness of the mysteries that we celebrate.
     These days of Holy Week 2017 are precious to me in that they will be my last in active ministry.  My retirement from pastoral assignments is quickly approaching, as is my seventieth birthday.  The date for retirement is not yet set, but will probably be close to July 1st.  Pray for me ... and pray for the people of this great parish family.

A Week of Grace - A Holy week

     The crowds gathered [a few more than usual on this Sunday of palm branches and crosses] as we entered into a heightened journey of a reflection on the Passion of Our Lord.  Yesterday was the Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord.  On this Sunday the Church recalls the entrance into Jerusalem of Jesus and his companions.  At our 11:00 am Mass our newly formed Generations Choir which combines our Young Voices and our Adult Choir set the stage with a rousing version of the "Hosanna to the Son of David".

     The beginning greeting set the stage for the upcoming week.  From the Roman Missal, I said:

Dear brothers and sisters,
since the beginning of Lent until now
we have prepared our hearts by penance and charitable works.
Today we gather together to herald with the whole Church
the beginning of the celebration
of our Lord's Paschal Mystery,
that is to say, of his Passion and Resurrection.
For it was to accomplish this mystery
that he entered his own city of Jerusalem.
Therefore, with all faith and devotion,
let us commemorate
the Lord's entry into the city for our salvation,
following in his footsteps,
so that, being made by his grace partakers of the Cross,
we may have a share also in his Resurrection and in his life.

     Then we began this journey of faith.  Triumphal entry ... sobering words ... the great story of betrayal and passion and death from Matthew ... our reliance upon our faith and the Eucharistic Table ... and our departure in quiet reflection and prayer.  As I have said to our parish family, if you allow yourself to enter into these mysteries with open hearts and minds you will experience his blessings and grace, and the "Holy" in this week's title will be able to be used to describe you at the end of the week.  We are called to holiness.  The path lays before us.  And God's grace will see us through to the end - which is really the beginning.  Journey well.

     It has been too long since my last post, and I sincerely apologize.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Seeing is believing

     We are bombarded with promises every day of our lives.  Whatever society or the next person is selling is presented by way of a promise.  You must see this movie or this program to fulfill your life.  You must buy this product to make you look beautiful or to help you feel better or to make you happy.  You can get rid of those wrinkles with this cream or you can improve your portfolio if you follow this advice.  You are promised the world by the world, and yet there are very few of those promises that endure the test of time or of trial.

     In the Book of Genesis today (Genesis 12: 1-4a) we are given a promise by the Lord that is too good to be true, that is hard to believe.  Because of his love for his people, and despite their sinfulness, God promises Abram that he will make of his descendants a great nation, to give them blessings beyond counting, even to bring blessing to those who bless them.  He says "All the communities of the earth will find blessing in you."  That promise continued throughout Israel's journey with the Lord, through Moses and the Law and in the prophetic word being shared with the people by the prophets.

     That promise was brought to completion when the Father sent the Living Word, Jesus, to be one with us in all things but sin.  Those who met him, who saw his love in action, who heard his words of comfort and mercy, knew that they were blessed.  Yet even his closest friends found themselves saying "This is hard to believe" and "This is too good to be true."  There was that lingering doubt, that uncertainty that undermined their faith.

     When Jesus took his friends, Peter, James and John to that mountaintop and was transfigured before their eyes, he sealed the deal.  When they saw their friend and companion in all of his glory, with his face shining like the sun and his clothes white as light, their faith was strengthened and affirmed.  When they heard the voice from the cloud acknowledge "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him", they laid aside their fears and doubts, and embraced their call to walk in his footsteps, proclaim the Good News, and show others that to listen to him, to follow him, is to embrace the promise of life eternal and share in the life and glory of God.

     Many years later, our Lenten journey invites us to live as Children of the Promise and listen to the Lord of Life.  Peter, James and John saw and believed.  Jesus assures us that "Blessed are those who have not seen, and who have believed."

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Our yearly inspection

     I had made an appointment today for my annual car inspection for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  In fact, my car is at the dealership as I write, for this annual ritual.  In our county, we are also required to have an emission sticker.  This annual rite of passage for the car is an attempt to make sure that the vehicle is safe and sound, and with the emission test, that we are not doing any harm to those around us.  A small price to pay for safety and security.

     Lent is just such a moment of personal and corporate inspection in our lives, both spiritually and physically.  It is that annual testing of the basic aspects of our lives of faith that give us an indication as to what work needs to be done, how much tuning is required, or whether we are in tip top shape.  Most of us need some form of overhaul - just as my car will need the oil changed, fluids checked, tired rotated, etc.  Through our prayer, fasting and charity we spend these next number of weeks tuning up our faith journey so that we can safely traverse the uncertainties of life.  And like, with my emission testing, we find out whether we are causing harm to others through our sinfulness and failures.

     Use this Lenten Season well!  No matter what the cost of the inspection, it will be well worth the time and effort in order that we may travel safely with the Lord.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

...loving him, and walking in his ways ...

    Entering upon this journey of renewal that is Lent, we are reminded by Jesus in today's Gospel that "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."   There are many paths to take, many roads to follow, and knowing the directions, where we are going and how best to get there, is essential to our safe arrival at our destination.  Map Quest and GPS help us on our more mundane travels, but the importance of our spiritual journey is too great to "wing it" or to rely upon earthly wisdom.  In the days before those directional aides, my Dad always hated driving in Pittsburgh - too many one way streets for his taste.  I explained to him that the key to getting to your destination if you make the wrong turn is to go around the block and try again.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not.

     Our spiritual GPS is given us in the Scriptures and in our faith.  Once we have made the decision as to our goal, the way is found in Christ - who is the way, the truth and the life.  Moses in the first reading today asks us to make the decision: life and prosperity or death and doom.  He says: "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  Choose life, then, that your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him."  And the way is laid out in the loving of the Lord, the heeding of his voice, and the holding on to him.  Lent is a renewal of our YES to life and our trust in the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.  Choose life ... renew life ... live life!