A Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent (A-2017)

A number of years ago I heard an amusing story. Kris and Dave were newly married, and like most newly married couples were still learning things about each other. One evening as they were preparing dinner, Dave noticed that Kris was cutting the ends off the canned ham they were making for dinner. Not being a chef, Dave asked her why she did that, and Kris said, “Because that is the way my mother always did it.” For some reason, this struck Dave as odd and the next time his mother-in-law was over he asked her why she cut the ends off canned hams before cooking them. His mother-in-law said, “Because that is way my mother always did it.” Dave, being rather obsessive, now really wanted to know the reason for cutting the ends off canned hams before cooking them, so he called his wife’s grandmother. She said, “Because that was the only way I could get it to fit into the baking pan that I had.”

It can be strange how family customs and traditions begin. Grandma clearly had a logical reason for cutting the end off the ham; her daughter and granddaughter didn’t, but they did it any way. Not all family traditions or customs are so innocent or amusing.

Change is often a difficult thing for most people. Sometimes our families can be blinded by assumptions, traditions, or apathy from seeing the potential in one of their own. They can be resistant to change and often prefer to remain in the dark rather than change. It is hard to accept the differences in their families – whether it is a disability, the choice of a career or a spouse.

We see some of this resistance to change in both our first reading and in today’s Gospel. David was Jesse’s eighth son. For the Jewish people, the number seven was seen as a sign of perfection, so David was the “extra” or “oops” child. There would have been very low expectations for the eighth child, so it was not surprising that he was not even invited to the banquet that his father, Jesse, held for Samuel the prophet. David was just sent to take carry of the sheep.

Jesse realized that Samuel had come, at the Lord’s command, to anoint the next King of Israel. Naturally Jesse thought it would be his oldest son, Eliab, who would be selected. Even Samuel when he saw Eliab thought he had a noble quality about him. Yet the Lord said “No, not him.” Just imagine Jesse’s disappointment that his oldest son was rejected, and that disappointment only grew more profound when the next six sons were also rejected. What else did he have to offer? Only David remained, but what could really come from him? It was difficult for Jesse, his seven older sons, and even Samuel to get past their expectations.

Then in the Gospel we have the unnamed blind man. His parents never thought that he could amount to much. They were resigned to the fact that they would have to take care of him for the rest of their lives, and that he would have to rely of the charity of others for his support. Then one day they hear that their son has been miraculously healed. You would think that they would be overjoyed. That they would be jumping up and down in happiness for their son, and with tears of joy in their eyes.

However, in the Gospel they are clearly not overjoyed by this news. Of course part of the reason is that they were being brought before the Jewish leaders. The healing took place on a Sabbath, so they were afraid that they might be accused of violating the Law of Moses. They also must have known that the Jewish leaders were out to get Jesus, so they did not want to be seen as one of Jesus’ disciples, which their son was clearly acting like by telling everyone what Jesus had done for him. But just a troubling for them was that they were being asked to change the way they saw their son. Even though it was a good thing that their son was now able to see, it was going to mean that they would also have to change, and as I said before, no one likes change.

We are all members of God’s family, and as such we are all called to love with God’s heart, to see one anther with God’s eyes, and to be open to the great things that our spiritual brothers and sisters are capable of. We have to resist the temptation to keep those around us bound by our assumptions about them. We have to resist the temptation to try and keep people in our families – even our parish family – from growing and changing just because it challenges our comfort level, habits, or dysfunctions.

This week let us pray that our families will be open to the work of God as they learn to love and accept one another, seeing one another’s gifts and abilities as a reflection of the love of Christ. 

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From Fr. JC’s Desk: “Christ, the Life of the Soul”

After Blessed Dom. Columba Marmion was elected the abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium, life did not get any easier. The outbreak of the First World War started a severe trial for Dom. Marmion, as Belgium bore the brunt of the brutalities of the war. In order to protect his young monks from being conscripted into the military, Dom. Marmion, disguised as a cattle dealer, established a temporary monastery in Ireland, and smuggled his young monks there for safety.

After the war, Dom. Marmion had to rebuild the Abbey, restore the monks, helped establish Belgian Congregation of Benedictine monasteries, and temporarily oversaw the Monastery of the Dormition in Jerusalem. Despite the busyness of administration, he never neglected his principle responsibility as abbot – fostering the growth in holiness of his monks through his spiritual talks.

In the midsts of the worldwide flu epidemic, Blessed Dom. Columba Marmion died on January 30, 1923. When he was exhumed in 1963, his body was found to be incorrupt. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II during the Jubilee of 2000.

During his life, Dom. Marmion published three major works, known as his trilogy, edited by his secretary, Dom Raymond Thibaut, from his retreat notes. The works and original publication dates are Christ the Life of the Soul (1917), Christ in His Mysteries (1919), and Christ the Life of the Monk (1922). The trilogy focuses on the unfolding of Marmion’s central teaching on divine sonship. It begins with a general treatment of how our life comes from our union with Christ, then details how we access the mysteries of the life of Christ, through the liturgy and sacraments, and ends with an application of his teaching through the Benedictine life.

Dom. Marmion never tires of repeating the central thesis of his spiritual teaching: Christ is the life of our soul. To accept this, we have to move away from our own ideas of holiness, of our own plans, and accept God’s plan to give us holiness, in and through Christ, who is the “source” and “dispenser” of holiness.

Dom. Marmion relates that a central point of our reception of God’s divine life stems from our adoption as sons (and daughters) in the Son. Spiritual adoption and childhood is at the very center of all of his writing and teaching. God has chosen us, and drawn us into His divine life through Baptism. The Christian life is the living out of the gift of grace of adoption and entrance into the life of the Trinity. “We shall understand nothing—I do not say only of perfection, of holiness, but even of simple Christianity—if we do not grasp that its most essential foundation is constituted by the state of a child of God; participation, through sanctifying grace, in the eternal Sonship of the Word Incarnate” (Marmion, Christ in His Mysteries, 64). Through our union with Christ, we enter into the life of the Trinity.

To be holy is to be like God. Holiness is a supernatural life that only He can give, and with which we must cooperate. Our participation in God’s life is Trinitarian. “Our holiness will be to adhere to God known and loved, not any longer simply as the author of creation but as He knows and loves Himself in the bliss of His Trinity.” We do not become holy through our own efforts, but by “sharing {God’s} inner life” (Marmion, Christ the Life of the Soul, 18).

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From Fr. JC’s Desk: “Christ, Son of God and Model of Humility”

Last week, I told you that Blessed Dom. Columba Marmion, after having been ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Dublin in 1881, was given permission to enter the Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous in French-speaking Belgium in 1886 taking the religious name of Columba. Life in the monastery was not easy at first. Despite having a French mother, Columba spoke only a little French, so he had to learn French as he made the adjustment from being a diocesan priest to becoming a Benedictine monk. He described his novitiate as being traumatic, but he did make the adjustment, making final profession in 1891.

In the monastery, he took on several duties. He was assigned the assistant novice master in 1899, and when the monastery started a new foundation in the city of Louvain (the monastery of Mont-César), Dom. Marmion was named the prior (in charge of all the temporal affairs). While at Mont-César, Dom. Marmion taught at the Catholic University at Louvain, becoming famous for the retreats that he would give, and becoming a friend of the famous Cardinal Mercier.  In 1909, he returned to the Abbey of Moredsous when he was elected Abbot. 

 While certain that Christ was calling him to be a monk, it clearly was not an easy time for Dom. Marmion. How did he put up with it? He looked towards Christ Jesus as a model of humility. He noted that Jesus never sinned, and had no defect or imperfection in His being which would have given reason for Him to suffer humiliations, yet He did suffer them. Christ was accused of being possessed by the devil. They said that He performed His miracles through Beelzebub, the prince of darkness. He was spat upon, mocked, surged, maltreated, and eventually put to a horrible death. Jesus was the fullness of the Godhead, and possessed all wisdom and knowledge, always doing that which pleased His heavenly Father. Yet He suffered humiliations beyond counting. 

 Why? So that He could expiate our pride and self-love. Through the humiliations that Christ Jesus endured, He showed us what our humility ought to be. 

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A Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Lent (A-2017)

In today’s first reading, we hear about God making a covenant with Abram, promising to give him a gigantic family. This did not happen overnight. It took many years to accomplish. Abram and Sarai – who will have their names changed to Abraham and Sarah – waited and waited for God’s promise to be fulfilled, and their fidelity made “fertile ground,” as it were, for God to work with them.

Like Abram’s family, we are all called to be holy. It is within the marriage covenant and within our families that we first learn to be holy. In promising to be faithful, in a permanent relationship, open to the fruitfulness of new life, a man and a woman also makes a promise to help make each other holy when they exchange their wedding vows. As parents, they are the first teachers of the Faith to their children, teaching them their first prayers, and hopefully giving witness to their children of the importance of having a strong, living relationship with Jesus where God is the center of their life.

In today’s Gospel reading, we are given a privileged glimpse into the relationship between the Father and Jesus through the scene of the Transfiguration, where Jesus is revealed as the fulfillment of God’s covenant with His family. St. Peter was so right when he said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

It is good to be in the heart of the Trinity. In fact, the human family is one of the most complete expressions of the relationship of the three persons of the Trinity. God the Father, the Lover, gives all that He is to His Beloved Son. The Beloved Son, Jesus, accepts everything from the Father, rejecting nothing that His Father gives Him, and in love gives all that He is back to the Father. This mutual exchange of love is fruitful and “spirates” – that is the theological term for it since none of the Persons of the Trinity are created – the Holy Spirit. In the human family the husband is suppose to make a total gift of himself to his wife (see Ephesians 5). In love the wife makes a total gift of herself to her husband. This mutual exchange of love between husband and wife sometimes results in a child.

Jesus invites us to join Him at Mass each week, along with our families, both the ones we live with and our parish family, to a sort of retreat where we are given a chance to spend some time apart from the daily cares of the world in order to know God more perfectly. It is this special time with Jesus, our Bridegroom, that we learn just how special we are and how much we are loved.

One father had a great way of putting this into action with his daughters. Every month he would take each daughter on a date (Barbara on one Friday night, and Carol on the next Friday night). Dad would dress up, and mom would make sure the girl was nicely dressed. Dad would pick his daughter up at home and take her out to dinner, and then to someplace special, like a museum or the planetarium. Being a family with five children, and all the busyness that such a large family entails, getting any quiet time with just one parent was a rare treat. Dad would make each daughter feel how much they mattered to him. He taught them how they ought to be treated when they got older and went out on real dates, and it created special memories for just the two of them. The dates were a time for father and daughter to get to know one another. They would talk about their day, their interests, their feelings, and school and work.
Barbara and Carol both learned from their dates with their father what personal attention from a father was like, and they came to see that they also got that same kind of personal attention from their heavenly Father. They learned that the covenant relationship between human parents and their children is a direct reflection of the covenant God has with His children.

What special memories do you have of your family? How are you making special memories for your family? Most importantly, how are you encountering God in your family? Our prayer this week should be, “Lord, help me to encounter you in my family, so that I too can cry out like St. Peter, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here.’”

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From Fr. JC’s Desk: The Mystery of the Transfiguration

As I continue to share reflections of Blessed Dom. Columba Marmion on Lent, it would be good to also continue to share something about who he was. He was born in Dublin, Ireland on April 1, 1858 and given the name Joseph. His father was an Irishman, and his mother was French. Despite his French mother, Dom. Marmion did not learn much French as a child.

The family was very pious, and in 1874 Blessed Marmion entered the Diocesan seminary in Dublin. His intellectual giftedness was recognized, so he was sent to the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. While studying in Rome, he made a trip to Monte Cassino, the famous monastery started by St. Benedict, the Father of Western Monasticism. This began Dom. Marmion’s interest in the Benedictines. During his trips between Dublin and Rome, he frequently visited the Benedictine Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium. He felt a very strong attraction to that monastery, and after his ordination to the priesthood in Rome in 1891, as traveled back to Dublin, he stayed at the Abbey and had a mystical experience where he heard the voice of Jesus say to him, “It is here I want you.”

However, it would take time before Dom. Marmion would be able to follow that voice. Arriving in Dublin, his Archbishop would not give him permission to enter religious life. As a diocesan priest he was assigned to a parish outside of Dublin, and did the work that diocesan priests do: celebrate Mass, hear confessions, visited the sick, instructed the faithful. He did ministry in a hospital, was the chaplain to a convent of nuns, and eventually became a professor at the diocesan seminary. After five years ministering as a diocesan priest, the archbishop finally gave him permission to enter the Abbey of Maredsous in Belgium in November, 1896. 

 Next week I will share some about Blessed Marmion’s life as a Benedictine, but for now let me share a prayer he wrote, “Prayer to Christ in the Mystery of the Transfiguration” (Christ in His Mysteries, pp. 230, 233-37): 

 Christ Jesus, Eternal Word, Divine Master, You are the splendour of the Father and the brightness of His substance; You Yourself have said: “If anyone loves Me, I will manifest Myself to him,” grant that we may love You fervently so that we may receive from You an intenser light upon Your Divinity; for, as You again told us, the secret of our life, of everlasting life, is to know that our Heavenly Father is the one true God, and that You are His Christ, sent here below to be our King and the High Priest of our salvation. Enlighten the eyes of our souls with a ray of those divine splendours that shone on Thabor, so that our faith in Your divinity, our hop in Your merits, and our love for Your adorable Person may be thereby strengthened and increased.
Yea, Father, I believe these words, I will repeat them after Thee: this Jesus Who is within me through faith, through Communion, is Thy son; and because Thou hast said it, I believe it; and because I believe it, I adore Thy Son, so as to render Him my homage; and by Him, in Him, so likewise to render to Thee, O Heavenly Father, in union with Thy Spirit, all honour and all glory.
Amen.

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“The Shoe That Grows” Fundraise

About two months ago I ran across an article about a man, who after working in Africa and noting how many children do not have shoes, came home and designed a shoe that would grow with the child.  It is a sandal that can be adjusted to 5 different sizes.  They have a Child-Small, Child-Large, and Adult size.  They do sell them for $50/pair and for each pair bought, they donate two pairs to those in need in third world countries.

I bought a pair about two months ago, and being it is winter here in NJ, I have not been able to wear them a lot, but I did wear them nearly everyday when I was on vacation in Florida.  They are comfortable, rather like being barefoot, but with a sturdy soul.

The company, Because International, is having their annual fundraiser, “Wear-A-Pair,” and I am participating.  Please go to my “Wear-A-Pair” fundraising page, https://fundraise.theshoethatgrows.org/fundraiser/920416, and support a good cause.  And remember, if you are looking for a pair of sandals for the summer, consider buying a pair and gift a pair of shoes to two people in need.

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A Homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent (A-2017)

When Ben was four years old, he asked if he could brush his teeth unsupervised. His mother hesitated, but he pleaded with her, saying that he could do it just fine by himself. Wanting to give him the opportunity to prove himself, his mom agreed. Whatever crazy toddler thought entered his mind was too powerful to resist, and the child squirted the toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror.

When his mother returned (finding things too quiet) and saw the mess, she yelled, “What were you thinking?!” When she later shared her son’s behavior with her husband, his response was, “What were you thinking leaving a four year old alone to brush his teeth?!” They all laughed about it later and used it as an opportunity to talk about personal responsibility—why we need supervision and help from others, and how our choices, when we give into temptation, affect us.

Temptation is something that everyone experiences. Both children and adults experience temptation. Even Jesus experienced temptation, so if the Son of God experienced it, how can we not expect to experience it ourselves. So it is very important for us to have an understanding of what temptation is, because only by understanding what it is and recognizing it when it rears its head in our lives will we be able to overcome it.

Our first reading, from the Book of Genesis, tells us that God created us, and gave us the breath of life. In doing so, God made us beautiful – in His own image and likeness. As God is a community of persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – so the fullness of the Divine Image and Likeness in us can only really be seen in a community. The most basic way that we see the image and likeness of God is in the human family – father, mother, and children. As God is Love, so the human family is to be the image of that love, a love that is self-giving, focusing more on the other person than ourselves. In order for us to bear witness to this divine image and likeness, to be reflections of God’s love in the world, God gave us free will because love can only be freely given and freely received; it can never be forced.

However, if we have the free will to do good, it means that we also have the free will to do evil, which is what we call sin. Our sins do not only effect us; it effects the whole human community. In fact, it effects all of creation. When we sin, we also become ashamed of the beauty that God created us to be. That is why Adam and Eve became ashamed of their nakedness. Of course, God did not allow our sin to be the end of the story. In His love, God has been constantly offering us His mercy and forgiveness. That is why He sent His only-begotten son, Jesus, into the world – not to condemn us because of our sin, but rather in order to save us from sin and death, and to restore us to the beauty in which God first created us.

It is important to keep in mind that temptation is NOT sin. As I said, everyone, even Jesus who is sinless, experiences temptation. Temptation is the devil trying to get us to sin, to say no to God. What we need to remember is that the devil is no match for God. Temptation can be overcome if we rely on the power of Christ Jesus.

Notice what happened in the Gospel. The devil only offered Jesus what already belonged to Him – life-giving food, safety, and power. If Jesus had given in to the temptation that the devil was presenting to Him, He would have lost everything that He already had. Only God has anything of value to offer. Everything that the devil offers is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Keeping our eyes on the truth – namely Jesus – is the only way for us to overcome temptation. Starting in our own families, we are all called to be the image through which Jesus shows us the truth. By reflecting Jesus to one another, we bolster each other in faith, and make each other stronger.

Sometimes we can see a particular temptation that another person is facing better than they can see it themselves. Then in love we need to help them see that real love, real happiness is only in God’s will, and not in whatever the devil is tempting them with. Likewise, we all need help from time to time in facing our own temptations. There is nothing wrong in admitting our weakness in the face of temptation. Jesus tells us that in our weakness He is made strong. We just have to allow Jesus to be powerful in our lives.

What tempts you the most? What kind of resistance does the devil throw up in your life, trying to get you to do the wrong that you know you should not do, or to do not do the good that you should do? Acknowledge your temptations to the Lord, and He will give you the strength you need. And then we can strengthen one another in the love and truth of Christ Jesus.

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Fr. JC’s Desk: “Christ’s Temptation: A Model for Us”

A few years ago I discovered a wonderful spiritual writer, Blessed Columba Marmion, who has been acclaimed by nearly every pope in the 20th century. Pope Benedict XV used to keep a copy of Marmion’s classic, Christ The Life of the Soul, on his bedside and recommended it by saying, “Read this, it is the pure doctrine of the Church.” Who am I to argue with a Pope; so I thought that I would share some of Blessed Marmion’s reflections for the Sundays of Lent.

In this weekend’s Gospel we hear the account of Jesus’ temptations in the desert. In order to understand this mystery of the Faith, Blessed Marmion tells us that we must always keep in mind that Jesus through His Incarnation and Birth became like us in all things except sin.

Think about last Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – when most of us were expected to fast; only having one meal, and two light snacks. How did we feel after that rather modest fast? Hungry? Perhaps a bit irritable? Maybe we were even feeling a little weak.

Now imagine what Jesus felt like after fasting for 40 days. His was not the light fast that we experienced of only one meal and two snacks. For Jesus it was 40 days of NO FOOD AT ALL. According to medical experts, that is about the limit that the human body can go without food. Jesus did not work a miracle to prevent Himself from experiencing the effects of this fast. He must have been in terribly weak. It is at this moment that the Devil tries to press his advantage to tempt Jesus.

Now I will let Blessed Marmion, the spiritual master, speak:

“If Christ, the Incarnate Word, the Son of God, willed to enter into combat with the evil spirit, shall we be astonished if the members of His Mystical Body must follow the same path?

“Do not let us be surprised at temptation: never let us forget that Christ, our Model in all things, was tempted before us, and not only tempted, but touched by the spirit of darkness.

“Above all, do not let us forget that it was not only as the Son of God that Jesus overcame the devil, but likewise as Head of the Church; in Him and by Him, we have triumphed and we triumph still over the suggestions of the rebel spirit”

(Columba Marmion, Christ in His Mysteries, pp. 186-190. As quoted in D. Columba Marmion, Words of Life: On the Margins of the Missal, edited by Dom Thibaut, OSB and translated by Mother M. St. Thomas).

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A Homily for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (2017)

The Beatles had a hit song, many years ago, that said that “all you need is love.”  While there certainly truth in that, I think most of us would agree that the world seems to need something more.  With the falling number of people attending church regularly and the apparent lack of knowledge about what the Church teaches, it is tempting to suggest that world needs faith.  However, I think that the contemporary Christian group, For King and Country, got it right with their hit song, “Hope is What We Crave.”  The opening lines of the song really seems to capture feelings of so many people today:  “Hope sleeps without me, its sweet dreams surround me but I’m left out.  I need a reason to believe, to feel.  These rooms are dark now.  These halls are hollow and so am I.  It’s hard to find now, to believe, to see.”

For a long time, the world seems to have very little hope.  The psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl commented on this back in the 1960s when he noted the shocking rise of suicide, especially among young people.  It still ranks as the #2 leading cause of death for those under 30.  But even if most people experience despair – which is what a lack of hope is called – do not resort to suicide, we see its effects in so many other places.  There is the continued epidemic of drug abuse; whether it is to numb of the pain of despair, or as an escape, it is desperate people who use drugs.  We can even see it in the economy; because of the recession, and the rather anemic recovery, so many able bodied adults have just given up on trying to find work.  Depression, apathy, cynicism are all signs that we are living in an age of despair, a culture that has lost hope and numbs itself from the future.

​“Zion said, ‘The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.”  These words recorded by the prophet Isaiah over 2500 years ago, and proclaimed in today’s First Reading, could have been written yesterday.  How poignant that these words of abandonment, despair and hopelessness would echo down the corridors of history and slam against our own front door, where so many families are broken by infidelity and where children are left to fend for themselves in a loveless world.  Even the worse fears of the prophet Isaiah have come true, that a mother would forget her infant and be without tenderness for the child in her womb – the millions of silent screams in abortion clinics testifies to this.

​Yet Catholics are called to be witnesses of hope in the midst of this culture of hopelessness, a light shining in the world’s darkness of despair.  How?  By drawing on the same metaphor that St. Paul draws on in today’s reading from his letter to the Corinthians, which he drew from the teaching of Jesus in today’s gospel reading:  stewardship.

​Now don’t groan, this is not going to be another money talk – we had enough of that for awhile with just completing our “Faith to Move Mountains” appeal weekend.  No, stewardship is also a metaphor for God’s steadfast love for us.  For St. Paul, the most important quality of a steward is their trustworthiness, and as Christians we should have absolute and total trust in God.  God created the whole universe, and despite our sin, He has refused to let go of His stewardship of the universe.  This is what Jesus is pointing out in the Gospel; we can see God’s loving stewardship just by looking at the world.  If God provides for the birds of the sky and the flowers of the field, will He not also provide for all our needs?  After all, the birds and flowers are just His creations.  While we are also His creations, we are also so much more:  we are God’s children.  Despite our blackest sin, God never forgets about us.

​Recognition of God’s stewardship for all of creation, especially us, should lead us to hope.  Too often the world today reduces the word “hope” to be the same thing as “wish,” but there is a world of difference between a hope in something and wishing for something.  We might wish that our favorite team will win the championship or I am sure many of us were wishing that we won the Power Ball this past week, but neither of those things are certain.  That lack of certainty is what makes it a wish and not a hope.  Hope is a certainty about the future, based on a relationship in the present.  Consider the example of your sister telling you that she will pick you up at the airport Wednesday night.  Do you wish that she will pick you up, or are you certain that she will pick you up?  It depends on your relationship with your sister.  If you have a good relationship with her, and from past experience you know that when she says that she is going to do something, she does it, then you don’t have to “wish” that she will pick you up at the airport, rather you are certain that she will do it – you have hope.

​That is why our hope should always be in the Lord, because we can have the greatest certainty in Him.  Looking around the world we can see all the good things that He has blessed us with.  By counting our blessings regularly, we deepen our faith in God.  In other words, by recognizing God’s grace in our lives, we become more aware of just how much He loves us.  This love that we experience from God should cause us to deepen our relationship with Him, this is the relationship of Faith.  Having a faithful, loving relationship with God we know that we can trust in His promises to us, especially those promises concerning our future; “I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15), “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you – oracle of the LORD – plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope” (Jeremiah 29:11), “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies will live….” (John 11:25).  Our future is certain – Jesus Saves!  This is our hope.

​Again drawing on the song from the group For God and Country, the final chorus says it all:  “Hope is what we crave and that will never change.  So I stand and wait, I need a drop of grace to carry me today.  A simple song to sing, it’s written on my soul.  Hope’s what You gave.”

​Christ Jesus gave us hope and we are to His witnesses of that hope to the ends of the earth.

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From Fr. JC’s Desk: “Don’t Give Up Chocolate for Lent”

We all know that it is coming. Yes, this coming Wednesday, March 1 is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent. And it is a time when we might hear more than once the question, “So, what did you give up for Lent?” I am sure that more than a few of us have given up chocolate, or potato chips for Lent. For the past several years I have given up TV. One year I gave up coffee – boy did I have a headache for the first few days.

While it is certainly laudable to give something up for Lent, do we really understand why we do it? Lent is the season to head into the desert, just as Jesus did, to face our temptations. It is a time for us to take a good look at our lives to see what things might have become disproportioned in our lives. There is nothing wrong with TV, but does it keep me from prayer, from serving people? There is nothing wrong with chocolate, in moderation, but do I eat too much? Am I forgetful of the poor, and those who go hungry? The desert is often seen as a bad place to be, but in the Bible the desert, especially during the Exodus, is the place where the Chosen People were in the best relationship with God. They knew that they needed to depend on God, and they allowed Him to lead them. Through the Prophet Hosea, God calls the Israelites to return to the desert, as it was a place of honeymoon for them.

Maybe we could try something different for Lent this year. Maybe we don’t need to give up chocolate for Lent.

We all know the things that make us happy, but we don’t always do them. Lent is an opportunity to change that. This year I invite you to do something different. Join Dynamic Catholic for Best Lent Ever, a free email program featuring internationally acclaimed speaker and New York Times bestselling author Matthew Kelly. From Ash Wednesday to Easter, you’ll get short, inspirational videos from Matthew Kelly and personal reflections from Dynamic Catholic team members that will help you identify what stands between you and happiness . . . and what to do about it. Are you ready for your best Lent ever? To sign up just go to BestLentEver.com and sign up. It is completely free. Through the reflections you will discover how to open your hearts to God and do more than just give up chocolate, or something else, for Lent. I know I have already signed up.

As your pastor, I also need to remind all of us of the regulations for Lent. Here is what the Catholic Church in the United States asks of us as baptized Catholics:

  1. The days of fast (only one full meal) and abstinence (no meat) are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

  2. All other Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence (no meat).

Those between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast (only one full meal) as above. From the age of 14, people are also obliged to abstain (no meat: this obligation prohibits the eating of meat, but not eggs, milk products or condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat).

The obligation to observe the laws of fast and abstinence is a serious one for Catholics. Failure to observe one penitential day in itself is not considered a serious sin. It is the failure to observe any penitential days at all, or a substantial number of days, which must be considered serious.

The obligation, the privilege really, of receiving the Eucharist at least once a year — often called “Easter duty” — for those in the state of grace should still be fulfilled during the period from the First Sunday of Lent, March 5th to Trinity Sunday, June 11th . However, the Church’s law does permit this precept to be fulfilled at another time during the year when there is a just cause.

I want to encourage Catholics to get to confession and to make use of the sacrifices and traditions that have always been part of our Lenten practices in the Church. We will have a common Lenten Penance Service with Jesus the Good Shepherd Parish and Corpus Christi Parish on March 22 at 7 PM at St. Casimir church. We will also have the Stations of the Cross on the Fridays of Lent; at 3 PM at Holy Name church and 7 PM at St. Casimir.

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