Today is the Fifth Sunday of Lent. Once again we hear a Scripture passage from John’s Gospel as we continue reading from Cycle A: the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. This weekend we celebrate the Third Scrutiny with our Elect, Belia and Matheo. With them, we pray for continued conversion: to be freed from all that prevents us from choosing that which leads to life and to be freed from everything that hinders us from experiencing fullness of life in Christ. As we further reflect upon this Sunday’s Gospel, let us look upon our Lent thus far. How have we been called to conversion and new life? What changes, with the grace of God, have we made? What do we still need to do this Lenten Season to open our hearts totally to God and to live as faithful disciples of Christ so that others may experience life and the joy of the Gospel through us?
This week, we celebrate the last three of our Vicariate Communal Penance Liturgies. One of them will take place at the Saint Matthew Church site of Saint John Paul II Parish this Tuesday, March 24, at 7:00 PM. Twelve additional priests are planning on joining us for the celebration. I highly encourage you to take part in the sacrament of Penance this Lenten Season, by celebrating either the Individual Rite of Penance or the Communal Rite of Penance (which includes individual confession of sin and absolution). Lent is a most appropriate time of the year to do so as we hear and respond to the call to continued conversion in our lives. Did you know that Penance is called “Second Baptism?” Our Elect, who have been preparing for and looking forward to receiving Baptism, will have all their sins taken away through that sacrament - one of the effects of Baptism. On the other hand, we, the baptized, have been looking back to our own Baptism, and reflecting upon how well we have been living as disciples of Christ. Realizing that we are not perfect and have failed, we, too, need forgiveness of our sins. Since the Church does not re-baptize, we seek the sacrament of Penance, “second baptism.” As we look forward to renewing our baptismal promises at Easter, we prepare ourselves to do so. One of the ways in which we reaffirm our own baptismal renunciation of sin is through the sacrament of Penance in which our failures and sins are forgiven. We are a sacramental Church and we have seven powerful [sacramental] ways of experiencing Christ’s love, compassion, presence, and grace through the words of the priest who ministers in persona Christi, that is, in the person of Christ. Christ speaks and acts through the priest when he says: “I baptize you…be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit…I absolve you from your sins…this is my Body…this is my Blood…through this holy anointing…may the Lord who frees you from sin save you and raise you up, etc.” Christ touches us through symbols used within the sacraments (water, sacred chrism, bread, wine, holy oil, laying on of hands, etc). Sacraments are encounters with Christ himself. They are gifts from an Incarnate God who became flesh so that we might know and experience his goodness and love in a bodily way. As bodily creatures we experience the spiritual world through our senses, through what is tangible. Angels, on the other hand, are spiritual beings, so they have no need of “physical experiences” or of any kind of mediation in order to experience God. Regarding the sacrament of Penance, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: Individual, integral confession and absolution remain the only ordinary way for the faithful to reconcile themselves with God and the Church, unless physical or moral impossibility excuses [them] from this kind of confession. There are profound reasons for this. Christ is at work in each of the sacraments. He personally addresses every sinner: “My son, your sins are forgiven.” He is the physician tending each one of the sick who need him to cure them. He raises them up and reintegrates them into fraternal communion. Personal confession is thus the form most expressive of reconciliation with God and the Church [#1484]. If you are unable to join us this Tuesday evening, please see the Lenten Schedule in today’s bulletin for other options for the sacrament of Penance in our Vicariate.
Next Sunday, Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, we begin the holiest week of the Liturgical Year when “the Church recalls the entrance of Christ the Lord into Jerusalem to accomplish his Paschal Mystery.” [Ordo] On Thursday evening, we begin the celebration of the Easter Triduum “which has its center in the Easter Vigil.” [Ordo] Last week, I inserted the Easter Triduum Schedule into my article. (Please be sure to take note of it once again in today’s bulletin). I invite you to make a commitment to be present for as much of the Easter Triduum as possible, including the Easter Vigil. I have inserted an article about the Easter Vigil by Paul Turner in today’s bulletin. Please read this article, especially if you have never attended the Easter Vigil. There is no other liturgy during the year like this one, and the article will give you some idea of how we celebrate the “Great” Vigil of all vigils.
Just a couple of reminders: 1) The fifth Church we visit on our Lenten Pilgrimage of Prayer this Wednesday is the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption at 7:00 pm for the celebration of Eucharist (Liturgical Prayer): the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. 2) The Evening of Reflection for the Women of the Rosary Altar Society begins with 5:30 PM Mass this Thursday in Church. Father Richard Jozwiak will be presiding at the liturgy.
Blessings on your Lenten Journey!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ
The Easter Vigil is the most important Mass of the year. In the complete ranking of all Catholic Church celebrations, the Triduum occupies the top spot. The Triduum, which begins with Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper, concludes on Easter, reaching its climax with the Easter Vigil. If there is one Mass for which Catholics should make every effort to participate every year, it is the Easter Vigil. If you attend church Easter Sunday morning but miss the Easter Vigil, you have missed the most important celebration of the year.
The Easter Vigil celebrates the resurrection of Christ and the commitment of believers. It has four parts. It begins with a service of light. The community gathers in darkness to hear that Christ is our light, shattering the darkness of sin. The next part of the Vigil is the Liturgy of the Word. We hear up to nine Scripture passages that tell the story of salvation, ending with the Gospel of the resurrection.**
The third part is the Liturgy of Baptism. Some catechumens have already been listed among the elect, those chosen for baptism this year. They now come forward to be plunged into the waters of new birth. Anointed with chrism, they celebrate confirmation, receiving the strength of God’s Spirit for the Christian life. Then the entire community renews its baptismal promises. Together we pledge our faith in the resurrection and promise to follow Christ more closely.
The Vigil culminates in the fourth part, the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The length of the celebration has sharpened our hunger for communion. Now the newly baptized will join us in the Eucharist for the very first time. At the Easter Vigil we recommit ourselves to our faith and rejoice with the newly baptized.
**Saint John Paul II Parish will have 4 Scripture Readings in addition to the Gospel.**
Copyright © 2003 Resource Publications, Inc., 160 E. Virginia St. #290, San Jose, CA 95112, (408) 286-8505, Paul Turner, pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron, Mo.