This weekend we celebrate the Fifth Sunday of Lent and the third rite of Scrutiny with our Elect. It is the last Sunday in the Lenten Season that we return to Cycle A Readings which complement the rites of Scrutiny. The Gospel passage this weekend is the account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Many individuals are part of this Gospel story: Lazarus, Martha, Mary, the disciples, Jesus, and Thomas. Many of their words and actions are worth reflecting upon, but, in light of the Scrutinies, I would like to highlight only one: the words of Jesus near the end of the Gospel. He says: “Lazarus, come out” to which he adds “Untie him and let him go.” The wrappings that bound Lazarus are symbols of the barriers and boundaries we or others have placed in our own lives that are keeping us from fully living in the freedom of God’s children. They prevent us from experiencing full life in Christ and from being individuals that radiate love, joy, life, and peace to those around us. In many ways, the wrappings binding Lazarus and all of us represent the sin in our lives. When we experience true conversion, and look to Christ for forgiveness, he sets us free from our sin. In the third Scrutiny we celebrate this weekend, we will pray: Free these Elect from the death-dealing power of the spirit of evil, so that they may bear witness to their new life in the risen Christ. And we pray the same for ourselves as well when we cry out for God’s mercy, asking him to free us from all that keeps us from being faithful disciples of Christ.
Last Week, I began a reflection on the Works of Mercy. I presented the first two Corporal Works of Mercy, demonstrated how we practice them as a parish, and asked us, particularly the Christian Service Commission, to reflect upon what more we could do. This week, I would like us to take a look at two more Corporal Works of Mercy and the ways in which Saint John Paul II Parish puts them into practice. The third and the seventh are: Clothe the Naked and Give Alms to the Poor. Two times during the year we have special clothing drives. Before school begins, we have the “t-shirt, socks, and underwear” collection. Before the winter months begin, we have the “hats, scarves and mitten” collection. Both of these collections are a form of outreach to the children in our local schools. Each Advent we have the Giving Tree which serves a number of individuals and families, some of whom are in places like Mustard Seed House. Many of the gifts requested are items of clothing. On the individual level, some of us regularly donate used clothing items (in good condition) to the Saint Vincent DePaul Society, Good Will and the Salvation Army with the intention that they are being given to those in need. Sometimes, “Clothing the Naked” means: making a sacrifice, and choosing to give up something ourselves so that we can help another in need. In going without something, we realize the difference between our wants and our needs. We do not always need what we want. As for Giving Alms to the Poor, many of us contribute to Catholic Relief Services; each Lent we have the opportunity to support CRS. (Please make sure your donation is made by next Sunday). Last week, there was an article in the bulletin regarding Catholic Relief Services and this year’s theme: Jesus in Disguise. The article provided by USCCB is repeated in this week’s bulletin in case you did not have a chance to read it last week. There are many needs in our world and in our country. Sometimes we have a hard time determining whether there is a definite need or whether a given “plea for help” is authentic. If in doubt, consult with the Christian Service Office of the diocese. One way in which our parish participates in Giving Alms to the Poor is by providing space for benefit luncheons and dinners. Perhaps, we should sponsor and provide a benefit luncheon or dinner for some of the major relief requests that come our way through the diocese or the community. What more do you think we can do as a parish community to put flesh on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
Our first two weeks of CSA returns have been very generous. Please see the report in today’s bulletin. If you have not yet returned your pledge, please prayerfully consider what you can contribute to help meet our parish assessment.
Blessings on your Lenten journey!
Sister Chris Gretka, CSJ