The next three weekends we will hear a series of long, but very rich, stories from the Gospel of John. This year we are hearing readings from cycle A, and the Gospel stories are primarily from Matthew. However, each Lent during the 3rd, 4th and 5th weeks we may use the Samaritan Woman at the Well, the Man Born Blind and the Raising of Lazarus. These three readings more powerfully express the scrutinies that we will also mark, not only for our Candidates and Catechumens seeking full Communion with us, but for ALL of us. We can use these three readings to scrutinize, or examine, our hearts and souls, to give special and deeper reflection regarding the practice and actions of our faith life. May I suggest that if you have not already made a commitment to one of the 7 principles of Catholic Social Teaching that you listen intently to these three readings.
Consistent with this year’s Lenten theme of Love First, may I suggest that you scrutinize your heart and strip away things that interfere or prohibit you from embracing the unconditional and foundational love that God has for you. I would like to share an example:
Several years ago I read an article in the Chicago Tribune about a boy from Wisconsin who was born without legs. This presented a significant challenge for him and his family, as you can imagine. He and his mother navigated the primary years of his life as well as could be expected, in fact, better than the mother had expected. The boy maneuvered in special scooters and wheel chairs and seemed to be adjusting. However, as the boy became an adolescent, he began to demonstrate rebellion and anger. This behavior escalated to a point where the mother was exhausted and questioning how to deal with this situation. She was at her wits’ end.
One particular day, as she and her son were arguing and he voiced despair at his situation, the mother reports that something came over her from an unknown place (I believe from Love and the Holy Spirit), and she sternly asked her son the most important question of his life. She asked, “Are you going to let the fact that you have no legs define who you are?” Quickly then she demanded, “I want an answer right now!”
Her son was stunned, but forced to give a reply. His first reaction was tears. Mom thought for one split second that she had made a mistake, but after he collected himself, he looked up at her and with a sense of resolve replied, “No.”
With a renewed sense of hope, the mother found resources to put a number of medical procedures in place that drafted stubs onto his lower body, from which were attached prostheses that eventually became fairly well functioning legs. The article was really about the advanced medical procedures that enabled him greater mobility, but I was more touched by the interaction of the mother and son.
It leads me to a question for you to consider… “Does dying on the cross ultimately define who Jesus is?” After significant reflection, I say “No.” What ultimately defines Jesus Christ is rising from the dead, not dying on the cross. His Resurrection is rooted in his suffering and dying. He, and we, must go through suffering and death to get to new life, but his Resurrection, and ours, must be rooted in the deepest and first love – God’s love for us – God’s First love for us. Our Cross of New Life suggests this as Jesus is reaching out to us from a place of suffering, but rooted in love. We are trying to emphasize this Lent that everything is rooted in God’s Love for us; EVERYTHING, including the passion, suffering and death of Jesus, and ours as well, as people who dare to identify ourselves as like Christ—or Christians.
What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you? What is the worst mistake you have ever made? What tragedy has befallen you? Will you let that define you? Does it define you, or will God’s Love First define you? Does God’s Love First define you?
Lenten Social Justice
This week’s principle of Catholic Social Teaching – Work and the Rights of Workers. See the narthex for a reminder of our very first Lenten Social Justice project in supporting St. Paul Parish in McKee, Kentucky and specifically Rebecca Khoury and her ministry as a lay minister there.
As we prepare to vote, I would like to quote Cardinal Cupich from his recent talk to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “The Church’s job is not to discern which political, partisan or military force we should support in order for good to triumph. What is needed is an integrated and consistent approach with the priority being our attention to what Christ is doing, saving us by bringing us together.”
Please be assured that we are following all precautions to ensure our health during the coronavirus outbreak.