“It all begins.” ~ These were the scripted words of a Jewish scribe in the film “Jesus of Nazareth” as he observed the structural damage done to the temple in Jerusalem after the crucifixion and having heard the news from many of Jesus’ disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. The script has the scribe saying this in the aftermath of the Golgotha event and he insinuates with these words that people haven’t heard the last of Jesus and all Christianity for that matter.
Perhaps, in the light of Holy Week, we can apply these same words to Palm Sunday. We could say that on this commemorative day, our Catholic liturgical actions present us with a glimpse of what those final days must have been like for Jesus of Nazareth and what He did for us.
And “it all begins” on Palm Sunday. “hail the King of the Jews” they said in their desperation to replace their oppressive government. But that reality would not come. And then there was that “supper” in the upper room. “Take and eat, this is my body” and sharing the cup “Take and drink this is my blood” and with these words Jesus ushered in a new covenant, that would invite all people to the Kingdom of God. Then the unimaginable pain and suffering of feelings of abandonment, scourging, and crucifixion that would have Jesus utter “It is finished” But in our historical retrospect, truth be observed, the scripted actor who played the Jewish scribe was correct.
This week for all of us who believe, “It all begins”.
Peace and good,
Deacon Hervé Lemire
Over the last three decades, the Casa has been my sacred place. As a young adult in the early 80s, I loved Fr Alonso’s delightful homilies that ensured us of God’s crazy love for us. He modeled a new way of being with God… playful and light hearted. In the early 90s, the Spiritual Companions program deepened my spirituality as I journeyed with others of like mind and spirit. Today Fr. Joe and Fr. Peter continue the rich Franciscan tradition, encouraging all of us to deepen our faith through thoughtful interpretation of the scriptures and joyful service to our community.
In 2006, after years of being spiritually nurtured, I wanted to participate in the Casa’s healing, transformational work by creating a ministry within the gift shop that fed the spirit with meaningful gifts and enlightening reading. And now after thoughtful discernment about what God is calling me to next, I will be leaving Books and Blessings to pursue my love of working one-on-one with others as a spiritual director.
It’s my great pleasure to help others discover and develop their intimacy with God. Spiritual direction is yet another of the wonderful opportunities offered here for the continual growth of our community members. The Casa’s rich history and tradition has been a source of grace for many years, and with the current vision and careful planning that has been set into motion, the Casa will continue to bless lives well into the future.
As Catholics, I think we get so caught up in the acts of repentance that we forget why we do it, which is out of response to God’s love for us. Most people in a relationship want to be the best they can be for the other person. Our actions are to help us be better lovers of God, because when it comes to God’s love for us, we don’t need to look very far to see it. Last week we heard that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him… might have eternal life.” This week we hear about God’s desire to make a new covenant with us, so that “I will be their God, and they shall be my people” once again.
The demonstration of this love continues during Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum. Jesus illustrates His love for us by giving of Himself to us perpetually in the Eucharist, the institution of which we celebrate on Holy Thursday. He again shows us the depth of His love in His Passion and death, which are celebrated on Good Friday. It’s true that a gruesome death is not, of itself, anything to take joy in.
But the immensity of the love displayed by Jesus’ willingness to endure it, the love that destroyed death and won for us eternal life in the presence of God, most certainly is. That is what we celebrate with the culminating events of the Great Vigil of Easter and Easter Sunday.
So don’t miss the end of the story. Join us for Holy Week and the Triduum and experience what makes our Lenten journey worthwhile. I hope to see you there.
Peace and good,
Assistant Director of Liturgy and Music
You might remember about a month ago in a homily I spoke to you about promise and fulfillment. There are many images of this pattern revealed by comparing the Old and New Testaments. Noah and his family and animals were
saved from the great flood. This prefigured the saving waters of baptism. The burning bush revealed to Moses prefigured the Annunciation to Mary by the Archangel Gabriel. The bush had God present in it symbolized by the fire, yet it was not consumed by flames. Mary had God literally present in her body, yet was not consumed by the divine presence. Today, we hear the story of the bronze serpent being lifted up on a pole and that this prefigures the death of Jesus lifted up on the cross. Healing of the soul comes through looking upon the crucified and recognizing the healing power of the wounds of Christ.
St. John uses a particular word in Greek to describe being lifted up: “hupsoun.” This word is utilized in four places in the New Testament. It refers to Jesus being lifted up on the cross (John 8:28 and 12:32). It is used in Acts 2:33 and 5:31 and again in Philippians 2:9. Clearly we are being told that Jesus lifted on the cross and being lifted up into heaven at the Ascension are directly connected.
For Jesus, the cross was the path to his glorification. St. John clearly recognized this and was teaching his group of churches the same. It was a difficult concept for them to grasp because public execution was the ultimate humiliation and sign of failure, a complete lack of honor. Yet Jesus saw it differently as did St. John. Isn’t it one of the facts of life that without effort there is no success? And isn’t it true that if the effort and struggle are too little, the result doesn’t seem worth a lot?
We can choose an easy way for a lot of things, but great things require serious struggle. We can refuse the cross that we need to bear, but there is no glory in that. Struggling through the difficulties of life, and they can be very serious indeed, means that we as Christians have a model to follow. Without effort there is no achievement. Without learning what it means to love in the presence of difficulties we never experience real love. Without a cross, there is no glory.
Fr. Joseph Schwab, OFM
On Ash Wednesday we were reminded that Lent is a time to repent and turn around our lives. This is a time of conversion, leaving behind an old way of living and embracing new life in Christ. Are we just giving up something for Lent or are we working on making lasting changes in our lives? How do we do this? Our Elect – those who are preparing for baptism, provide us with a tool to examine our lives and grow in our life-long journey of conversion. This tool is the ancient rite of the Scrutinies.
To scrutinize is to look at something very closely. The scrutinies are meant to uncover all that is weak or sinful in the heart of the Elect and strengthen all that is upright and good. The rite includes two distinct parts: the scrutiny and the prayer of exorcism. The core of these rites is not about the sinfulness of the Elect; it is the overwhelming grace of God in Christ. The exorcisms are not a fear-laden bout with Satan; they are grace-filled encounters with the healing power of the Spirit.
We are not the ones to scrutinize the Elect; we have already given our “yes” at the Rite of Election. The Elect scrutinize their own lives and allow God to scrutinize them. But this time of introspection is also for us! We too can open our hearts and look within. We can celebrate the gift of Reconciliation and experience healing, and we can pray for the Elect and one another as we journey together to the water.
This Lent let us use the example of the Elect to open our hearts to the grace and healing of Christ. Let us look within, repent and be freed from sin to live as resurrected people this Easter.
Director of Catechetical Ministry
Count the days! Ash Wednesday was only 11 days ago, yet no one is counting the days until Easter except for Liturgists, those preparing to be
received into the Church during the Easter Vigil and those completing their sacraments of initiation. For these people the excitement of what is to come is palpable!
The Season of Lent gives us more time to truly enter into the particular disciplines of this season as opposed to the Season of Advent, which is only four weeks of preparation for Christmas. That time is shared with holiday gatherings, shopping and other enthusiastic opportunities to distract oneself from the true meaning of Advent preparation.
If you haven’t been counting, there are 28 days until Palm Sunday and then six days more until Easter. It seems like a long time, but it flies by so quickly as the Liturgy Team and a great number of volunteers combine efforts to make the liturgies a prayerful encounter with God and shared with one another.
For myself, one of the great challenges is not to become overwhelmed by the planning process or absorbed in the chaos of the moment but rather to be aware of my need for quiet time and prayerful reflection.However, now that I think of it, this is an on-going event as the pace of life and its demands never seems to slow down. Having said this, I must commit myself to act on it. When do I benefit most from having quiet time? Where is the best place to create this experience? Name it and claim it helps assure that it will happen.
This applies to the other disciplines of the Season of Lent as well. What kind of self-sacrificing behavior will put me in solidarity with my sisters and brothers without them knowing? In everyone’s life, there is a need for discipline that will allow us to be shaped by God’s love. The Season of Lent provides the opportunity to express a joy-filled response for God’s gift of faith. May we follow the humble Christ in faith, hope and love.
Fr. Peter Kirwin, OFM, Rector
We probably all have great determination to live a better life when we begin the Lenten season. But will our resolve be just as strong come Holy Week?
For many, what Lent brings to mind is giving up something. However— ask anyone who has ever been on a diet — simply giving up something is not enough. In order to have results that stick, you need to experience a different mindset, a different way of living. You need to have a conversion. And isn’t that what Lent is truly about? It’s about a conversion of turning our life more completely over to Christ.
Lent is a time to reflect inward, but faith without action can sometimes feel empty. So how can we put our faith into action? We can do it by being more present to our families, by ministering to those around us, by serving in our communities. We could do it by meeting others where they are and sharing what we have with them.
During this Lenten season, rather than looking to give up something, why don’t we all think about what we can add. We can add extra food to our shopping carts for our favorite food bank. We can spend more time with our families or a few hours volunteering.
Add some everyday acts of kindness or service and see how strong your resolve to live a better life during Lent turns out!
Pat Bennier, CVA
Director of Volunteer Sevices
In a few days, we will be entering into the season of Lent. Each year the Church sets aside these forty days for all of us to go on “retreat.” It is a time
for serious consideration of the question, “What are my priorities when it comes to relationships – especially my relationship with my Creator?”
Too often it seems we think of Lent as a time of giving up this and that. To some degree that is true, especially when it may involve our prejudices, dislikes and selfishness. Lent is more than “giving up”; it is a time for doing something positive that has been lacking with us.
Throughout the Gospels, we continue to hear how Jesus extended himself by reaching out to the less fortunate, having a positive attitude and challenging others to move from the rut they find themselves in to saying and doing something more positive in their lives.
We often hear that one must imitate Jesus. Yet, simple imitation is not enough…we must be Christ. This is the more positive attitude you and I need to work on, and having such an attitude makes us see others as Jesus saw them and look at things that happen to us personally, just as Jesus would see them.
In order to achieve being Christ, we need to let go of things that have been holding us back from being free. No one can free us from the past unless each of us is willing to make the effort each day to “let go” and let Jesus be our center. Then we can accept the person we are with our faults and failings and move on with life so we can manifest Christ. Every time we are able to do this, we will celebrate Easter time and time again. So, let us make this Lent different.
Peace and good,
Fr. Bill Bried, OFM
The Saint John’s Bible is the first handwritten and illuminated Bible in more than 500 years. We have three pieces of art from this bible hanging in our church. Saint Benedict advised to “listen with the ear of your heart.” When seeing these pieces, what do you hear? Maybe they’re worth a closer look.
The illustration on the left, from the book of Genesis, is called “Creation.” The progression of the story is obvious, with seven vertical strips. Fragmented shapes explode from the primordial void, expressed at the bottom by the Hebrew words “tohu wabohu” (chaos). A vertical gold line marks the moment when God ordered, “Let there be light.” Gold is used throughout to symbolize God’s intervention and the ordering of the universe and its elements. Gold squares expand progressively until reaching the serenity of the Sabbath.
The center illumination represents the genealogy of Jesus as told in Matthew’s Gospel, with the family tree depicted as a Jewish menorah. A mandala near the base is common to several religions. Gold medallions above were inspired from the Koran. Patterns of DNA double helixes connect the outer branches. The names of Abraham and Sarah (from whom these generations arose) appear in English and Hebrew. Named in both Arabic and English is Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden, with whom Abraham fathered Ishmael, the ancestor of the prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam.
The piece on the right is from the Gospel of John: The Word Made Flesh. Christ, the Living Word, steps from the nothingness of the creation story, and moves toward light and order. The texture behind his head is inspired from a Hubble Space Telescope image lending a cosmic character to the whole piece.
Next time you are in the church, take a closer look – What do you hear? What do you see?
Peace and good,
Director of Liturgy & Music
This Tuesday, February 3, the Church will celebrate the feast day of St. Blase, Bishop and Martyr. I’m sure that many us remember getting our throats blessed on this feast day. The “Acts of Saint Blase” (his biography) were written 400 years after he was martyred. Needless to say, four centuries give ample opportunity for fiction to creep in with fact. He was, however, martyred for being a Christian, despite the fact that the “Roman Edict of Toleration” (311 AD), which granted freedom of worship in the empire, was already five-years old. Obviously, the people of that time either never got the message or just didn’t adapt to change very well. Not “getting the message” and not adapting to change are two phenomena that seem to continue even in our time.
Legend has it that that Saint Blase fled the country because of the persecutions and lived in a cave as a hermit with wild animals. When hunters, seeking wild animals for the Roman Amphitheater Games, stumbled upon Saint Blase’s cave, they were surprised to find the holy man kneeling in prayer surrounded by patiently waiting ferocious wolves, lions, and bears.
The legend continues that while the hunters hauled Blase off to prison, a mother came with her young son who had a fish bone lodged in his throat. At Saint Blase’s command, the child was able to cough up the bone and was saved from death.
Agricolaus, the governor of Cappadocia, aware of Saint Blase’s good deed of saving the Roman lad, tried to persuade Blase to offer sacrifice to pagan idols, but Saint Blase refused. After Blase was put through terrible tortures, he was finally beheaded.
Accurate legend or not? Truth be told, the story of Saint Blase continues to be seen, throughout generations of believers, as one more example of the power of God working in the persons of holy men and women who have given their lives entirely to Jesus. Recall John 15:7, and with faith we can follow the lead of the Church in asking for Saint Blase’s protection.
Peace and good,