We have arrived at the midpoint of our Lenten Season with the celebration of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, which is commonly known as Laetare Sunday. The name comes from the entrance antiphon reflecting on Isaiah 66:10-11: “Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exalt and be satisfied at her consoling breast.”
“Today we hear one of the most well-known and best-loved verses in the whole of John’s gospel, a verse that proclaims “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” These words are spoken in the context of the night visit of Nicodemus to Jesus. Nicodemus, a Pharisee and Jewish leader and teacher, avoids the daylight that might reveal him as associating with a man who is unpopular with the religious institution, and so arouse suspicion of Nicodemus’s own motives and stance. To be unafraid or unashamed of professing our friendship with Jesus by the way we live every day always brings hard demands. The German theologian Eugen Drewermann gives us a memorable image of ourselves when, in the words of the gospel, we have “preferred darkness to light,” to that light which is the only Son of God..: “It can happen that we become like bats, like night-flying creatures who are so accustomed to the dark that our whole biorhythm is attuned to these shadowy periods, as if our eyes would be hurt and our whole lives would be turned inside out if we were dragged out of our caves and the hidden and fearful forms of our existence were exposed to the quiet regions of light and the brightness of day” (Dying We Live: Meditations for Lent and Easter).
…We all have our own caves that we need to name. Lent is designed to drag us out of their darkness into the Easter light of Christ through prayer, fasting, and the “almsgiving” of the gift of ourselves as well as the offer of material assistance to our sisters and brothers in many kinds of need.
To help the night visitor, Nicodemus, to come into the light of understanding something of his mystery and mission, Jesus uses a good catechetical approach: he talks the language of his listener. He reminds this “teacher of Israel” (John 3:10), who is very much in the dark, of a story from their own Hebrew Scriptures (Num 21:4-9). In the wilderness, the people grumble against God and are struck with a plague of serpents whose bite could cause death. The people come to Moses, admit their sinfulness, and ask him to intercede for them with God. When he does so, God tells Moses to forge a bronze serpent, fix it and raise it up before those who are stricken. If they gaze on it, they will be saved. This seems a great paradox: healing and life from gazing on a creature of death! But they obey and are healed.
In our humanity, we are all bitten by death; yet, Jesus tells Nicodemus, the God who is love wants to give us life that never ends. And so the flesh of the Son of Man will be brutally, senselessly twisted around the wood of the cross, forged by the fire of his passion and death, and raised up for our salvation. In John’s gospel, “raising” or “lifting up” always has the double sense of crucifixion and exaltation, death and resurrection, for the two movements are inseparable. To gaze with the eyes of faith on this mystery and commit ourselves to it will mean eternal life. Jesus does not come to judge, but just as turning on a light exposes what is hidden in darkness, so it is when the light of Christ shines upon us to expose both good and evil. The cross that will be raised up and venerated on Good Friday will give way at the Easter Vigil to the raised Easter candle, marked with the cross of fragrant “nails” of incense, from which we catch fire and rekindle our baptismal commitment to the saving and universal love of Jesus Christ.” (Living Liturgy 2021)
Congratulations to the students from St. Martin of Tours School who received the Sacrament of Confirmation last night (Thursday) by the laying on of hands by Fr. Claude and myself (social distancing rules were observed). Please keep all our students who have received their Confirmation in your prayers, as well as those who are preparing to receive it later this month.
The schedule for Holy Week and Easter has been published in the online bulletin on our website, as well as on our Facebook page last weekend and on the doors of the church. In preparation for Holy Week and Easter we have activated an online booking system for all parishioners who intend to be present at the Masses and Liturgies during these holy days in the Church’s year. Please book your spots at those celebrations to help us determine the necessary number of musicians, lectors and if needed Ministers of the Eucharist as soon as possible. As I mentioned last Sunday, if some Masses and Liturgies have poor registration numbers then they will be removed from the schedule and all who had signed up for them will be notified by an email or a phone call so that they can book spots at one of the other available times if they wish. For parishioners who do not have access to the internet or email, please call the parish office to register.
Our Diocese has provided us with guidelines for the celebrations during Holy Week and Easter. I would like to inform you that according to those guidelines, the blessing and distribution of palms on Palm Sunday has been omitted this year due to the ongoing pandemic, as well as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass on Holy Thursday. The Adoration of the cross during the Liturgy of Good Friday will be only by the presiding priest. Also the singing of the Litany of the Saints during the Easter Vigil will be omitted, and the renewal of baptismal promises that takes place at the Easter Vigil and Easter Masses will happen without the sprinkling rite.
As we approach the celebration of Easter, I would like to invite our parishioners to participate in providing the “Easter Flowers”. You can like to make a donation for them in the Sunday collection basket or online through our website in memory of your family members or friends who have passed away. For the past few years now, we have dedicated all Masses on Easter Sunday in memory of those who have gone before us in faith, praying for the repose of their souls.
Our Lenten Retreat for Youth and Families continues this Sunday evening from 7-8pm on Zoom, and all are welcome to attend! This week’s theme is Almsgiving. If you would like to participate and are not on the contact list, please email Wes at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the Zoom invite.
In your prayers please remember the souls of our parishioners who passed away this week: Fred Mastroianni and Francesco Basolini, as well as their families grieving their loss. Eternal rest, grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.
For your convenience I wish to provide you with the schedule for Holy Week and Easter in this email:
Saturday, March 27th: 5:30pm
Sunday, March 28th: 8:00am, 10:00am, 12:00 Noon, 4:00pm
Holy Thursday (April 1st)
Mass of the Lord’s Supper: 7:00pm
Good Friday (April 2nd)
Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion: 11:00am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm
Stations of the Cross: 7:00pm
Holy Saturday (April 3rd)
Blessing of Easter Food: 12:00 Noon
Note: please remember that there is NO 5:30pm Mass on this day.
Solemn Easter Vigil: 8:00pm
Easter Sunday (April 4th)
7:00am, 9:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm
Please note that due to the ongoing pandemic, we are only permitted to accommodate 30% of our church’s seating capacity. All parishioners attending Masses and liturgies on Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday must register ahead of time. The registration page is on the main page. You can also register by calling or emailing the parish office. Please register as soon as possible.
And finally, this Sunday we sleep one hour less as Daylight Savings Time begins on March 14 at 2am. Please do not forget to set you clocks ahead one hour! Those who are homebound or unable to attend Masses in person at this time are invited to join us for the live-streamed celebration of Sunday Mass at 9:00 AM. Before the Mass you can also join in for the recitation of the Rosary at 8:30 am.