Sunday, February 28 at St. Francis Xavier Parish
This Sunday, which is the Second Sunday of Lent, as we gather for the celebration of the Mass and to receive the Body of Christ, we will reflect on the Gospel that describes for us the transfiguration of our Lord.
“The readings present a compendium of themes that shape the Lenten season. The first reading concludes the cycle of narratives about Abraham (Gen 12–23), which unfold from his call, with the promise that he and Sarah will be the parents of many nations, through the covenant and the birth of a son, the bearer of the promise (Isaac), and reaches its pinnacle in God’s command that Abraham offer Isaac as a holocaust. As one of the most treasured subjects of Christian art, the denouement of the story is familiar. At the last moment “the Lord’s messenger” intervenes; Isaac is spared, and the promise is renewed: “Because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly” (Gen 22:16-17).
In both Judaism and Christianity Abraham is a paradigm of faith who “when tested was found loyal” (Sir 44:20), who “hoped against hope” (Rom 4:18), and who “by faith, . . . when put to the test, offered up Isaac” because he believed in a God who could raise up the dead (Heb 11:17- 19). Also in Jewish tradition Isaac is transformed into a model of self-sacrifice who went willingly to his death, which is adopted by Christians for Jesus, “the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Gal 2:20).
“Transformation” would be a better term to describe today’s gospel story, since Jesus, though in the form of God, took on the “form of a slave” (Phil 2:6-7), and is now transformed and seen as an exalted member of the heavenly court. The narrative is dense with biblical allusions. The dazzling white clothes are a symbol of divine presence in Daniel 7:9, while the presence of Elijah and Moses has been interpreted in a number of ways. They are symbols of the prophets and the Law; both are people who did not taste death but were exalted to heaven (Elijah in 2 Kgs 2:1-12; Moses in extra-biblical tradition); they are faithful prophets who suffered because they followed God’s word.
The deeper focus of the account emerges from the divine voice: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him” (Mark 9:7). The transformation follows the first of three predictions by Jesus of his death by crucifixion, which the disciples consistently resist. Peter’s desire for three booths seems an attempt to substitute divine presence for the way of the cross. The same three disciples who witness Jesus’s transformation fail to watch with him during his agony in the garden (Mark 14:32-42). Mark’s readers and we ourselves are to hear the voice of a Jesus who says that the way to glory is only through the cross.
The narrative is also followed by one of the most dramatic stories in the gospel (Mark 9:14-29), the exorcism from a young boy of a destructive demon which the disciples of Jesus are powerless to combat. Raphael’s magnificent panorama “The Transfiguration,” which greets visitors to the Vatican museums, captures the sequence perfectly. While Jesus and the heavenly companions are illumined in resplendent colors, the fruitless struggle of the disciples with the demon occupy the lower right-hand corner. The eye cannot help but behold the chaos of earthly evil when looking at heavenly glory.
…The deeper meaning of the narrative for Mark and for us during Lent is that even after moments of transcendence and transformation, we must come back to earth, continue to hear the voice of Jesus, and follow him on the way to the cross. Experience of transcendence is juxtaposed with the struggle against evil. The readings today encourage deep faith and trust in God.” (Living Liturgy 2021)
We are back to our regular schedules when it comes to the celebration of the daily and Sunday Masses, as well as with having the parish office reopened. When attending Masses and visiting the office you must follow all the pandemic protocols that are in place, and you are asked to please call the office to make an appointment with our secretaries before visiting.
This week we begin the celebrations of the Sacrament of Confirmation for students in Grade 7 from our five elementary schools. On Thursday evening, the first group of students from Our Lady of Peace School will participate in the Liturgy of the Word, during which they will receive the Sacrament. Due to the ongoing pandemic, the attendance is limited at 30% capacity and the candidates will be confirmed not by the bishop but by Fr. Claude and myself (this year because of the pandemic, our bishop delegated to all priests the power to give the sacrament of Confirmation). Please keep our candidates for Confirmation in your prayers. We pray that they will be strong, courageous, and enthusiastic witnesses to the world of Christ and his Church.
Today our secretaries worked extra long to have all the remaining tax receipts folded, placed in envelopes, sealed and mailed. Today was the final day to request your receipt from the parish office – they are now in the hands of Canada Post. Thank-you to those parishioners who were kind enough to pick them up or who requested a copy be sent to them by email. Doing this has saved us both time as well as some of the expense of paying for stamps and envelopes. We still had to send out more than 600 receipts.
The One Heart, One Soul Campaign continues at our parish. We have reached $356,387 in pledges, which is 58.3% of our campaign goal. If you have not yet made a pledge and are intending to, please submit your pledge card to the Diocese.
This Sunday our Diocese observes a Holy Hour of prayer for the victims of sexual abuse and their families. It was decreed by our Bishop in the year 2019 that all parishes in our Diocese be invited to pray as a community for healing in the lives of those who have suffered from the scourge of abuse. Here at St. Francis Xavier Parish the Holy Hour will begin at 3pm with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a time of adoration, and will conclude just before the 4pm Mass with Benediction. Please join us in prayer.
Our Lenten Retreat for Youth and Families continues this Sunday evening from 7-8pm on Zoom! This week’s theme is Prayer. If you would like to participate and are not on the contact list, please email Wes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our condolences to Fr. Mike Downey, our former parish associate, who grieves the loss of his mother Shirley Downey who passed away on Monday, February 22 at the age of 92 in Cambridge. The funeral Mass will take place at a later date. Eternal rest, grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Parishioners who cannot be with us in person are invited to celebrate the Sunday Mass with us virtually on our YouTube channel this Sunday at 9am.
Have a blessed weekend everyone.