February 23rd, 2020 – Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
“So be merciful just as our God is merciful.
Be merciful just as our God is
merciful to us.
Let there be a wideness in our mercy. Let there be a kindness in our hearts.
Oh, may our lives be merciful.”
The above refrain comes from the contemporary arrangement of “There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” by Ed Bolduc. When we celebrated the Year of Mercy, this was one of the songs we sang many times during the year, especially during Lent. Our readings for this weekend, bring this well loved song to mind. We are called to live in mercy, love and forgiveness because God is merciful to us. These scriptures also prepare us for the season we are about to enter – Lent.
Not only do the readings this weekend help us prepare for Lent, but they also force us to take a hard look at how we treat one another in the world – especially those who are difficult, or near impossible to love. We live in a world where there does not seem to be much mercy, love and forgiveness at all. Partisan bickering, hateful rhetoric, devaluing of life is all around us. Where is God’s mercy?? How can we have a love as wide as God’s in this troubled world?
One of my joys as a musician at SS Peter and Paul and Old St Mary is to provide music that hopefully uplifts the spirit and motivates the person listening and singing to greater acts of love and mercy. I may not be able to solve the world’s problems, but I can help motivate those gathered for mass to greater acts of love and kindness and mercy through the power of music which reflects the themes laid out for us in scripture every weekend. It is my prayer that the music you hear and sing stays with you through the week and changes the way you see the world and love those who you encounter the other six days of the week – even those who are difficult to love. “You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father”. (Matthew 5)
In this liminal time before Lent, may you take the opportunity to examine how you show mercy to others. I know this command of Jesus challenges me everyday. Thank you for showering your mercy on me when I fall short. May our merciful God, slow to anger and abounding in kindness, present us with many opportunities to not only sing of God’s mercy but also show God’s mercy and love to everyone we encounter and accompany on our journey through this Lent and every day of our lives.
This weekend we also say farewell to Alleluia until we sing it again at the great celebration of Easter. Even though Alleluia is silent during this season, may our actions loudly proclaim the joy of God’s love through his Son Jesus Christ – our eternal Alleluia!
“There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea; there’s a kindness in God’s justice, which is more than liberty. There is plentiful redemption in the blood that has been shed; there is joy for all the members in the sorrows of the Head. So be merciful just as our God is merciful. Be merciful just as our God is merciful to us. Let there be a wideness in our mercy. Let there be a kindness in our hearts. Oh, may our lives be merciful.”
~ Brian Eggers
Director of Liturgy and Music, Old St. Mary and SS. Peter and Paul Parishes
February 16th, 2020 – Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Dear brothers and sisters who are ill, your sickness makes you in a particular way one of those ‘who labor and are burdened’, and thus attract the eyes and heart of Jesus”
(Pope Francis, Message for the 28th World Day of the Sick)
In his book Meeting Christ in the Sacraments, Father Colman O’Neil O.P. writes: “Even the convinced Christian can be brought up short…when he discovers for himself that personal experience of suffering and death does not square with comfortably vague ideas about God and Christianity”.
These past few weeks, I have had the privilege of being with a number of our parishioners who are sick, awaiting surgery, or preparing to go home to the Lord in their last days before death. These moments can often be some of the most difficult to go through. The experience of suffering can sometimes make us wonder where God is or question what His plan is, as Father O’Neil rightly points out in his book.
This past Tuesday, the Church celebrated the 28th World Day of the Sick. It is an opportunity every year to offer prayers for those experiencing illness and to give thanks for all those who work to care for the sick. In the mystery of illness, pain, suffering, and even death God invites to be open to how He can still be mysteriously present. Why? Because “he himself became frail, endured human suffering and received comfort from his Father” (Pope Francis, Message for the 28th World Day of the Sick).
For anyone in our parish experiencing illness or any form of suffering, please know that you are never alone! We love you and are always praying for you. Please let us know if you would like a visit from a priest, our Director of Pastoral Care (Terri Balash), or anyone else. Know that you are deeply loved by Jesus, who became poor and suffered too.
Sincerely, with love,
February 9th, 2020 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Salt and Light
This past December, I had the most wonderful honor of accompanying 8 families, all part of our Family Justice Brigade, to St. Ann’s Rest Home to sing Christmas carols and deliver holiday plants to about 50 people living there. At one point we were in the large community room singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” to a room full of men and women sitting in wheelchairs in front of us and I could see tears streaming down their faces just a few lines into the song. It was so moving for me to witness the families lovingly spend time talking and singing with these strangers like they were their own Grammas and Papas.
In today’s gospel from Matthew, we hear Jesus’ simple yet profound words, “You are the salt of the earth…. You are the light of the world.” Salt and light – two things that have been present since the dawn of creation. Jesus always spoke to people using simple and common things that would be recognizable to everyone. Jesus would draw people in with these familiar words but then called them to think deeper, reflect, and then go and do something. Very rarely did Jesus ever say anything in His teaching that would make anyone feel content and at peace with the status quo. Jesus’ words and teaching challenged the people of His time and still challenge us today.
Looking deeper into what it means to be salt and light, one would think that the taste of salt is perfect just the way it is, all on its own. Not exactly. Salt is useless unless it is mixed in with something else, something that is lacking in seasoning. Salt by itself is actually very unappetizing. Similarly, a lit candle will not illuminate an already lit up room, its purpose and beauty is diminished if it is surrounded only by more light. Indeed, light is the most illuminating when it shines into the darkest of night, surrounding itself with the opposite of what it is.
What does it look like to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? What are we being called to do as followers and disciples of Christ? We can take instruction from the First Reading from Isaiah, in which we are called to go and be salt to the lost, forsaken, poor, and vulnerable. We are told not to turn our back to these people but instead to spread the love of God, the good news of Jesus, and the fire that is the Holy Spirit. God calls us to go and be the light in the darkest places of our community, our workplace, our family, and even the deepest darkest part of our own heart where fear, selfishness, and apathy reside.
If this call to action fills you with trepidation – you are not alone. St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” Rest assured that the light that is bright within us is not of our own doing, but of Christ’s, who is the light of life. Let your light break forth like the dawn.
Be the salt. Be the light.
~ Anh Clausen
Director of Family Ministry and Religious Formation
February 2nd, 2020 – The Presentation of the Lord
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace,
according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation”
Peace of Christ, and I hope you are well. These beautiful words are taken from Simeon whom we encounter in our Gospel this weekend as we celebrate the Presentation of the Lord. Not much is known about Simeon – however, we hear that he was devout and that he had long-awaited the Messiah. Likely, he was patient, prayerful, and may have suffered much to be faithful all of those years. His example makes me call to mind the many people in our parish who are so generous in ways that are often unseen or unnoticed.
In a particular way, as we celebrated Catholic Schools Week last week, I would like to thank all of the faculty and staff of Catholic East Elementary for all the ways in which they are so faithful and generous. Our new principal, Mr. Tony Gonzalez, has done a tremendous job this year, and I am so grateful for all of our teachers. To all Catholic school teachers – may the Lord reward you for your generosity! Much like Simeon, those who work in Catholic education are patient, prayerful, and sacrifice in so many hidden ways to pass on the gift of faith in the classroom.
Next weekend, our parishes begin participation in the 2020 Catholic Stewardship Appeal. Envelopes will be available in the pews or at the back of church after Masses. If you would, please prayerfully consider being generous to help financially support the ministries of our Archdiocese.
Know of my prayers, and please let me know if there is anything I can ever do!
Sincerely, with love,