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March 2019 Weekly Bulletin Messages

Trees

March 31, 2019 – Fourth Sunday of Lent

“Unlike a fairy tale, the parable provides no happy ending. Instead,
it leaves us face to face with one of life’s hardest spiritual choices:
to trust or not to trust in God’s all-forgiving love.”
(Henri J.M. Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son)

Dear Friends,

Forgiveness is such a crazy thing— no matter how many times we experience its wonderful effects either as the giver or receiver of mercy, we can’t quite master the practice as a regular way of facing our lives and relationships.

As a giver of mercy, we enter into perplexing calculations as to whom we should offer mercy. Do they deserve it? Have they worked hard enough to prove themselves? What proof do I have that they really have changed? The mental and spiritual gymnastics spins our hearts and heads.

As a receiver of mercy, we do the same thing. Do I really deserve forgiveness? Have I worked hard enough to prove myself? What proof can I offer that I have really changed? Yes, the mental and spiritual gymnastics spins our hearts and heads.

And then we read about a father and his mercy to a prodigal son who doesn’t deserve it, who has worked hard at nothing but failure, who really can’t prove at the end of the story that he won’t head for the door (and the pig food!) at the first opportune moment.

The story made me look up (I asked Alexa! Smile) what the word prodigal means: “recklessly extravagant.”

It’s then that I realized that the God of non-calculation, the God of unconditional love and mercy, demands that we really should call this Sunday’s Gospel: “The Story of the Prodigal Father.”

Have a blessed week! Rejoice—Easter is coming!

Sincerely, with love,
Fr. Tim

March 24, 2019 – Third Sunday of Lent

Dear Friends in Christ,

Recently, I was at home and came across an old sweatshirt of mine from a landscaping job that I worked one summer in college. That summer, I would wake up early to either run or lift weights (as I was still playing football at the time) and then work a ten-hour day at my landscaping job. Once finished, I would either go to my evening class, or return back home to do some side lawn jobs for neighbors. Each day was basically the same, without much change.

In our first reading today, YHWH appears to Moses in the burning bush in the midst of what could have been just another routine day tending his flocks. His work as a shepherd would have entailed hard manual labor, long hours, and a daily routine that was probably rather boring. I imagine that many of us have had “routines” like this, similar to my work in landscaping and Moses’ work as a shepherd. Yet, if we are attentive, can’t this be the place in which God speaks to us in the most surprising of ways? While landscaping that summer, with not much else to do, I found myself praying a lot more to pass the time and it was there where God really began to work on me, in calling me to priesthood. In the midst of a “routine”, if we give God the permission to surprise us…often He takes us up on that!

As we arrive at this Third Sunday in Lent, perhaps even by now our Lenten resolutions have become a little “routine”. Maybe we too find ourselves in jobs with long hours, little pay, and a routine that is rather boring. My challenge for you this week: give God permission to surprise you in the midst of your routine, and you might be amazed at what happens.

Tomorrow, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation, in which we recall Mary’s “yes” to become the Mother of God. May she intercede for us that we may say “yes” to all of God’s surprises, just like she did.

With love and prayers,
Fr. John

March 17, 2019 – Second Sunday of Lent

Redemption is coming to share in the freedom of Jesus whose freedom from himself was simultaneously a freedom for others.” (Professor VanBavel)

Dear Friends,

This quote from a beloved professor of mine in my seminary days fits right into where my heart is these days. I have been praying this Lent for freedom from all those little ego drives that can so fill a heart with worry and preoccupations. As we work on budgets for the four parishes, as the reality of poor neighborhoods hits home in the four other parishes I am financially responsible for running, as we start in earnest the Catholic Stewardship Appeal with needed goals to be met, as we try to raise the needed funds for the Habitat House… The list of financial worries goes on and on!

Even more importantly, my heart continues to break for victim survivors of clergy sexual abuse, and the divisions in our beloved church create such sadness. And this is only the worries of the church. I would need ten bulletin articles to articulate the division and worry about our current political and cultural state!

And then I think of Professor VanBavel, and his kind lectures in which he over and over proclaimed to us that a life for others is the key to redemption and happiness! And then I read this Sunday about Abraham and God’s promise that his descendants would be numerous as the stars of the sky, and then I experience the wonderful stewardship and generosity of you and our parishioners and others in so many ways for so many worthy causes…

And then I experience the church being what it is supposed to be and encouraging all to live in generous and forgiving love of others… Then like St. Peter at the Transfiguration, I say—“It is good that we are here!”

Have a great week.

Sincerely, with love,
Fr. Tim

March 10, 2019 – First Sunday of Lent

Dear Friends,

Happy First Sunday of Lent! I share with you these words from Pope Benedict XVI: “Lent is a favorable time for rediscovering faith in God as the basic criterion for our life and for the life of the Church. This always means a struggle, a spiritual combat, because the spirit of evil is naturally opposed to our sanctification and seeks to make us stray from God’s path. For this reason the Gospel of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness is proclaimed every year on the First Sunday of Lent” (Angelus Address, Feb 17, 2013).

As I mentioned in last week’s article, this year’s theme for the season of Lent is “Building Hope”. I again share the following opportunities to “build hope”, as we each grow a little closer to Jesus:

Prayer. “Build hope” by growing in your relationship with God in prayer. In particular, consider attending:
+ Communal Reconciliation Service – Sat Mar 16, 10 AM @ St. Hedwig
+ Taize Prayer – 3/13 and 4/8
+ See the Bulletin, for weekly reflections on the Sunday readings written by various staff members.

Almsgiving. We are really excited to “build hope” for others in our support of Habitat for Humanity this year! Please consider giving generously in time and money as we help to build an entire house for a family in need. Habitat boxes will be available through ESCYM, Family Ministry, Catholic East Elementary, and in the back of Churches as together we work towards the very attainable goal of raising $50,000 for this project. See the bulletin for more information.

Fasting. “Build hope” by abstaining from food, drink, or entertainment in some way this Lent.

Sincerely, with love,
Fr John

March 3, 2019 – Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Friends in Christ,

“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). These words summarize the entire aim of the Church’s season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday this week. If you will, Lent is a season in which we focus on “building” up the life of Christ that lives within us. God’s grace is always a pure gift, but every Lent we have a privileged opportunity to “build up” this life of grace and grow in holiness together.

This year’s theme for the season of Lent, aptly chosen by our staff, is “Building Hope”. Don’t we all need to “build hope”, in the sense of desiring ever more the kingdom of heaven and eternal life (cf. CCC, n. 1817)? Don’t we need to “build hope” for our world – especially the homeless and the poor – now more than ever? The following are some of the opportunities for us to “build hope” for ourselves and for others this Lent.

Prayer. “Build hope” by growing in your relationship with God in prayer. In particular, consider attending:
+ Communal Reconciliation Service – Sat Mar 16, 10 AM @ St. Hedwig
+ Taize Prayer – 3/13 and 4/8
+ Lenten Family Holy Hour – Sat Mar 9, 10 AM @ SSPP.
See the Bulletin, for weekly reflections on the Sunday readings written by various staff members.

Almsgiving. We are really excited to “build hope” for others in our support of Habitat for Humanity this year! Please consider giving generously in time and money as we help to build an entire house for a family in need. Habitat boxes will be available through ESCYM, Family Ministry, Catholic East Elementary, and in the back of Churches as together we work towards the very attainable goal of raising $50,000 for this project. See the bulletin for more information.

Fasting. “Build hope” by abstaining from food, drink, or entertainment in some way this Lent. Just don’t give up listening to my homilies! But seriously, whatever we fast from, it should help us better grow in the theological virtue of hope, where we desire ever more eternal life.

This Lent is a unique opportunity for each of us to “build hope” for ourselves and for others. I pray that by the time all of us reach Easter, we can more deeply say with Saint Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”.

With love and prayers,
Fr John