“Earth’s crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes. The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.”
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
Today we begin the third week of our Lenten journey in this Year of Mercy. The first reading from Exodus (the account of Moses and the burning bush) reminds me of an experience I had when I co-led a retreat at the St. Vincent Pallotti Center in Elkhorn in the late ‘70’s. I wanted to create a prayer experience based on the burning bush, so I asked some of the youth to place some dry branches in the fireplace which they had collected from outside. Someone lit the fire, and I began to do the reading of Exodus 3:1ff. The experiment looked like a failure as the branches were not burning until I read the call of Moses by God. Suddenly the branches burst into flames and we were all amazed. I told the youth group: “Tomorrow, I plan on walking on water.”
Today’s readings are a two-edged sword. God’s mercy and love are revealed in the encounter with Moses, where God says that He is aware of the suffering of the Hebrews in Egypt. God’s plan included freedom from slavery and the inheritance of the Promised Land. God’s mercy is always revealed in relationships. God’s promises are fulfilled in the saving death and resurrection of Jesus. However, the gift of mercy requires us to accept God’s love and repent. Our deeds of mercy that we perform this Lent are a sign that the fig tree will bloom and bear fruit again. A friend of mine who was a gardener always said that every plant has a Good Friday. May God’s grace prune us this Lent to blossom on Easter.
During this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis has asked all dioceses to implement “24 Hours for the Lord” from March 4-5, with an emphasis on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Check the Archdiocesan website for more information at www.archmil.org. Our celebration of Communal Penance will be held at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Saturday, March 5 at 1:30 pm.
Finally, on behalf of Fr. Tim and me, many thanks to our Parish Team and to Rich Harter for an excellent Parish Mission. I keep humming some of the songs we sang during our time of prayer.
Love and blessings,
Fr. Mike Michalski