Holy Week is approaching. Years ago, as a much younger highly critical ordained perfectionist, I would start getting wound up. So many things to do: service bulletins, final Confirmation classes, rehearsals, bringing parish records up to date, “Mass of Collegiality” at the Cathedral, washing feet, an Ecumenical Service on Good Friday, a complex Easter Vigil and blah blah blah.!
I have learned in these four decades of ministry: God will be praised in spite of human error; we rehearse the great events of our salvation and not a testimony to our own ego; all of us get to renew who we are as Christians next week; that we are celebrating what Christ has done for us. We are becoming stronger as a parish not because we are more perfect or DO more stuff – we are becoming stronger because of what Christ has done and continues to do for us. Welcome to Holy Week.
This week the Christian calendar marked the memory of two extraordinary men whom Christians refer to as saints: Patrick (March 17) and Joseph (March 19). Both proved to be examples of ministry and Christian life.
No one is unaware of Patrick’s relationship with Ireland. You know his story: a youth kidnapped by Celtic pirates who spent time in slavery in Ireland and who would eventually come to love this people; after he escaped, he returned as a Christian missionary and Bishop who brought the Good News of Jesus to those who once held him captive.
Joseph, husband of Mary, honored as the “silent saint” (not one word in the New Testament is ever attributed to him) who is viewed as Jesus’ mentor and caretaker. Jesus was known as “the Carpenter’s Son.”
Both men used gifts given to them by the Lord in the service of others. Both had lives that pointed to Christ. Both are models of what it means to be a Christian.
Please pay close attention to the Gospel text that you will hear this coming Sunday. You will notice within the proclamation what is sometimes called the “gospel within the Gospel” – John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He sent His Son …”
Christian faith is NOT primarily a series of beliefs and/or duties. First and foremost, it is the relationship which Jesus, the Incarnate One and the “sole mediator between God and man,” has established with us.
Remember: These weeks of Lent are NOT given to us to “prove” how much WE can give up or do. It isn’t about us. These are the times of remembering what God has done for us in Christ. This is about redemption. This is all leading to the proclamation of an empty tomb and the greatest of all mysteries: The Incarnate one is the “Risen” One – “the first born of the dead.”
And always it is about love. How much we are loved for Jesus to have done for us what He did. Whatever we do, we remember, or pray – it must always be a response of love – to our “… God (who) so loved the world!”
There is a very clear meaning why these 40 days are meant to be cherished and are so necessary each year. Although redeemed by what Jesus has done for us, it is painfully clear that we humans remain flawed, imperfect and in need of healing. All the acts of penitence, all the wonderful (or not) sermons digested, all the prayers uttered keep returning me to the truth that I need the healing love of the Lord.
On Sunday, March 8, we will prayerfully offer the Rite of Anointing of the Sick in the midst of the 9:30 a.m. Sunday Liturgy. We believe that there is a relationship among physical, emotional and spiritual illness. Jesus told us explicitly that he came that “(we) may have life, in abundance.” The evils in life, whether caused by our own choices or by mere chance or the actions of others, are there to be given to Jesus’ healing power. No matter how imperfect we know we are, it is HE who will heal us, empower us and has redeemed us. Happy Lent.