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Fr. Ron's Blog


Dear Friends,

Before we continue with our Lenten journey, two unrelated (at least to today's liturgy) happenings. As I am sure you have heard/read, the limitation on religious services (Mass attendance) has been raised from 35%, with a max of 150 to 50% of capacity, without any max. Since the seating capacity of the church is somewhere around 860, you, might be thinking we could now have 430 people at each mass. But it doesn't work that way. It's 50% of capacity while still observing social distancing, which requires us to rope off every other pew. This then reduces available seating to around 220. As of this writing, we are still working out more exact numbers but we will still stick to the registration method for attendance. I remind everyone again the reason for this is contact tracing. In the event of someone coming who later tests positive, we will be able to directly notify those who were in attendance at that mass of that fact, as we did when Msgr. Sheeran tested positive. I am aware that some parishes are not following these protocols, but here at OLMC we think it's the best way to protect your safety. Could it be time to begin giving some thought to the possibility of returning to in-person worship and the opportunity to be strengthened by receiving the BODY OF CHRIST AS FOOD FOR THIS LONG JOURNEY WE ARE STILL ON?

The second happening is the Annual Appeal. The Appeal helps the Archdiocese of Newark to carry on the mission of the Church, to preach the Good News, to form Catholics as witnesses to that Good News and to help Catholics become holy through the celebration of the Sacraments. Your help is greatly needed for this effort. Please help by making a pledge. If you did not get the materials in the mail, there are still some on the tables at all the doors or you can go to the homepage of the parish website or contact the rectory. And remember, every dollar over our goal comes back to the parish. The rebate from the 2020 campaign was a big help in these days of the pandemic.

Now to continue on that Lenten journey. Today, our 1st Reading presents us with the description of how far Abraham has come in his own faith journey with this unnamed God. Abraham had listened to the voice of this God, leading him from his own land, giving him a son, making him prosper. This relationship with Abraham will be the beginning of God's self-revelation that will continue and find its completion in the revelation of Jesus Christ-Son of God. For his obedience, God has designated Abraham, and his descendants, as those people through whom He will bless the entire world. Today's excerpted passage marks the final test of Abraham's faith-the call to sacrifice that precious son. His willingness to sacrifice that son shows Abraham no longer attaches any conditions to faith. God now knows how devoted Abraham is to Him.

Every 1 Sunday of Lent, the Gospel reading always relates the Temptation in the Desert. Whether from Matthew, Mark or Luke, the Gospels on that 1st Sunday call us to enter into the Lenten season facing the devil and all the temptations he throws at us, so that we may use this time as our own desert fast (like Jesus) to reject him and all his works (the baptismal promise we will renew on Easter Sunday) and live more faithfully the Christian calling that is ours.

In a similar fashion, the 2nd Sunday of Lent always presents to us the account of the Transfiguration, Jesus' appearing in glory, accompanied by Moses and Elijah, before the three chosen disciples, Peter, James and John. (After today, the readings for the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent will diverge from one common theme). While some will maintain that the account of the Transfiguration (which appears in all three Synoptic Gospels) is actually a post- resurrection experience, the author of 2nd Peter clearly presents it as happening during Jesus' lifetime. It comes at a moment when He had first told them that He would suffer and be put to death and after Jesus' rebuke of Peter for wanting it to be otherwise. It comes as an invitation to believe in Him even though the expectations which the disciples have of Him would not be fulfilled as they had hoped. It comes as an invitation directly from the Father-or maybe a warning-LISTEN TO HIM. At His baptism, Jesus alone hears the words that the Father is well pleased in Him; at the Transfiguration, the disciples hear the words spoken directly to them, not only is the Father well pleased in Jesus, they need to listen to what He is telling them.

Several elements in the account give us some clues as to why it always appears as the focus of reflection for this 2nd Sunday of Lent. As stated, it follows the first prediction of the Passion, after which Peter "rebuked" Him, for which Peter received his own rebuke. The transfiguration of Jesus, itself, is both the "breaking through" of Who Jesus really is, the Son of God, (not the messiah as understood by Peter), and the foreshadowing of Who Jesus will be at His Resurrection. In light of this transfiguration, Jesus is overshadowed by a cloud, the classic Old Testament sign of the Presence of God, and out of the cloud comes the Voice, "listen to Him," something Peter was unwilling to do only a few days prior.

There is considerable significance in the placement of this Gospel on the 2nd Sunday of Lent. We could ask ourselves, after only one week, how are things going? Have we faced the "adversary," as Jesus did last week? Did we win or lose? Have we faced our sins, head-on and said no, or have we fallen already? (And this is not about our Lenten resolutions-they are only tools for the real contest-facing our sins). Whatever the state of our Lenten resolve, or of our Lenten struggle, this Gospel is offered to us as an encouragement, and a warning. It is an encouragement because it reminds us of the ultimate goal of our journey through Lent, and our journey through life-it is to reach the Kingdom, to be found in the company of Jesus as this earthly journey ends so that He may lead us into Paradise. We can never forget that as much as we are challenged to build the Kingdom here on earth, it is that Eternal Kingdom on which we must keep our focus, and keeping our focus on it should be the spur that harnesses our spiritual energy to be more faithful on our journey.

And the warning. The Voice makes it clear. The Father is pleased in the Son, in His readiness to walk the way of the Passion and in His willingness to offer Himself for us, and the Father's willingness to accept that offering. And so the Father says, "Listen to Him." To listen to Him is to take up the struggle against Evil, both in our personal lives and the life of the world. No true believer can fall before this challenge. The stakes are too high. Lent is the time to "listen to Him." Better start now.

God bless,
Fr. Ron

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