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Fr. Ron's Blog

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Dear Friends,

Before I get into this week's scripture readings, I want to say a few things about Holy Week and the Holy Week schedule, which appears elsewhere in this bulletin. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week. It is during Holy Week that we celebrate the most sacred days in our faith life. Last year, Holy Week was a virtual experience as the church was closed, actually "locked down," by civil authorities. This year, the church is open for services, but still constrained by government restrictions. These restrictions will have a major impact on the way we celebrate Holy Week and I have tried to highlight those in the schedule itself. But I want to expand on them a little. In the past, you picked up palm as you entered the church which was then blessed by the celebrant as he walked through the church, sprinkling them with holy water, a special "Palm gospel" was read and there was a procession to the altar. This year, the palm will already be blessed, without the use of holy water and you may pick it up as you enter or leave the church. There will be no special rituals at the beginning of Mass. Mass will begin as normal. You may remember that for many years there was a procession from Vet's Field to the church for the 12:30 Mass. This will not occur this year.

The Holy Thursday celebration of the Mass of the Lord's Supper normally concluded with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament around the church to the Altar of Reposition, located in the daily mass chapel where public adoration would continue until midnight. This year, there will be no procession, no Altar of Reposition and no public adoration. During the Mass, itself, there will be no "washing of the feet," in commemoration of the Lord's actions at the Last Supper, and no procession with the Sacred Oils, blessed at the Cathedral on the previous Monday. Mass will end in silence, the altar will be stripped and the church will be closed.

The Good Friday celebration of the "Passion of the Lord" generally remains intact, with the Veneration of the Cross and the reception of Holy Communion, although following all COVID protocols.

For the celebration of the Easter Vigil (Saturday, April 3, at 8:00PM) there will be no lighting or blessing of the new fire, no preparation of the Paschal Candle, no baptisms, and no blessing and sprinkling with Easter water. At the Easter Sunday masses, there will be the renewal of baptismal promises but no sprinkling with holy water.

There will be no parish Penance Service. Instead the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confessions) will be offered this Saturday and the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, according to the schedule appearing in the bulletin.

All of the changes in the liturgies were at the direction of the Archdiocese, following the directives issued by the Holy See, and in accord with all COVID related protocols. Masks, social distancing and registration for all these Masses will be required. For confessions, masks and social distancing in the church are required but not registration. While all of this sounds heavy-handed, it is a step up from last year when all churches were empty and silent. Please remember, if you register for a particular mass, but don't show up, you have taken someone's place who couldn't register because of capacity limits. We experienced this at almost every mass at Christmas.

Now to this Sunday's Scriptures. Through these Lenten readings, we continue on our Journey with Jesus on this, the 5th Sunday of Lent. These closing verses of Chapter 12 of the Gospel of John mark the end of the so-called Book of Signs the twelve chapters in the first part of his Gospel in which Jesus performs signs which point to Who He is-the Son of God. In today's excerpted text, the arrival of some Greeks is the fulfillment of the prophecy unknowingly uttered by the Pharisees (in verse 19) that the whole world is "going after him." But their arrival gives Jesus the occasion once again to remind his disciples of his now imminent suffering and death for the life of the world. At Cana, He had told His mother that his hour had not yet come; now he announces His hour has at last come.

For Jesus, death is the defining reality of living. It is the ultimate truth about the "world." It motivates our actions far more than we realize. Fear of death underlies every other fear, every kind of clinging, every selfishness. Fear of death leads us to cling to everything we can get our hands on, to seek the immortality of power, fame, fortune or even relationships. Such grasping is what Jesus calls-loving the life of this world. If you choose to live your mortal life in this way, you will lose it. If you love the world in this way, it will gain you nothing. This is why Jesus urges His disciples (and us, as well) to hate the life of the world, to abandon this doomed desire for self-preservation. He promises to lead them in a better way, "I am the way and the truth and the life." The purpose of Jesus' life is to show the way beyond this world, to the glory of the Father.

But Jesus makes no pretense that this is easy. It brings grief and anguish, as we have known in this past year with the millions of deaths, world-wide, from this pandemic. Fully human, Jesus cannot but abhor the reality we have just experienced and are still experiencing, as He could not but abhor the prospect of His own violent death. In addition, He mourns the plight of those who have committed themselves to love of the world, choosing to cling to what He knows will lead nowhere. But He knows the path He must follow and the path His disciples must follow as well. Only those who hate their own instinct for self-preservation, those who are willing to face down the enticements and manipulations of instinctual self-defense can be open to what God offers.

As we begin to prepare for Holy Week, reflect on the priorities of your life, not just your sins. Do your priorities witness to "the world" and its path of self-preservation or to "Jesus", and His path to eternal life.

Be well, be safe and God Bless,
Fr. Ron

 

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