“Since the children share in blood and flesh, Jesus likewise shared in them, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.”
It is hard to believe that lent begins four weeks from this Wednesday! This Sunday’s liturgy helps us move towards lent. As we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the readings use strong language of sacrifice and salvation. The temple, the place of sacrifice, forms the backdrop for today’s Gospel. The cross is at the heart of our faith. This feast marks a dramatic turn from the events we celebrated at Christmas. It shifts our attention to the cross of Jesus and the upcoming season of lent.
When the Feast of the Presentation was first observed in the East it was known as “The Encounter.” God is inviting us to encounter Him at new levels every day, but in a special way during the season of lenten renewal.
As Ash Wednesday (March 5) approaches, think about how God is inviting you to grow. What is the Holy Spirit whispering to your heart? How is God inviting you to deepen your relationship with Him? In what way can you encounter the Lord through our community of faith?
In the upcoming weeks, you will be presented with many invitations to renewal this lent. There are small group faith-sharing opportunities, large group events, opportunities for prayer and devotion, opportunities to give and serve and celebrate the sacraments. As a community, we will have ample opportunity to renew ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit this lent.
The invitations will be coming. How will you respond?
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
–Pope John XXIII
For the past 40 years our parishes have been celebrating Catholic Schools Week. St. Rose and St. Mary’s schools were around before this national celebration began!
Catholic schools make a valuable impact locally and nationally. If you look at our local community leaders, many of them are alumni of Catholic schools. The same is true in our nation. In many ways, the future of our church and our nation rests with our Catholic schools. In a recent article in America magazine, Cardinal Timothy Dolan asks the question: Who needs Catholic schools?
The answer: We all do. Much of the research on Catholic education conducted over the last five decades—from the Rev. Andrew Greeley to the University of Notre Dame; from the National Opinion Research Center to the work of independent, often non-Catholic scholars—has answered with a unanimous voice that without a doubt Catholic schools are an unquestioned success in every way: spiritually, academically and communally. More to the point, the graduates they produce emerge as lifelong practitioners of their faith. These Catholic graduates have been, are and will be our leaders in church and society. (“The Schools We Need” http://americamagazine.org/issue/747/article/catholic-schools-we-need )
Catholic schools are one of the important gifts our church offers our community, our nation, and our world. They excel in forming lifelong disciples and community leaders. Let us celebrate Catholic Schools week with joy and gratitude.
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
This Sunday we see how deeply biblical our liturgy is. John the baptizer refers to Jesus as the Lamb of God, a phrase we hear every week at Mass. Just before communion we say “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.” Moments later the priest says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.” This image of Jesus as the Lamb of God is profoundly biblical and reveals dimensions of Jesus which we often overlook.
The primary reference for the phrase is the Passover Lamb who was sacrificed and whose blood was spread on the doorposts before the Israelites fled Egypt (Cf. Ex. 12). The blood of this lamb saved the Israelites from death and began their journey to freedom through the Red Sea. Likewise, Jesus blood shed on the cross, frees us from death and initiates our journey as disciples.
Another reference to the “Lamb of God” occurs in the suffering servant songs in Isaiah. A mysterious figure, perhaps the Messiah, is described as bearing the sins of the people and being like a lamb led to the slaughter (Is. 53). Jesus, especially on the cross, bears our sins.
The image of the Lamb reappears in the final book of the bible, Revelation (5-7). This Lamb appears as the one who brings about final victory over evil in the world. “They will fight with the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and king of kings… “ (Rev. 17:14). Jesus is the one who ultimately defeats evil and ushers in the Kingdom of God.
Every Sunday at Mass, this biblical image reminds us of who Jesus is as our savior and the Lord of history. Behold, the Lamb of God!
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
This Sunday marks the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of Ordinary Time. After the joyful celebrations and feasting of the last few weeks, we begin to return to normal. The Gospel reminds us that things are never quite normal. The message of Christmas, that God is with us, never ceases to be good news, even as we return to a more normal routine.
In fact, as we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord this Sunday we move from reflecting on the child Jesus to reflecting on Jesus as our great teacher and Lord. For the next seven and a half weeks (with a detour to hear from John the Baptist next week and another for the feast of the Presentation on February 2) we hear from Matthew as he presents Jesus’ extraordinary Sermon on the Mount.
These weeks form the core teaching of the beloved Son of God. They reveal the character and desires of the man who is God with us. There is nothing ordinary about being a disciple of Jesus. As we listen to the Gospel of Matthew in the upcoming weeks we will see Jesus as the divine teacher, whose teaching forms a rock upon which we can build our lives. The Beloved Son revealed in the Gospel today is our Master and Lord.
As our lives return to normal in the coming days (if they do), let’s keep our ears attentive to the voice of the Beloved Son. In His teaching, we discover what it means to have God with us.
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
Here’s an article for all of you poets and wanna be poets (like me).
Why You Need Poetry | Intercollegiate Review.
I know that I have used this reflection from Joyce Rupp before in this log, but I think it is such a helpful guide this time of year.
As you look back on the year just completed:
What name would you give to your journey the past year? How would you describe it to one of your friends? What image or metaphor would you use to talk about it?
What were some of your “epiphanies” of the past year (your discoveries of the Holy One in your midst)? How did you grow because of them?
Who were your wise persons? What did they reveal to you? How did this influence your life?
Did any of your hopes and dreams become a reality?
What was most satisfying about the year? What was least satisfying?
How did your experience of the past year affect the world in which you live?
As you look to the year before you:
What name would you like your new year’s journey to have? What gifts do you bring with you into the year before you?
Do you find resistance within you? Of what are you most afraid as you enter a new year?
What is your greatest need for the coming year?
Who do you bring with you for your support and strength as you begin to journey through the year?
How is your relationship with the Holy One as you pause on the threshold of the new year’s vast landscape? What is at the heart of your new year’s prayer?
What do you hope to contribute to society in this coming year?
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood