Fifth Sunday of Lent, March 26, 2023

Dear friends,

I would like to start out noting that I was edified to see so many of you avail yourself of the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation on Tuesday, March 21, 2023. This sacrament is one of the best ways to keep our focus on our goal of reaching sainthood, because it continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness. Pope John Paul II said: “Penance is a sacrament of enlightenment” and “Those who go to confession frequently and do so with the desire to make progress, know they have received in this sacrament, through pardon from God and grace from the Spirit, a precious light for the path of perfection.”

As I shared in the prayer on Tuesday, when G.K. Chesterton was asked why he became a Catholic, he answered, “To have my sins forgiven.” This is a splendid gift that Jesus Christ has bestowed on his Church. If you have not already done so, I invite you to celebrate this sacrament of mercy before Easter, as our Church’s precept invites us to celebrate this sacrament at least once a year. What better time than Lent as we prepare to celebrate the glorious Easter. Apart from our regular hours to celebrate this sacrament (Wednesday 8.30 – 9:00 a.m.; Saturday 3:00 to 4:00 p.m.; on appointment), we will offer another opportunity on Wednesday, April 5, 2023.  We have dedicated this day as a Day of Reconciliation, and confessions will be heard from  9:00 a.m. to 12 noon and from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Hence, I urge those of you who have not been to confession during Lent to avail yourselves of these Reconciliation times so that you might celebrate Easter with joy. We have printed new brochures that will make it very easy for you to approach this sacrament. Do not be nervous. You are meeting the infinitely merciful Father.

Please remember that Holy Week is arriving shortly. Please see the bulletin for the important Liturgical Celebrations. Most especially, please attend the Triduum, the most important days of our church’s calendar.

Today we celebrate the 5th Sunday of Lent, on which day the Church invites us to rise from our tombs and to come out of our self-imposed prisons to a new life of freedom in Christ Jesus. Our Scripture Readings for today are true gems for meditation. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel tells us of what the Lord God promised (37: 12-14): “Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land.”  St. Paul in his letter to the Romans (8:8-11) offers this beautiful truth: “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you.”

The Gospel Reading from John (Chapter 11) tells of how Jesus enjoyed his friendship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus and that when he learned of Lazarus’ death, he wept. The dialogue between Martha and Jesus is worth pondering: “Martha said to Jesus,  ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not  have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise.’” Yes, Jesus reassures her that Lazarus will live, just as he said earlier in the reading: “‘Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him . . ..’” “Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice,  ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out . . ..” Our God is a God of life, not of death. He wants us to aim for even more, to live forever. The gift of earthly life is short and destined to end. The gift of eternal life is something for which we have to work.  It is our choice. It is offered freely, but we can choose to say, “NO,” or “YES” to the offer of Christ.  Say “Yes” and live forever.

This weekend, you might notice that we have “veiled” the Cross and all sacred images, except the Stations of the Cross and the stained-glass windows.  The church will remain this way until the Easter Vigil.  Why do we do this?  First, the Church does so in recognition of the fact that Christ veiled his divinity during his Passion.  Other reasons for this practice include:

  • To imitate the ninth-century German practice of hiding/shielding the Altar (“Holy of Holies”) from the faithful during Lent with the “hunger cloth” (“Hungertuch” in German)
  • To remind us that we are only two weeks away from Easter
  • To create a “fast of the eyes” that allows us to focus on contemplating Jesus’ Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

Our eyes and our focus should be directed to the Altar and to our inward contemplation of the great essentials of Christ’s work of redemption.

On the Fifth Sunday, the Catechumens celebrate the ancient prayer called “The Third Scrutiny” as they delve deeper into the Paschal mystery. In these prayers, they, and we, ask the Lord to scrutinize and purify the hearts of the Catechumens. Let us continue to accompany them, their sponsors and those who are walking with them on their journey.

Have a Blessed Week!

With love,

Fr. John