With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD; LORD, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to my voice in supplication. If you, O LORD, mark iniquities, LORD, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness, that you may be revered. I trust in the LORD; my soul trusts in his word. More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the LORD. For with the LORD is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption; And he will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.”

Have you ever thought of Confession when you’ve heard these words of Psalm 130 that are included in today’s (Year A) readings? We can add to what the Psalmist writes, “with the Lord in Confession there is mercy and fullness of redemption”. It is in this sacrament (also called Reconciliation or Penance) that we “cry to you, O Lord” and that the Lord hears our voice. How important it is to voice our sins to the Lord so that we name them, claim them, and give them to Him! And, then, even more importantly, He voices His forgiveness through His priest.

We want to give you an opportunity to voice your sins to the Lord and hear His voice of forgiveness at a Lenten Penance Service this Tuesday night, April 9, at 7 pm. We will have two visiting (and merciful) priests to offer confessions along with me.

The following examination of conscience rubric previously shared on our site will help you to name and claim your sins. Many of you have found this helpful. It uses the seven deadly sins and the four cardinal virtues as a guide.

Feel free to bring this into the confessional at the Penance Service on Tuesday along with the “Confession” pamphlet on the rack in the vestibule. See you there!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

The value of redemptive suffering

I was speaking with a friend who is a devout Catholic about her upcoming surgery to remove cancer from her breasts. It will be a very scary and painful experience, and she is terrified about it. She proceeded to describe other horrific situations of suffering in her family, all of which have come about since the beginning of Lent. After she went through the grizzly details of their injuries and illnesses of the past two weeks, my first reaction was, “wow, what a Lent for your family.” We then went on to discuss the valuable and consistent Catholic theme of redemptive suffering which you find mentioned below. In short, this means that God is allowing her and her family to share in the suffering of Christ which brings redemption to the world.

Continuing with the meditations on the Stations of the Cross which are below and were written by Michael R. Heinlein at www.simplycatholic.com, we reflect on the suffering of our Lord and our own suffering. When I say that redemptive suffering is consistent, I mean that we experience on a regular basis opportunities to “offer it (suffering) up” for the salvation of others as Christ did. When we meditate on the Stations of the Cross, we reflect on the scary and painful agony that Christ endured for us and the similar afflictions that we now have to endure for him.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

 

Suffering with Christ

On his way to Calvary, Christ experienced the sufferings ordinary men and women experience every day throughout the world. He showed not only how to deal with them, but through the power of love how to transform suffering’s destructive power into

something life-giving. In Christ’s passion and death, St. John Paul II wrote that Jesus “has taken upon himself the physical and moral sufferings of the people of all times, so that in love they may find the salvific meaning of their sorrow and valid answers to all of their questions” (Salvifici Doloris, No. 31).

Meditating on the Stations of the Cross exposes Christ’s suffering heart — “sorrowful even to death” (Mk 14:34). In his condemnation to death, Christ teaches that we have the freedom to accept life’s sorrows. He does not let condemnation be levied upon him, but rather he chooses it out of love. Taking up his cross, Christ models how to accept suffering as an act of love in obedience to God’s will.

Christ falls three times on the way to Calvary. The sufferings due to sin in our lives continually cause failure. In falling himself, Christ shows that, despite suffering’s tendency to bring us down, discouragement can be overcome by dependence on God’s grace. Christ teaches us how to persevere through the failure and exhaustion through which our suffering inevitably leads and be of one heart and mind in pursuit of the Father’s will. Such is redemptive suffering — as the old saying goes, “no pain, no gain.”

Christ’s way to Calvary illustrates, too, how God graces us with models of love in the midst of our suffering. But like Christ, we must be attentive and receptive to them. The compassion, cooperation and generosity of others — such as Christ experienced in the fourth, fifth and sixth stations — are examples of how love is returned to love. And when unburdened by our own sufferings, through love, each of us can be channels of God’s love through service, like Mary, Simon and Veronica. “In the face of evil, suffering and sin, the only response possible for a disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even of one’s own life, in imitation of Christ; it is the attitude of service,” Pope Francis said during World Youth Day in Poland in 2016.

Since life’s road must pass by way of Calvary, this journey of love ultimately entails that we strip ourselves of all that keeps us from God and his will. At the end of his road to Calvary, Christ shows that abandoning ourselves to the hands of providence comes with detachment from all earthly power, pleasure, wealth and honor. The Christian must be unhesitant to cast aside anything necessary to advance the kingdom of God. In this way suffering is a gift that enables us to focus on the new life in Christ that awaits believers. Through the pain of suffering we gain the joy of heaven itself — eternal happiness with God — the gates to which Christ opened for “the many.”

Rooted in Love

In meditating on Christ’s passion and death, through devotions like the Stations of the Cross, comes the realization that life’s sufferings can be joined to Christ’s — by which one learns that love forms suffering’s foundation. “The road is narrow,” St. John of the Cross said. “He who wishes to travel it more easily must cast off all things and use the cross as his cane. In other words, he must be truly resolved to suffer willingly for the love of God in all things.”

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, weeks before he was elected pope following the death of Pope John Paul II, referenced this when he said that Jesus not only taught us how to pray the Stations of the Cross, but also their meaning. “The Way of the Cross is the path of losing ourselves,” he said, “the path of true love.” Suffering expresses love’s total self-emptying required of the disciple. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Lk 9:24).

 

Lenten Preparation & FAQ

The holy and penitential season of Lent starts this Wednesday. Here are the main events in the church during Lent:

● Ash Wednesday Mass, 12:10 pm

● Daily Mass, 12:10 pm

● Eucharistic Adoration, Wednesdays, 10 am – 6 pm

● Confessions, Wednesdays, 11 am – 12 noon

● Stations of the Cross, Fridays, after 12:10 Mass

We probably don’t associate Lent with fun, but nonetheless, here are some “fun facts” about Lent from Dan Gonzalez at www.miamiarch.org. I hope and pray that Lent will be a fruitful and holy season for you and your family.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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Who or what is a Lent?

Derived from the word Lenten, which is Anglo-Saxon for springtime, Lent is the 40-day season of preparation prior to Easter which begins on Ash Wednesday.

Why is it 40 days?

Next to the number seven, the number 40 occurs most frequently in the Bible. It represents a period of testing or judgment. Lent’s duration of 40 days reflects other times of trial, testing and hardship found in the Scriptures:

• The story of Noah tells of rain falling on the earth for 40 days and 40 nights.

• Both Moses and Elijah fasted for 40 days before beginning their missions.

• The Hebrews wandered for 40 years in the desert after leaving Egypt.

• It took the spies 40 days to search out the Promised Land and bring back fruit.

• Goliath taunted the Israelite army in the morning and evening for 40 days.

• Jonah warned the Ninevites they had 40 days until God would overthrow the city.

• Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days before beginning his ministry…

Fasting vs abstinence

“They appointed presbyters for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith.” (Acts 14:23)

Although often used interchangeably, fasting refers to the amount of food consumed, while abstinence describes the type of food denied such as meat on Fridays. These forms of physical self-denial are practiced during Lent, as are other pious customs.

Why are the statues covered during Lent in my parish?

Another Lenten custom is the draping of statues and crucifixes in purple cloth as a sign of mourning. This symbolically hides the heavenly glory realized by the saints. Occurring on the fifth Sunday of Lent, the covering of the sacred images adds to the sense of introspection and contrition.

The roots of the veiling of statues during Lent can most likely be found in Germany where, beginning before 900, it was customary to cover not only statues and images, but the entire sanctuary including the altar with a cloth.

The cloth itself was called the Hungertuch (literally hunger cloth but often translated as Lenten veil). The draping concealed the altar entirely from the faithful during Lent and was not removed until the reading of the Passion at the words “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.”

My parish prays the Stations of the Cross during Lent. How did this custom originate?

The Stations of the Cross originated during the crusades when it was popular to visit Jerusalem to follow the steps to Calvary. After the Holy Land was captured, pilgrimages became a very dangerous affair. A desire arose to reproduce these holy places in other lands as a substitute pilgrimage.

It soon became popular to have outdoor markers indicate not only the scenes in Christ’s path to Golgotha, but also the actual distances from location to location. Crude markers eventually gave way to elaborate artwork depicting the events of Jesus’ trial, torture and

execution. By the mid-18th century, the Stations were allowed inside the church and served as a focus for Lenten devotions.

The Stations help the participant make a spiritual pilgrimage to the major scenes of Christ’s sufferings and death. Prayers are said until the entire route is complete, enabling the faithful to more literally take up their cross and follow Jesus.

Why is there no Gloria or Alleluia sung at Mass?

The Church teaches by absence as well as by presence, and Lent is a time of great loss. Eating is diminished and some foods forbidden a fast of the body. Music is scaled back, bells are silenced, and the Gloria and Alleluia are dropped from the liturgy a fast of hearing. Statues are veiled and flowers and decorations disappear a fast of sight. Depriving the senses helps the faithful maintain focus on the internal condition of the soul rather than on externals.

Unpacking the Sermon on the Mount

We are in the midst of St. Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount with today’s Gospel (Lk 6:27-38). The Sermon might get more notoriety in St. Matthew’s Gospel, but the Lord’s words still pack a powerful punch through St. Luke. I’d like to do a little un-packing here with many of the strong and challenging phrases in today’s passage.

“Love your enemies”
This opening commandment gets attention of the Lord’s listeners which include us. This runs counter to what people had heard and thought before, so it is a revolutionary teaching. It sets the tone for the rest of the commands that follow here.

“Pray for those who mistreat you”
Have you ever done this? Most times, it really helps to soften the heart toward the other which is exactly what Jesus wants. It is hard to hate someone for whom you are praying. On rare occasions, however, if it stirs up too much angst and pain for the heart, it is prudent to stop praying for and thinking about the person and ask someone else to do it for you. Some people have asked me to do this for them.

“Offer the other cheek”
Bishop Robert Barron has an excellent video on turning the other cheek if you want to google that. He basically says that this means we shouldn’t leave the fight, but we shouldn’t fight evil with evil either. It means to stand your ground, not give in, and don’t
flee. This was the tactic of Rev. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and St. Teresa of Calcutta to name a few. It’s the third option in lieu of the common “fight or flight” responses.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you”
I have heard this so many times from you all that I don’t need to say much. It’s seems as though this is truly the Golden Rule of your lives.

“Lend expecting nothing back”
This was the main phrase that we discussed in Bible Study last week. At first, we said that this seems crazy and foolish. Why would you lend if you didn’t expect a return payment? And, we can’t just be giving away what we have, or we’ll have nothing left. But, then we realized that this phrase is used by the Lord in the same sentence as “love your enemies”. So, we started thinking that when we love our enemies, we know that they probably won’t love us back. It’s like we lend them our love expecting that our love won’t be returned. And, of course, matters of the heart are much more important than
matters of the wallet especially when it comes to people who have broken our hearts. In other words, it costs a lot more to love someone who won’t return our love (unfortunately this is God’s experience all too often). Nevertheless, we have to be prudent in how we lend our money (and love) just as I said we need to be prudent about praying for those who mistreat us.

“Stop judging”
This is what the culture tells us repeatedly. For this reason, I like to refer to this as the “non-judgmental generation”. I say it tongue-in-cheek because they
even though they preach it, they often don’t practice it. We Catholics are (mis)judged as harshly now as ever especially when the terms “bigots” or “haters” are cast our way. Being non-judgmental is a good principle to live by, as Jesus says, but it must be lived.

“Forgive and you will be forgiven”
We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us. God will forgive us as much as we have forgiven others. This is similar to the last line of the Gospel passage today, “the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you”.

“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful”
This is more in the middle of the passage, but it seems to be the overall point. All of the other commands of the Lord are based in this and lead up to this one. In other words, this saying of the Lord is the heading for the entire passage, in my opinion. Everything that I’ve focused on here are ways that we can be merciful in extraordinary or extreme ways. Loving and praying for our enemies, turn the other cheek, lend expecting nothing in return, and forgiving are all imitations of the Father’s mercy. These are all things that Christ himself did, and He is the Father’s mercy Incarnate. God does all these things, so we should. This is what the Father’s mercy is all about. His mercy is always expanding, so our hearts should always be open to growing, too. If you’re not there with any or all of these commands of the Lord, please open your hearts. The Father wants to show His love and mercy through you.

May you know the peace of Christ,
Fr Greg

50th Anniversary of the Annual Appeal

 A Time for Reflection

The theme of the 2019 Appeal is “Our Faith. Our Hope. Our Mission.” and is much different from a one-time special collection. It is a pledge campaign where you can make a gift, today, payable over ten months that will help support the ministries and mission of all our faith communities of the Church of Washington. Please find the Annual Appeal brochure and Frequently Asked Questions on our information table for your review.

This year, you can support the Annual Appeal many different ways. Many of you may have received a mailing in January that you can respond to. You can also support the Appeal online at adw.org or text “Give” to (301) 231-1816. We will also be providing the opportunity to support the Appeal at Mass over the next couple of weekends.

As in every year, 100% of your contribution to the Annual Appeal will be designated to the ministries and programs supported by the Appeal.

Thank you for your prayerful consideration and generous response.

Pray for our President

Tomorrow, January 18, is Presidents Day in the U.S. Please join us for Mass at 10 a.m. as we pray for our current and past presidents. If you’re like me, you have read different (and maybe even conflicting) things about the faith of our presidents and founding fathers. The following article from www.pewresearch.org (1/20/17) seems legit and accurate. It’s encouraging to me that more Americans want to hear about the religious beliefs of their leaders than those who don’t.

Pray for our president!

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

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“The U.S. Constitution famously prohibits any religious test or requirement for public office. Still, almost all of the nation’s presidents have been Christians and many have been Episcopalians or Presbyterians, with most of the rest belonging to other prominent Protestant denominations.

The nation’s new president, Donald Trump, certainly fits this pattern. Trump is the nation’s ninth chief executive to be affiliated with a Presbyterian church. Presbyterianism has its roots in England and Scotland and has been active in North America since the 17th century.

Even though he no longer regularly attends a Presbyterian church, Trump was raised a Presbyterian and still considers himself one, saying “my religion is a wonderful religion.” (As a young man in New York, he began attending Marble Collegiate Church, a Dutch Reformed congregation, and in recent years, he has been associated with Paula White, an evangelical megachurch pastor who will pray at his inauguration.)

The first Presbyterian to occupy the White House was Andrew Jackson and the last, before Trump, was Ronald Reagan. Both Jackson and Reagan had Scots-Irish ancestry. Trump’s mother immigrated to the U.S. from Scotland.

A recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows that many Americans care about their leaders’ faith. For instance, half of all-American adults say it’s important for a president to share their religious beliefs. And more people now say there is “too little” religious discussion by their political leaders (40%) than say there is “too much” (27%).

Historically, about a quarter of the presidents – including some of the nation’s most famous leaders, such as George Washington, James Madison and Franklin Roosevelt – were members of the Episcopal Church, the American successor to the Church of England. Unitarians and Baptists (including Bill Clinton and Harry Truman) are the groups with the third-largest share of presidents, each with four.

Although Roman Catholicism has long been the nation’s largest religious denomination, John F. Kennedy remains the only Catholic president. And since Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, only one other Catholic, John Kerry, has been a presidential nominee on a major party ticket.

Two of the most famous presidents in American history had no formal religious affiliation. The first, Thomas Jefferson, lost his faith in orthodox Christianity at an early age, but continued to believe in an impersonal God as the creator of the universe. Jefferson famously edited the New Testament by removing references to the miracles and leaving in Jesus’ teachings.

The second, Abraham Lincoln, was raised in a religious household and spoke frequently about God (particularly as president), but never joined a church. Scholars have long debated Lincoln’s beliefs, including the question of whether or not he was a Christian, and some aspects of his faith remain a mystery.

Lincoln is not the only president for whom there is some uncertainty surrounding his affiliation and beliefs. Some presidents were more private than others about their religious leanings and some may have evolved in their beliefs during their life.

For example, Lincoln’s second vice president and ultimately his successor, Andrew Johnson, identified himself as a Christian, but never was formally part of a denomination or congregation. Another 19th century president, Rutherford B. Hayes, sometimes attended Methodist churches, but “moved among Protestant denominations during his life,” according to the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs at Georgetown University.

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, was raised in a nonreligious household but converted to Christianity as an adult and worshipped at a United Church of Christ congregation – Trinity United Church of Christ – in Chicago. However, Obama left Trinity during his first presidential campaign in 2008 after controversial statements by the church’s senior pastor, Jeremiah Wright, gained widespread attention. Today, Obama calls himself a Christian, but is not a regular churchgoer.”

We Are One Body

Did you know that there are Catholic commentaries on the Bible? These are books that help us to interpret passages, words, characters, and events in Sacred Scripture. We priests use these! The one that I use for homilies, Bible studies, and overall knowledge is called the Navarre Bible commentary. The series I have covers all of the books of the New Testament. It is an excellent source that can be trusted to interpret and illuminate sacred texts faithfully and fruitfully. To give you a sample, below is some of the Navarre commentary on the beginning verses of today’s second reading (1 Cor 12:12-30).

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg


“(verses) 12-13: In Greek and Latin literature, society is often compared to a body; even today we talk of ‘corporations’, a term which conveys the idea that the citizens of a particular city are responsible for the common good. St. Paul, starting with this metaphor, adds two important features: 1) he identifies the Church with Christ: ‘so it is with Christ’ (v.12) and 2) he says that the Holy Spirit is its life-principle: ‘by one Spirit we were all baptized…and made to drink of the Spirit’ (v. 13). The Magisterium summarizes this teaching by defining the Church as the ‘mystical body of Christ’, an expression which ‘is derived from and is, as it were, the fair flower of the repeated teaching of Sacred Scripture and the holy Fathers’ (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis).

‘So it is with Christ’: One would have expected him to say, So it is with the Church, but he does not say that […]. For, just as the body and the head are one man, so too Christ and the Church are one, and therefore instead of “the Church” he says “Christ” (St. John Chrysostom). This identification of the Church with Christ is much more than a mere metaphor; it makes the Church a society which is radically different than any other society:

‘The complete Christ is made up of the head and the body, as I am sure you know well. The head is our Savior himself, who suffered under Pontius Pilate and now, after rising from the dead, is seated at the right hand of the Father. And his body is the Church. Not this or that church, but the Church which is to be found all over the world. Nor is it only that which exists among us today, for also belonging to it are those who lived before us and those who will live in the future, right up to the end of the world. All this Church, made up of the assembly of the faithful – for all the faithful are members of Christ – has Christ as its head, governing his body from heaven. And although this head is located out of sight of the body, he is, however, joined to it by love’ (St. Augustine).

The Church’s remarkable unity derives from the Holy Spirit who not only assembles the faithful into a society but also imbues and vivifies its members, exercising the same function as the soul does in a physical body.

‘All were made to drink of one Spirit’: given that the Apostle says this immediately after mentioning Baptism, he seems to be referring to a further outpouring of the Holy Spirit, possibly in the sacrament of Confirmation. It is not uncommon for Sacred Scripture to compare the outpouring of the Spirit to drink, indicating that the effects of his presence are to revive the parched soul; in the Old Testament the coming of the Holy Spirit is already compared to dew, rain, etc.; and St. John repeats what our Lord said about ‘living water’ (Jn 7:38; cf. 4:13-14).

Together with the sacraments of Christian initiation, the Eucharist plays a special role in building up the unity of the body of Christ. ‘Really sharing in the body of the Lord in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread, we are taken up in communion with him and with one another. ‘Because the bread is one, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one bread’ (1 Cor 10:17). In this way all of us are made members of his body (cf. 1 Cor 12:27), ‘and individual members of one another’ (Rom 12:5)’ (Lumen Gentium, 7).”

Mary Across the Books of the Bible

Here is a succinct and potent reflection from Stephen Beale at https://catholicexchange.com about the wedding feast of Cana (today’s Gospel). These are points that you have heard from me before because they are so illuminating vis-à-vis this passage and the continuity of Scripture.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

When it comes to Mary in the Gospels, John 2:4 is a real head-scratcher.

It’s the wedding at Cana and the wine has run out. When Mary informs Jesus, here is the startling reply: Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.

It doesn’t sound like any way to talk to your mother, let alone any ‘woman’ for that matter. But many interpreters, including many evangelical Protestants, take this verse on face value, concluding it is some kind of rebuke. One well-respected evangelical scholar, D.A. Carson, takes it this way, suggesting that Jesus is putting some distance between Himself and Mary and signaling that He starts His ministry on His initiative alone.

Mary is mediator at Cana

Not only does this reading grate against the Church’s teaching on Mary, it also is completely at odds with the context. There are two glaring facts that argue for another reading. First, Mary does not shrink back as if chastised. Instead, she boldly charges off to the servants telling them to do whatever Jesus tells them. Not only is this not the behavior of someone who has just been chastised but it indicates that Mary expected Jesus to take action: she took his statement as a positive response to her request.

Was Mary right?

Well, we next see Jesus changing water into wine. This confirms her reaction.

Far from diminishing the stature of Mary, this confirms her role as a mediator and intercessor on our behalf with Christ…

Mary’s intercessory role is further confirmed in the very beginning of the Cana account. As John Paul II notes, Jesus’ appears to have been invited to the wedding by virtue of his association with Mary. Indeed, Jesus and his disciples are listed as guests after Mary. It is through Mary that Jesus comes to us. As radical as this may sound, it is simply a working out of the truth of the Incarnation itself.

And this is not just some random moment of John’s gospel. It is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

And there’s more.

Mary: from Cana to the Cross

The word that at first blush seems derogatory—woman—turns out to be steeped in meaning.

Our first clue comes in the second sentence, in which Jesus mentions that His ‘hour’ has not come. To the uninitiated reader, Jesus’ reference to timing might seem to reinforce the anti-Marian interpretation: Now is not really a good time. But ‘hour’ in the gospel of John, when not referring to a specific hour of the day (such as the “tenth hour” in John 1:39), is always a symbolic reference to Jesus’ death and hidden exaltation on the cross (His ‘last hour’ if you will).

The word ‘hour’ thus connects this moment—this beginning of His public life—to its climax on the Cross. Now, Mary’s intercession takes on even greater significance: it sets off the chain of events that lead right to the Cross. In John 19, we see Mary at the foot of the Cross—she has not receded into the background. She has not decreased as Christ as increased because she is not in competition with her son (as Catholic scholar Matthew Levering well notes in his new book Mary’s Bodily Assumption). Instead, at the foot of the cross, Mary’s connection with Christ’s saving work is confirmed.

And, at the crucifixion, Jesus happens to again address her as ‘woman’—this time in the context of making provisions for her to stay with the Beloved Disciple. (By the way, this tender moment further argues against taking ‘woman’ to be a derogatory term.) This reminds us again of Mary’s intercessory role at Cana. And it reminds us of this role at a crucially important moment.

Mary as the new Eve

But why is Mary addressed as ‘woman’ in the first place? Besides linking Cana to the cross, what does this form of address itself mean?

John Paul II notes that the word ‘woman’ recalls the prophecy in Genesis 3:15, in which Eve is described in similarly anonymous language: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; They will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel.

Mary as Woman

To call Mary ‘woman,’ then alludes back to this passage, which is sometimes called the protoevangelium—or proto-gospel—because it looks forward to Christ. As John Paul II notes, “By his redemptive death Jesus Christ conquers the evil of sin and death at its very roots.” But, as Genesis 3:15 makes clear, this cosmic drama between Christ and Satan also involves another person involved: ‘woman.’ In addressing Mary in this way, then, Christ is confirming her universal role is this conflict between heaven and hell.

Suffice it to say, in terms of Marian theology, this connection to Genesis 3:15 is enormously important. The typological connection between Mary as the new Eve has bearing upon just about every Marian teaching of the Church.

To take just one example, consider the Immaculate Conception, the dogma that Mary was spared the stain of original sin. How does her status as the new Eve figure into the picture here? As strange as it sounds, it is a biblical fact that Adam, Eve, and Mary are the only three human beings ever to have been born without original sin. Remember, original sin came after the first sin of Adam and Eve. Just as Eve was without the stain original sin, so also was Mary, thanks to the pre-emptive intervention of Christ.

Sacraments of Initiation

  • Have you been confirmed?
  • Made your first Holy Communion?
  • Do you or someone you know need to be baptized?

A pastor at a nearby Catholic parish once asked his people these questions. He was asking more to double-check that everyone in his parish had received all three of the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist). He didn’t expect many of his parishioners who have been filling the pews of his parish for decades to let him know that they still needed to be confirmed. Some even needed to be baptized! He was surprised – pleasantly, I guess – that twenty or thirty people came to the classes at the parish in order to be confirmed, etc. He seemed quite happy to be able to have the conversation with these courageous folks not just about the sacraments, but about faith and life in general. He was a proud spiritual papa!

So, of course, I will ask you all the same questions. If you need to be confirmed or baptized or make your first Holy Communion, then please attend our RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) classes starting this Wednesday, January 16, 6:30 pm in the rectory. The “classes” are more like discussions that I will lead every Wednesday night until Easter. We’ll use a book that will be a very good resource for you and will help facilitate our discussions on Catholic teachings and practices. As you might have noticed, I don’t like to waste anyone’s time, so our talks will be informative and substantial, but not boring. There won’t be any tests; we just need your commitment to attend the meetings. Even if you don’t need to receive any of these sacraments, it would be good to attend the discussions and learn more about your Catholic faith. RCIA is usually for adults who are preparing to become Catholic. But even these non-Catholics have said that every Catholic should attend RCIA classes!

Here are some of the notes from the discussion on Baptism which line up with what comes from the readings for today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord (Isaiah 40:1-15, 9-11, Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7, and Luke 3:15-16, 21-22):

What do we receive at Baptism?

Life in Christ

“the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom he richly poured out on us

through Jesus Christ our savior” (Titus 3)

Indwelling of the Holy Trinity

“I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28)

Grace

“The grace of God has appeared…so that we might be justified by his grace and become

heirs in hope of eternal life” (Titus 2-3)

● Faith

“For all of you are children of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus, since

every one of you that has been baptized has been clothed in Christ” (Galatians 3)

● Forgiveness of sins

“her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed she has received from the hand of

the Lord double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40)

● Gifts of the Holy Spirit

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 3)

● Incorporation into the Church, the Body of Christ

“For by one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body” – 1 Cor 12:13

● An indelible spiritual mark

“Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging

to Christ. Given once for all, Baptism cannot be repeated.” (Catechism, # 1272)

Christ is born!

Fr Greg our last men’s group,

Epiphany: Christ Is Revealed

We hear the word “epiphany” mentioned occasionally in the secular world. Recently, I heard the hosts on a sports talk radio show say that the Redskins owner needs to have an epiphany about the state of the football team. No arguments here! We also hear words similar to epiphany such as “Aha moment” and “light bulb went on”. We understand these to mean that it is an awareness or realization of something for the first time, and usually is very powerful. In today’s feast of the Epiphany, we refer to the visit of Christ by the Magi with words like manifestation and revelation. It’s the same concept as awareness and realization, and it means that Christ has been revealed and the three kings realize who he is.

Last year, I gave you the following epiphany formula for the Magi (and for us):

● God will show you a star – something or someone that will lead you to where He is.

● God will reveal Himself to you in a personal and profound way.

● Do Him homage.

● You will be overjoyed in your encounter with Him.

● Offer Him gifts (e.g., your life as gold)

● Go home a different way (i.e., change your life)

Allow me to focus on the first one – God showing a star (a sign). I’m friends with a young woman and her family. She was raised strongly Catholic but has faced a few road bumps in college with her faith. God sent her a star: a young religious sister who has actually been a long-time friend of her family’s. This nun called her out of the blue weeks ago to invite her to a conference with thousands of other Catholic college students in January. She accepted and is currently at the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) conference in Indianapolis with 17,000 other college students. Yes, 17,000!

This young woman is looking for a sign like the Magi were. If she wasn’t, she would have politely declined the Sister. She has made a pretty serious commitment over her Christmas break. First, she is traveling to and from Indy on a bus with students from another university. That’s bold socially and spiritually! Second, she will be spending a few days with thousands of others doing Catholic stuff continuously – Mass, Adoration, Confession, talks, workshops, etc. It will be uber Catholic. She won’t be the only one there struggling with her faith, of course. But, the vast majority will be strong believers as well as many youth leaders of faith.

For what is she looking? In other words, what is her star? My guess is that her star will be a reason(s) to believe. Another way to say it is she is looking for evidence. She is very smart, and is looking for evidence that this whole thing about Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church is for real. She needs to see it for herself. Her parents or priests or even that nun can tell her there was a star, but she needs to see the evidence for herself. She needs to make it her own. And believe me, that conference is custom-made for very intelligent college students like her who need to see in order to believe. I have great confidence that when we speak next, she will tell me about the star she saw that led her (back) to Christ. Her initial star in all of this, of course, was the Sister who invited her to the conference. See what happens when we simply invite people!

God is calling each of us to be a star to someone else. If that isn’t clear to you now, it will be soon. He will use you to be that sign for someone else to have an epiphany about His Son. He has done this for the past 2,000 years. Go back up to the formula of the Epiphany and remember how this happened for you. He used someone else to be a sign for you, and you have done Him homage and been happily changed ever since. He wants you to be the main player in someone else’s Epiphany. He wants you to be a star!

Christ is born!

Fr Greg