This week, the scripture readings remind us of the living water that Jesus offers to us all. Next Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, he heals the blind man and we are reminded that we all continue to be led out of darkness/blindness into true faith and, ultimately, joy. The Fourth Sunday of Lent is called Laetere Sunday, which comes from the Entrance Antiphon for the day: “Rejoice, Jerusalem!” It marks a joyful relief from our Lenten fasting and repentance.
While it feels a bit contrary to the season, I’ve actually been concentrating on joy and happiness this Lent. Like some of you, I’ve been receiving the Best Lent Ever daily emails from Dynamic Catholic. Matthew Kelly has based each day’s reflection on his book “Resisting Happiness.” In Chapter 3, Kelly says that the opening point of the first chapter of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The desire for God is written in the human heart because man is created by God and for God, and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for (CCC, 27).” God made us for happiness. I love that!
So how do we move toward happiness in our lives while we are making our Lenten journey? This season calls us to focus on prayer, fasting, and sharing our time, talent, and treasure, so that we will turn away from our worldly concerns and focus on God’s abundant mercy and love, finding a way to show it to others. If you think about what makes you truly happy, my guess is you are your happiest when you are serving others. You can pray with and for others. Part of your fasting can be saving resources to give to the poor and by performing acts of charity, like serving a Neighbor-to-Neighbor meal.
Through service, we lay down our lives for others. We become the best version of ourselves and experience the happiness and joy God created us for.
~ Kelley Smith, Music Liturgist
The 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant movement is remembered this year and our church has reached out in dialogue with various denominations. The conversations have produced various results, since Vatican Council II, as we encourage ways to break down barriers.
This past fall, Peace Lutheran and St. Thomas More collaborated in a series of Wednesday evenings that looked at a specific document that was produced by the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation. There were several adults that participated in the sessions and we looked at the history of Luther’s thought and how Lutherans and Catholics view this history. The conversations were very enlightening as members of each faith tradition learned much from one another.
One result of this series of discussions might be to have a shared Bible study between the two churches. The other result is a common prayer service that we are planning on hosting on Tuesday, March 28, at 6:30 p.m. here at St. Thomas More. Everyone is welcome to attend and there will be a small reception after the prayer service. The following week, on Tuesday, April 4, Peace Lutheran will host the common prayer service with a small reception following. I believe this is a way to celebrate that we can dialogue together and learn much from each other. Peace Lutheran and St. Thomas More cooperate already in the Christmas Dinner every year, so maybe we can build on being the Body of Christ for the benefit of all people.
~ Dcn Wayne Talbot
Come “Purchase with a Purpose” this spring! You can buy beautiful items for yourself, your family, and your friends AND support poor and marginalized people in third world countries. The Fair Trade Festival will be held in the Gathering Area before and after Masses on April 1/2. Items for sale are provided by Bead for Life and CRS Fair Trade. Pope Francis said, “The many situations of inequality, poverty, and injustice are signs not only of a profound lack of fraternity, but also of the absence of a culture of solidarity…I would like to remind everyone of that necessary universal destination of all goods which is one of the fundamental principles of the Church’s social teaching.” Only cash and checks will be accepted. If you have any questions or would like more information, please contact Sherry Watts.
Jesus predicted his own future: “The Son of Man will have to suffer at the hands of the chief priests and elders and be put to death and then rise again.” He had to say it several different times before his disciples would begin to believe it. It horrified them to think of it. But then he told them that this was their own fate as well. “Anyone who is not willing to take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” “The only way to gain your life is to lose your life.” “The last shall be first.” “You will suffer and die, but you will rise again.” Death and resurrection is the stuff of life.
One of the reasons we will struggle with this is that we have the wrong image of God. Like the Pagans before us, we imagine God as an almighty king, distant, a God who needs to be appeased by sacrifice, who demands our allegiance, gets upset by our sins, and who cares little about our suffering.
The God that Jesus shows us is the opposite of this. God shows his might with his weakness and vulnerability. Jesus, God, takes on the human condition and suffers with us, dies with us. He reveals a God of three Persons who are constantly and eternally dying for each other. Divine love shows itself not in strength but in weakness, in vulnerability. This all-vulnerable God stands in solidarity with all the pain and suffering in the universe, allowing us to be participants in our own healing.
Jesus reveals this to us not so that we can admire God, but that we might become divine ourselves, sharing in the very love of the Triune God. Our love, too, is displayed in weakness and vulnerability. It is in our willingness to share the suffering of others, to offer ourselves in service, to bind the wounds and raise up their pain.
The fasting and abstinence of Lent should be considered primarily about this: identifying with and sharing in the suffering of others. Our abstinence on Fridays connect us with those throughout the world for whom meat is a luxury they cannot afford. Our fasting connects us to those who go hungry almost every day. Our almsgiving provides concrete relief for others’ needs.
As Psalm 34 proclaims: The Lord hears the cry of the poor. We, who are created in God’s image and likeness, must hear them, too—not out of a sense of guilt, but because this is the only way to our salvation, the only way to become fully human, which is to become divine.
~ Fr. Frank Coady
One of the unique events in Lent is the celebration of the Chrism Mass at the cathedral in every diocese. At that Mass, the bishop blesses the oils for sacramental use throughout the coming year. At. St. Thomas More, these oils are stored in the ambry, the little cabinet just to the left of the tabernacle.
The three sacramental oils are the oil of Catechumens, the Oil of the Sick, and the Sacred Chrism. These are all olive oil, but the Chrism is perfumed with a fragrance called balsam. It symbolizes the sweet odor of the presence of Christ. The first two are blessed by the bishop whereas the Chrism is “consecrated.” The Chrism gets its name from “Christ.”
The Oil of the Catechumens is used for a pre-baptismal anointing. The catechumens are anointed with it during morning prayer on Holy Saturday in the Daily Mass Chapel. Infants are anointed with it in the Gathering Area just before the procession to the baptismal font.
The Oil of the Sick is used for the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. At St. Thomas More, we have an anointing Mass once a year when we invite anyone who is elderly or has ongoing illness to present themselves for the anointing. An anointing Mass is held at Via Christi Village twice a year. In addition, people are often anointed before surgery or when they are in the emergency room of the hospital. Those in advanced age can be anointed more than once. This is not just for the dying. It is a prayer for healing, both in body and in soul. Anointing of the Sick is for strength to combat both illness and sin. Like the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it forgives all the person’s sins.
The Sacred Chrism is used for a post-baptismal anointing. Only those who are baptized can be anointed with it, because they have become members of Christ’s body. In infant baptism, the child is anointed right after the water baptism. It is also used in the Sacrament of Confirmation. The role of the Holy Spirit in our salvation is to join us to Christ. In the sacrament of Holy Orders, a priest’s hands are anointed with Chrism. As part of the Dedication of a Church and an Altar, the altar is anointed with Chrism. As St. Augustine pointed out: “The altar is Christ.”
One of the things being symbolized by the Chrism Mass is that the sacramental life of the diocesan church flows from the bishop, who is our pastor. Priests and deacons get their commission from him; they are extensions of his ministry. Every pastor, along with several lay people from the parish, goes to the Chrism Mass to get the oils and bring them back for the parish’s use. At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Hoy Thursday, the oils are processed into the church and placed in the ambry.
Making the trip to Salina for the Chrism Mass is well worth it. All the priests are there, and they renew their commitment to priestly service. People from around the diocese are there. It is one of the most beautiful liturgies of the year. Lunch is served in the Hall of Bishops afterward, to which all are invited. This year it is on April 6 at 11:30 a.m.
This past Sunday, our three deacons and their families helped with Confirmation Mass and Dinner. Following is a timeline of their involvement.
God has abundantly blessed our parish with three deacons who, with their families, LOVE and SERVE our parish more than most of us know. Thank you Deacon Buzz and Rose, Deacon Larry and Donna, and Deacon Wayne & Kathryn with Roman & Sarah. You have laid down your life for your friends, and there is no greater love than this! (John 15:13)
~ Rick Smith, Youth Minister