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Monday, March 23, 2009

Laetare Sunday - Fourth Sunday of Lent

The Fourth Week of Lent is known as Laetare Sunday, which is taken from the entrance antiphon that is sung at the beginning of Mass - Laetare Jerusalem, that is, “Rejoice Jerusalem. Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her, you who mourned for her, and you will find contentment at her consoling breasts.” This day marks that we are a little more than halfway through the season of Lent. It was given to us to encourage the faithful in their fasting and penance. The Sunday is marked by joy, yet it is a restrained rejoicing because it is mixed with a certain amount of sadness because of our Lord’s impending suffering.

It is also the second scrutiny of those who are being examined by the Church for admittance during the Easter sacraments of baptism and first communion. In the opening prayer from Ezekiel, we hear the following words proclaimed, “I will prove my holiness through you. I will gather you from the ends of the earth; I will pour clean water on you and wash away your sins. I will give you a new spirit within you, says the Lord.” Though the word scrutiny sounds like a harsh examination, it is a spiritual probing that the Spirit does in mercy and with the desire to bring everyone to the heart of God.

In these days of early springtime, it feels very natural for us to pay attention to the Gospel reading that speaks about our coming to the Light that is Christ. The earth is awaking from its long winter slumber and we find ourselves with increased creative energy that compels us to move toward the light. In the Gospel we see Nicodemus doing just that. In the cover of darkness, Nicodemus is in the beginning stages of making a conscious choice of coming to the light. This stage takes a growing sense of trust and confidence that he is moving in the right direction.

Through our season of penance and in our preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation, we have undoubtedly encountered our own comfort with the darkness and the strain that we feel when we move towards the light. Many of us have experienced some form of exile, which we hear in the first reading of 2nd Chronicles. We have at some point felt separated from home, family, or in these economically difficult times, our livelihood. This alienation brings about increased loneliness, fear, and possibly a sense of abandonment by our loved ones, and even by God. Fears can paralyze and debilitate us. In our prayer this Lent, perhaps we can ask Christ to shed some light on our fears so that we can move much more freely into his mercy and compassion. At the end of John’s Gospel, Nicodemus courageously decides to step out of the darkness and into the light.

God’s mercy and compassion is stronger than any of our fears and God can lift whatever darkness keeps us bound. As we move closer to the end of Lent when we gaze upon the battered body of the crucified Jesus, God will help us overcome our fears as we are raised up with Jesus in God’s light. Perhaps the consoling words of John 3:16 may be our prayer this week. Let us truly believe that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…not to condemn the world, but that the world may be saved through him.” I believe.

Mass of the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary

This Wednesday we celebrate the Mass of the Annunciation of the Lord. This feast day is celebrated on the day that the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will conceive a Son, and his name will be Jesus. If you count nine months from this date, you will end on December 25th, the nativity of our Lord. You are exempted from the Lenten fast on this feast day.

The angel Gabriel greets Mary with “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you” and then explains that, as a virgin, she will conceive a son by the power of the Holy Spirit, the words that we profess each Sunday in our recital of the Nicene Creed. Mary’s response, her great Fiat (let it be), “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word," is a statement of humble faith, and a model for how we are to respond when God calls us to do what seems impossible. By saying “yes” to God, Mary collaborates with God’s plan of salvation for the world.

In Mary’s spirit, say “yes” to whatever God asks of you in your personal prayer.

Also, please pray for our senior girl and her mother and two senior boys who are preparing to be received into the Catholic Church this Easter season.

Annual Jesuit Dinner

This past Thursday, the Jesuits of New England and their guests gathered at the Boston Copley Marriot for their Annual Dinner, the prime fund raiser for the province. The dinner raised $800,000.00 for the needs of the province including the formation of our young men, the care for our aged and infirm Jesuits, and the operating funds for apostolic initiatives. Brian and Valerie Leary were the Gala co-chairs. Brian worked for 20 years as a reporter and news anchor for the WCVB-TV, Channel 5 in Boston, and returned to law practice in 2002 at the McCarter & English firm. Mary Richardson, co-anchor of WCVB-TV Channel 5’s Chronicle was the special guest host. Mary is a graduate of Santa Clara University in California. Joe and Rose Corcoran were the recipients of the Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam award for their support of the province and their pioneering efforts in the 1970’s for the concept of mixed-income housing. They also began the American City Coalition, a nonprofit that plans and implements the revitalization of urban neighborhoods.

Faculty Retreat and Formation Day

On Monday, our faculty and staff are continuing their Ignatian formation by scrutinizing the documents of the 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus. This month we are examining the documents that pertain to collaboration between lay men and women and Jesuits in their Ignatian-inspired institutions.

On Friday, our faculty and administration have a day at the beach. We are attending our 16th Annual Cheverus Retreat on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean at the Marie Joseph Spirituality Center in Biddeford Pool, Maine. This day is always refreshing and calls us to step closer to the light. Lenten blessings to you. You are remembered in my prayers at Mass.

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