Pastor’s Corner

An Unknown Land

I am being driven forward

Into an unknown land.

The pass grows steeper,

The air colder and sharper.

A wind from my unknown goal

Stirs the strings

Of expectation.

Still the question:

Shall I ever get there?

There where life resounds,

A clear pure note

In the silence.

(Dag Hammarskjold)

I. God Gives Tangible Reminders, as today’s Scripture readings show us, of God’s committed love and the desire of God to be present to us: The covenant that God signed by the rainbow after the flood, the waters of Baptism (one of the conditions of the new covenant), and Jesus, “the covenant,” one of the Lord’s names in early Christianity (Isaiah 42:6). How do we fulfill our part of the new covenant? How do we act as tangible reminders of God’s love, especially to those who are most in need? How do we uphold one of the most important Catholic social teachings, the sacredness and dignity of the human person?

II. Forty (40) Years Ago, Catholics in the United States wanted to respond to famine in Africa. Could we feed the hungry through Lenten prayers, fasting and almsgiving? The answer was YES. And, it came in the form of a small cardboard box. Forty (40) years later, CRS Rice Bowl is our way here at St. Stephen Cathedral to help our sisters and brothers in need of each Lent. CRS rice bow is Catholic Relief Services’ faith-in-action program for families and faith communities. Through CRS Rice Bowl, we hear stories from our sisters and brothers in need worldwide, and devote our Lenten prayers, fasting and gifts to change the lives of the poor. In this way we are helping to fulfill our part of the new covenant.

III. Story of Hope: This week’s CRS Rice Bowl Story of Hope takes us to Tanzania, where we are reminded of the important role a community can play in supporting an individual’s work. This takes trust and commitment, two themes apparent in today’s readings. Am I committed to God and to my neighbor? How am I promoting the sacredness and dignity of the human person by participating in CRS Rice Bowl? If you have not picked up your CRS Rice Bowl, you can do so in the vestibule of church. Make this Lent special by following the text inside each box. A Christian life is a covenant life.

IV. Darkness/Sin/Pain/Suffering: St. Peter (1 Peter 3:18-22), on this First Sunday of Lent, emphasizes that Baptism opens our minds and hearts to God and begins in us a whole new consciousness of the God-life offered to us in Christ. Through our Baptism, we participate in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord. Or, as Peter would put it, we are “brought to life in the spirit.”  So we ask ourselves: What is there of darkness and sin in my life that needs to be “brought to life in the Spirit?”  What pain and suffering in my life needs to be seen in the light of Jesus’ suffering and resurrection?

V. Message of Engagement and Reaching Out to the Marginalized: Pope Francis told the world’s Catholic cardinals last Sunday that they cannot become a “closed cast” of prelates who do not turn to the outcast or to those in need. Speaking with some 160 Cardinals from around the world, the Servant of the servants of God outlined for the Cardinals a powerful vision of a Church marked first by “seeking out others and by welcoming them, no matter their situation in life.” He continued, “I urge you to serve Jesus crucified in every person who is marginalized. See the Lord present even in those who have lost their faith, or turned away from the practice of their faith, or who have declared themselves to be atheists. This does not mean underestimating the dangers of letting wolves into the fold,” said the pope. “But it means welcoming the repentance prodigal son; healing the wounds of sin with courage and determination; rolling up our sleeves and not standing by and watching passively the suffering of the world.”
“The way of the Church is not condemning anyone eternally, but to pour out the balm of God’s mercy on all those who ask for it with a sincere heart,” said Francis. “The way of the Church is precisely to leave her four walls behind and to go out in search of those who are distant, those on the ‘outskirts’ of life. In a word, charity cannot be neutral, indifferent, lukewarm or impartial!” Francis exhorted. “Charity is infectious; it excites, it risks and it engages! For true charity is always unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous!” He continued, “Total openness to serving others is our hallmark; it alone is our title of honor!”

In Joy and Hope, Fr. Jerry