I. Unclean, Unclean! Do we sometimes feel unworthy? Are we our own worst critic? The Old Testament (Jewish Scriptures) in Leviticus 13:1-12, 44-46 paints a picture of separation and loneliness, being unaccepted by the majority because of a physical difference; being unclean in the body by disease. Today’s Scripture reading from 1 Corinthians 10:31—11:1 speaks of the cleanliness of the soul. “Avoid giving offense,” St. Paul says. “be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” Humbly serve God by doing everything for the glory of God. The Gospel from Mark (Chapter 1: 40-45) presents a humble man with leprosy. The man doesn’t ask Jesus to heal him directly, he says, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus cured his illness, but also healed the man’s drooping spirit. How do you feel when you know Jesus has touched you and healed you? How can you in turn be Christ for others?
II. Ash Wednesday & Valentine’s Day: Ashes & Love (the cross and Resurrection), a great meld because in order to experience new life for which we yearn, we have to engage the discipline of self-denial. Fasting (what we eat equals no more than one meal) and Abstinence (no meat) that healthy adults observe, is not to look or feel holy, but to invite—through self denial—inner purification by God. We also do this as an act of solidarity with those throughout the world who have less than we do. If we turn our abstinence into a treat (for example having an a lush fish dinner in place of our ordinary fare) we almost defeat the purpose. Simple meals best reflect the purpose of this practice. Today is Valentine’s Day, enjoy! For Wednesday, February 17th, Ash Wednesday, you will be called to make a sacrifice.
III. Lent: An Evangelization Opportunity—Recent research reveals that half of the adults who have been raised Catholic (52%) leave the church at some point. But 43% of those who think of themselves as “cultural Catholics” can imagine that they might return to the Church at some point in their lives. Our invitation may be an important part of their process. Inviting someone to the Holy Hour on Sundays, the “drive through” Lenten Fish Fry dinner at Blessed Sacrament Chapel on Friday, February 19 and March 26, the Stations of the Cross on Monday evenings and or immediately following Mass on Fridays, That Man Is You (TMIY) for men on Saturday mornings, attending weekday or Sunday Mass, can be a non-threatening way to experience returning to the Catholic community. Never underestimate how God might work through your simple invitation.
I invite YOU to join FORMED.org today and start a Lent and a lifetime of engaging yourself and your family in our Catholic Faith. Please take a moment to review our Lenten Guide included in this bulletin. Why not take a moment to remove it from the bulletin and ut it on your refrigerator?
IV. Ashes—A Call to Repent, A Reminder of our Mortality: You are invited to start the season of Lent by attending Holy Mass, on Ash Wednesday, February 17, which will be celebrated at 7:00 am & 12:00 Noon at the Cathedral, and 6:00 pm at Blessed Sacrament Chapel (7th and Sycamore Streets). Saint Stephen Cathedral will have overflow seating available in the Community Center. Mass can be viewed comfortably and a minister will bring ashes and Holy Communion to the Community Center for Holy Communion and ash distribution. Please note that the distribution of ashes will be different (as is EVERYTHING) during the continuing pandemic. The priest will give the lesson of this day to all the faithful simultaneously, “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” then individually, come forward to be “sprinkled” with the blessed ashes. In other words, a small amount of ashes will be sprinkled on the top of your head. There will be no sign of the cross on your forehead this year.
Historically, the use of ashes as a sign of penance is already found in the Old Testament, and even Jesus speaks of the necessity of some sinners to do penance in sackcloth and ashes (Matthew 11:21). Tertullian, Saints Cyprian, Ambrose, Jerome and Augustine, and many other Church Fathers make a frequent reference to this practice, especially in relationship with the practice of the beginning of public penance for grave sins.
Ashes, a sign of humility, indicate one’s readiness to turn away from sin, and awareness of one’s mortality.
V. BEST LENT EVER—don’t give up chocolate, instead, take a 40-day journey to become the best version of yourself. This year the reflections will be based on Matthew Kelley’s book, “I Heard God Laugh,” which we gifted you at Christmas. The daily videos will be lessons and reflections from each chapter. Watch a short inspirational video, get practical tips and hear encouraging stories. Sign-up today! dynamiccatholic.com/lent. If you did not receive a copy of the book and would like one, please contact the Parish Office.