Feast of St. Vincent of Saragossa, Deacon and Protomartyr of Spain
My Dear Ones in Christ,
Our Gospel reading this week contains the first words of Jesus’ public ministry:
“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Repent. The Greek word that is translated into English as “repent” is metanoia. It expresses more than just sorrow for one’s actions, but, more importantly, it signifies an intentional turning away from the things that have caused us to sin. It stands to reason, I believe, that if one is turning away from something, does it not also indicate that one is turning towards something else? In this same chapter from Mark, Jesus calls Andrew, Peter, James and John to come follow Him. In both cases, Jesus’ call was met with an immediate response from these two sets of brothers. They turned away from their livelihood, possessions and perhaps even family in order to turn toward the One who was calling them to a new life. I want to believe that these are metanoia days in a number of different ways. I want to believe that, as I prepare myself for the upcoming days of Lent, I can be consciously turning away from all that has caused me to be less than the person and priest that God has been calling me to be. I desire to be investing sincere effort in the work of turning towards the Lord again and, in gazing upon His life and example, I can become more and more what He is calling me to be. I need to turn away from everything that has hardened my heart … and turn again towards Christ. I need to turn away from everything that has caused me to disrespect others even within the silence of my thoughts … and turn again towards Christ. I need to turn away from any voice that tempts me to be less than the Christian God calls me to be … and turn again towards Christ. I need to turn away from clinging to any place of unforgiveness in my heart against any other person … and turn again towards Christ. I recognize that in that turning away from sin I must accompany the action with a sincere sorrow, a sorrow that recognizes that I, in my sin, have brought a level of disgrace and sorrow to the very heart of the Lord, and from that, too, I must repent. So, I pray that each of you will join with me in embracing these as metanoia days, and that our lives will be deeply enriched as we turn once again towards Christ.
In last week’s email, I shared with you that all pastors were awaiting word from Bishop Weisenburger concerning Ash Wednesday. His directives to us are pretty straightforward, and they have very little if any impact on the way we’ve been doing things here at Cabrini. First of all, I need to remind you that Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, but it is an important beginning to the season of Lent and holds a very special place in the hearts of a great many of God’s people. Therefore, I will invite you to observe Ash Wednesday much the same way as we observe our drive-through reception of Holy Communion. You will line up in your cars in the parking lot and approach the place where I normally greet you to distribute Holy Communion. I will be in my usual place while a lay member of our community will be standing across from me. Please drive between where we’re standing and roll down your windows. We will confer ashes upon your forehead using a Q-tip dipped into the blessed ashes (one Q-tip per person!). If there are multiple people in the car, just roll down the window closest to you, and between our lay minister and myself we should be able to sign all of you with ashes. An earlier directive said something to the effect that the words normally said during the imposition of ashes do not need to be said for each person in situations such as we find ourselves these days. However, I believe it’s important that those ancient words are said again as they remind us of all that Lent is supposed to be about. “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” or, “Turn away from your sins and be faithful to the Gospel.”
It’s been a very momentous week in our nation’s history, with high emotions on display all around. Still, my ongoing prayer is that God’s people will become more and more those true agents of genuine peace whose prayers for the common good of all people will help our nation to heal and move forward into a hope-filled future. We never do a wrong thing when we pray for others. So, please join me in prayer for all of our elected officials, for this new administration, and for all those thousands of men and women who diligently work behind the scenes in the administration of government, that their sincere efforts on a daily basis can yield positive fruit for the good of all.
Have a good week! I look forward to seeing many of you this Saturday at 5:00 p.m. for drive-through distribution of Holy Communion. It really is becoming one of the highlights of my week!
May the gentle Christ’s peace be with all of you.