To keep each other safe and lessen the spread of the coronavirus, we have had to make many adjustments to the level of our participation at Mass. We do not use hymnals because too many hands would be touching them. We have not enjoyed the beauty of music led by our choir as too many droplets would fill the air. We do not exchange a handshake of peace. God’s holy people have not been able to share in the cup of the Lord’s Precious Blood. And it has been a whole year since our fonts at the entrances of our church have been filled with holy water.
We willingly make these sacrifices so that we can continue to worship our God together in person. We remember all too painfully when our churches were empty for nearly three months last year during Lent, Holy Week and Easter. Thankfully, we will be able to celebrate the beautiful liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday this year, with a socially-distanced assembly. There will be additional modifications to these liturgies to keep us all safe. More information on that to come.
I hope that you have missed the Signing of the Cross with holy water as you enter our church. This simple gesture is a powerful reminder that we belong to God and to each other because of our rebirth into the Family of God through the waters of our baptism.
While Lent is about turning back to the Lord through the exercises of prayer, fasting, and works of charity, Lent is also about preparing to renew our Baptismal Promises at Easter Time. Lent is about joining in prayer together for those who will be entering the Catholic Church through the waters of Baptism, the sealing with the chrism of Confirmation, and the receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ. Throughout the world, the Church grows in number on Holy Saturday evening during the celebration of the Rites of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. We embrace our newest members with joy as they inspire us to grow in our own faith.
Over the course of the next four weekends at St Mary Parish, we will have the opportunity to pray with those individuals joining our family of faith at Easter. Tomorrow, we will meet these individuals at the 9:45 am Mass as we celebrate the Rite of Election and Continuing Conversion and promise to pray for our elect and candidates. Just a reminder that the elect are preparing for baptism while the candidates, who have already been baptized in other Christian denominations, are preparing for confirmation. Both the elect and candidates receive Jesus in Holy Communion for the first time at the Easter Vigil.
Then for the next three Sundays, at the 9:45 Mass, we will continue to pray for our elect and candidates, celebrating the Rite of Scrutiny. We join with them in examining our lives and hearts and casting out anything that prevents us from growing in holiness. Hopefully, you and I will begin to recognize the faces of these wonderful people who are joining our family of faith.
Mindful of them, we, who have been baptized, are preparing to renew our baptismal promises at Easter. Do you reject sin? Do you believe in God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Do you believe in the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
Here are some additional questions that are good to pray over during these Lenten days in preparation for the renewing of our baptismal commitment. A thank you is in order to Fr Bob Reiser, SJ, for the following:
- Do you accept Jesus as your teacher, as the example whom you will always imitate and as the one in whom the mystery of God’s love for the world has been fully revealed?
- Do you dedicate yourself to seeking the reign of God and God’s justice, to praying daily, to meditating on the Gospels and to celebrating the Eucharist faithfully and devoutly?
- Do you commit yourself to that spirit of poverty and detachment that Jesus enjoined on his disciples, and to resisting the spirit of consumerism and materialism that is so strong in our culture?
- Do you accept responsibility for building community, for being a person of compassion and reconciliation, for being mindful of the poor and the oppressed, and for truly forgiving those who have offended you?
- Will you try to thank and praise God by your works and by your actions, in times of prosperity as well as in moments of suffering, giving loyal witness to the risen Jesus by your faith, by your hope, and by the style of your living?
- Do you surrender your life to God as a disciple and companion of Jesus? Do you believe that God is the Lord of history, sovereign over nations and peoples, and that God’s promise to redeem all of creation from its bondage to death and decay will one day be accomplished?
Let us all say, “I do!”
Father Bill +