From Our Pastor ~ 5 April 2015 ~ Easter Sunday

From Our Pastor ~ 5 April 2015 ~ Easter Sunday

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Please receive our best wishes for Easter joy and blessings to you and your families during these happy days of Easter. The Lord is risen, indeed, and we are changed.

Throughout these Holy Days of Jesus’ passion, and death and resurrection, we have found a continuing theme and profound reflection on the power of remembrance.

At the Last Supper, Jesus’ own words are “Do this in remembrance of me,” and we spoke about how Jesus’ own understanding of that word is quite different from our way of remembering an event or feeling in our lives. The power of our memory, with sacramental grace, makes the event not happen again, but the “present moment” when that event happened is made really present to us now, at this moment in time. Of course, Jesus knew what he was doing. When he says “This is my body,” it is not only at that evening hour before his arrest that it happened. God is not limited by time, and what God does, God does once, for all time. All moments are saturated by God’s eternal moment. Our humanity is forever saturated by Jesus’ desire for Communion with us, changed by his being really present—“present” in the sense of the word meaning both here and now.

It continues on Good Friday. Having received recently the new translation of the Mass, there is a word that we use now that we didn’t use before, the word “conciliation.” It is an interesting word, given in definition as “the action of stopping someone from being angry, placation,” or “the action of mediating between two disputing persons or groups.” The prayers of the Mass always refer to the Eucharist as the act of conciliation, that which could not have occurred in absence of Jesus’ offering of himself on Calvary, for us and for our salvation. For you. Once again, our memory, combined with sacramental grace, makes this moment now: both in Eucharist and in confession. Our work is a work of re-membering, e-presenting, re-conciliation. It is the work of union with God.

This mystery of our memory is something that is most undeveloped as an integral part of our spirituality. Memory requires prior experience, it also requires a desire to recall. Maybe I’m just getting older, but I seem to hold onto the things that I know I must remember, and don’t retain so readily the mundane details, routine minutiae of everyday life. Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas  Aquinas, however, give much importance to the memory. Without it, both say, we could not be fully human. It is likely one of the things that sets us apart from “lower forms” of life, the ability to  learn, to apply knowledge to circumstances in the form of wisdom, helping us to not make the same mistakes over and over. But also to do the good and noble things of our exalted humanity over and over! Imagine how frustrating it might be to glimpse the truth only once, and know that it was gone from that moment forward.

Today I think about my Uncle John: he is in memory care in Kansas City. He remembers his family. The last time I visited I loaded a bunch of 50 year old family photos in my phone. He was delighted
to see them and remembered all of them and told many stories. But he can’t tell you what day it is, or what he had, or even if he had, breakfast. He forgets that you came to see him and is pleasantly
surprised while you are sitting there with him: “When did you get here?,” he smiles.

All his life he went to Mass every day. It was the most important thing to him. And he took Communion every day to people in nursing homes. Now, at Villa Saint Francis, he goes to Mass every day still. They tell me he knows every prayer, sings all the hymns, finds moments of great peace in the middle of days that are confusing and frustrating for him, as he realizes he is losing his grip on memory. If you ask him, he can never tell you whether he went to Mass or not that day, though he did. But notice, he hasn’t lost his grip on the present moment, only of his memory of it.

Of course, when we are in heaven, everything (and I mean everything) is now, everything we have ever or will ever know. There will be no need of memory, it will all be the moment of blinding flash, joy of new life. It will be fresh morning and empty tombs, all will be alive and all potential will be fulfilled. The moment of sacrament, a song that fills our senses and a complete peace we have never known—there will be no longer past and future.

But for now, we are people of hope, living in a prayer and a song we call to mind, a memory of God’s great love for us in Jesus. Alleluia!

God bless you.

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ 29 March 2015

Express Announcements ~ 29 March 2015

* Several additional opportunities for confession have been scheduled this week: Holy Week Monday through Wednesday at 7pm, and between Noon and 3 on Good Friday. There will be no confessions after 3pm on Good Friday.

*  Please make note of our annual Easter Sunday schedule, which is very different. The Church permits only one Vigil, ours will be Holy Saturday night from 8:30–11:30pm. There is no 5pm or 7pm Mass on Holy Saturday. We then joyfully welcome more than 9,000 people to three beautiful Masses on Easter Sunday at the Fredericksburg Expo Center,  8am, 10:15am and 12:30pm. There are no Masses in the church on Easter Sunday, and no afternoon and evening Masses after the 12:30pm Mass.

* Remember someone you love, either living or deceased, with a donation for our beautiful Easter Flowers. Envelopes are available in your envelope packets, in the Church and in the Parish Office.

* SCRIP is on sale this weekend in the Parish Life Center after most Masses. Please use SCRIP and help our school.

From Our Pastor ~ 29 March 2015

From Our Pastor ~ 29 March 2015

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

Our daffodils decided to bloom for Confirmation this year. Each year I marvel at how those things continue to return, even know how to continue to come back each year. When we were kids, we would wait for the crops to break through the ground, suddenly there would be the slightest green tint to the black soil when we knew that the seeds had sprouted. There is a gardener in each of us, I believe,whether we have a green thumb or not: all of us are called to bring forth new life.

It is the perfect meditation for us this Sunday, especially, as we reflect on the offering that Jesus makes for us in his passion, death and resurrection with the Gospel of Palm Sunday.

Have you ever wondered about the miracle of a seed? It is planted into the earth, the shell of the seed breaks open, a new plant sprouts. Somehow locked inside that seed is the potential of producing maybe dozens of seasons each with thousands of seeds many times over. It has some kind of software in there that knows exactly how the new tree will sprout, grow, anticipate weather and seasons, bloom. It is uniquely its own. It relies upon the environment in which it is planted to survive.

Jesus uses this image about himself, we heard it last weekend in preparation for the proclamation of the Passion this Sunday: unless a grain of wheat falls upon the ground and dies, it remains but a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit… In this way, Jesus entered the earth in his Incarnation, and finally when the fullness of time came he broke open like a seed, on the cross, and all this life came out. The new life that came out is you and me.

Consider Jesus’ image, for a moment. He uses the word “dies” because from our human perspective the seed, as such, ceases to be a seed. But in reality, it has become the end that God really intended for it: life itself. Everything that the new plant is, it owes to the seed who continues to live through it, with it, in it. Do you see where I am going with this? “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, Almighty Father, forever.” The process of planting life requires the seed, and continues forever with  the same imprint of God’s creative design in the generations of our own humanity. What comfort this can be to those who have lost parents: they live, we are because they gave us life, but that gift has never ended, and they continue to live in us. It is a communion that goes much deeper than mere DNA.

If you will, now allow this meditation to go one step further. For many years I have been frustrated with myself, and I have listened to other peoples’ frustration: however much we try, how hard it is to seek that kind of perfection that belongs to Jesus! Aren’t we supposed to, in a certain sense, become him? It is a level of courage, of humility, of love that goes beyond my limits, however I try.

The fact is, no matter how much we try and fail, we will never have what it takes to become Jesus by our own efforts. Perhaps this is a new look at the whole idea of Justification. I can’t make myself become Jesus. But, as his seed, his dying on the cross, has given me life, he has chosen to become me. Everything I have, I have received from my Father; everything the Father has given to me, I give to you… We are who we are by a special divine DNA from God himself. It is beyond our wildest imagination.

One further thought, it can’t become more literal than it is, right? He chooses to become the Passover meal—the ritual of Passover from death which is the Last Supper united to the Cross on Good Friday—so that we might receive him,the nourishment that gives us life and grows us into new life. We are made one with him in his Cross, we are seeds planted at baptism, to break open with him in offering our life to God the Father through Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus, so that this life might also break forth and produce fruit a thousand thousands-fold.

Join us this week as we pass, with Jesus, from death to life. The three sacred observances of the Last Supper (Holy Thursday), the Passion of Jesus and Veneration of his Cross (Good Friday) and his Resurrection at Easter are, once and for all, the celebration of who we are in Christ Jesus our LORD. There are no more beautiful and moving liturgies at any other time during the Church year. You are welcome.

God bless you.

Fr. Don

Express Announcements ~ 22 March 2015

Express Announcements ~ 22 March 2015

* Several additional opportunities for confession have been scheduled this week: Tuesday through Friday starting at 7pm. Confessions will continue Holy Week Monday through Wednesday at 7, and between Noon and 3 on Good Friday. There will be no confessions after 3pm on Good Friday.

* Please make note of our annual Easter Sunday schedule, which is very different. The Church permits only one Vigil, ours will be Holy Saturday night from 8:30–11:30pm. There is no 5pm or 7pm Mass on Holy Saturday. We then joyfully welcome more than 9,000 people to three beautiful Masses on Easter Sunday at the Fredericksburg Expo Center, 8am, 10:15am and 12:30pm. There are no Masses in the church on Easter Sunday, and no afternoon and evening Masses after the 12:30pm Mass.

* Don’t forget the final Lenten Ecumenical Prayer Service and Lunch, this Wednesday at noon at Fredericksburg Baptist Church: Rev. Aaron Dobynes, pastor of Shiloh Old Site Baptist Church, is preaching.

* Remember someone you love, either living or deceased, with a donation for our beautiful Easter Flowers. Envelopes are available in your envelope packets, in the Church and in the Parish Office.

* SCRIP is on sale this weekend in the Parish Life Center after most Masses. Please use SCRIP and help our school.