Sorry about Last Week’s Bulletin. One of the casualties of the foot of snow we received the week before last was last Sunday’s bulletin. Our bulletin is printed in Pennsylvania and shipped to us every Friday by air through UPS, so when so many airports closed during the storm last week, and air freight began to back up…. O well. As I write this on Wednesday we are working on mailing the bulletins to you, so I hope you have received them by now. I’m very sorry for the inconvenience. Please remember, the bulletin is always available online on our website.
St. Valentine’s Day Dinner. Last Saturday, February 15, we had a full house for our St. Valentine’s Day Dinner for married and engaged couples. 100 couples attended and a really wonderful time seems to have been had by all. The food was terrific, the entertainment was outstanding, the service was superb and the decorations were beautiful. This is surely to become a new and cherished tradition of St. Raymond’s—although we may have to build a bigger hall to accommodate it in the future! In a time when the true meaning of marriage is being so undermined by our society today, this was great opportunity to support our couples, placing the joy of marital romance and love in the context of the love of Christ and His Church. Many thanks to Bob and Gerri Laird and all those on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Committee for their hard work to make this evening such an outstanding success.
Lent Approaches. Ash Wednesday is only 10 days away, so it’s time to begin thinking about what you will do to keep a holy Lent this year. Next week we will include a full schedule of the parish’s Lenten activities, but I hope you will mark your calendars today for two special events that I hope will help start the season on the right foot:
— Lenten Series: The day after Ash Wednesday, Thursday, March 6, Fr. Paul Scalia will begin a 5 week series of talks on “Praying the Psalms.” The talks will be every night Thursday, at 7:30, until April 3. The first talk, is entitled: “Sing Praises With A Psalm: Introduction to the Psalms.”
— “Mary of Nazareth”: on the first Sunday of Lent, March 9th, 2014 at 1:30pm, St. Raymond’s will be sponsor a special private showing of the movie Mary Of Nazareth at Kingstowne Regal Cinemas. Please see the insert and the article in this bulletin for more details.
Love Your Enemies. In this Sunday’s Gospel we continue our reading of the Sermon on the Mount, and hear Jesus tell us: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” These words of Jesus did not really present a new idea to the Jews of His time, in as much as they were imbedded in the moral teachings of the Old Testament, the 10 Commandments and the moral laws that elaborated on them, in particular the “second great commandment” to “love your neighbor.” But loving your enemy is very difficult, especially without the redeeming grace of Christ and His teachings. So, as Jesus would say elsewhere when questioned about the seemingly new and stricter moral demands of His Gospel: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” [Matt. 19:26]. So with Christ’s grace, and with his teaching, things change: it may be hard to love your enemy, but it is not only not impossible, but it is what we should all strive to do every day.
We all seem to have enemies. And by “enemies” I don’t mean people that we hate, but people who hate or even simply oppose us in some way. So in a certain sense this can apply to any relationship of opposition, from the simple and minor to the complex and important.
We usually see our “important” enemies pretty clearly: a person who hates you for the color of your skin, or who persecutes you because of your faith, or who violently attacks your country or yourself. But we also recognize our enemies in the simpler things of life: your co-worker who undermines your work or reputation to get ahead; an in-law that always treats you disrespectfully; another kid in school who gossips about you. Thus it has always been, in this world full of sin.
But we must still love them all. By the grace of Jesus, we must strive constantly to rise above insult, abuse, pain, and even mortal attack, and not seek to strike back in hatred, or even to let their hatred lead us to hate ourselves, but always responding with love. Our first reaction should be restraint, even, if possible, to turn the other cheek. Of course, sometimes we are compelled to defend ourselves or the innocent, using either words or physically force—but always controlling our words and actions with love and reason. Sometimes love even requires us to correct the other person. And, sometimes, as in the case of defending our country, love requires we use mortal force to protect the innocent—but even then we must love our enemies, using only the force that is reasonable, and tending to the wounds of the fallen. Love is always the measure of all things Christian.
As I mentioned above, this teaching was not really new to the Jews of Jesus’ time, and in a certain sense, it was not new to mankind in general at that time. But because of our fallen nature, it was a moral law easily forgotten, ignored or even despised throughout the ancient world. But Christ and Christianity began to change all that 2000 years ago. Does this mean that Christians have always loved their “neighbor” and their “enemy” as perfectly as they should? No. But by the grace of Christ we can rise above our sins, and must always strive to do so.
Thanks. My sincerest thanks to the scores of folks who expressed their support for me after a certain article about me appeared in the media last Sunday. I was profoundly humbled and strengthened by your kindness and loyalty. Since I have previously written extensively on the subject of the article I have no intension of making further comment, except to say two things: you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the media, especially when it’s about the Catholic Church, and “love your enemies, bless those who persecute you.”
Oremus pro invicem, in caritate Christi. Fr. De Celles