Apologies and Penance. The last week or so I’ve been dealing with a pretty nasty cold. I was basically out of commission for 4 days, and since then have been slowed by fatigue and a lingering cough. (I’m doing better, thanks to your prayers!) Unfortunately, this comes on top of trying to catch up after being away a few weeks ago. I apologize for any inconvenience this might have caused anyone, directly or indirectly, including canceled meetings, unanswered emails or phone calls, etc.… I will try to catch up with things asap.
My little cold has caused me to have to put “on hold” some of my Lenten acts of penance. As I was thinking about this it seemed to me the Lord had replaced my chosen penances with His own penance. His penance worked in many ways, the least of which were the minor sufferings of this ailment. But more importantly it worked to force me, once again, to learn to accept His will and trust in His power—“when I am weak, then I am strong.” As he temporarily diminishes my ability to work as hard and to run things as I would like, the Lord reminds me that He is working harder than me and ultimately He is running everything.
And even more importantly, this penance reminds me that none of the Lenten penances we choose for ourselves does much good if they don’t teach us and prepare us to “pick up the cross” God has already given us. For example, what good is giving up dessert after meals, if we refuse to lovingly and trustingly accept the difficulties of everyday life, e.g., problems with troubled family members, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or illness, etc.? Each of us has something in our lives we’re struggling with, whether small or large. How do we deal with it? Do we complain constantly? Or perhaps reluctantly accept it as inevitable? Or do we try to recognize that in some way in His holy plan for the salvation of the world Jesus has given us this cross to carry for some good reason? Perhaps He will use it to draw us closer to Him, or make us stronger in some way, or show a good example for others, or bring out the good in others who have to help us. We may never know why, but we must trust that God has a plan, and then imitate Jesus, picking up the cross he gives us as he once picked up His own Cross. Remember: he didn’t want to suffer, and begged His Father to take away the Cross. But He also accepted His Father’s will and went to the Cross not accepting it with complaining reluctance as an unavoidable inevitability but with loving conviction that this was a great and necessary thing.
All of the penances we choose for ourselves this Lent should lead us back to this: to more fully recognize the meaning of both the Cross of Christ and the crosses He gives us to carry every day.
Justice Scalia’s Funeral. One of the hardest aspects to accept about this little divine penance was that I was too sick to concelebrate Justice Antonin Scalia’s funeral Mass last Saturday (Fr. Kenna was able to, thank God). But in His mercy, God allowed me to watch the Mass on television, most especially to see and hear Fr. Paul Scalia give one of the best funeral homilies I’ve ever heard. I was very proud of him, and amazed at the grace God gave him to not only speak so profoundly, but retain a peaceful disposition throughout the whole Mass. If you haven’t heard the homily, I strongly recommend you do so. Both the transcript and the video are available on our website (www.straymonds.org).
The homily began with these words: “We are gathered here because of one man. A man known personally to many of us, known only by reputation to even more; a man loved by many, scorned by others; a man known for great controversy, and for great compassion. That man, of course, is Jesus of Nazareth. It is He Whom we proclaim: Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, buried, risen, seated at the right hand of the Father. It is because of Him, because of His life, death and resurrection that we do not mourn as those who have no hope, but in confidence we commend Antonin Scalia to the mercy of God.”
Of course, he had rhetorically set us up to think the “one man” he was talking about, the one man they were “gathered here because of” at the funeral, was his deceased father, Antonin Scalia. Which is what most people tend to think funerals are about—celebrating the life of our deceased loved one. But they are not, at least not for Catholics. Funerals are about Jesus Christ, as Fr. Scalia forcefully explains. It is Christ who is our Savior, and it Christ whom we turn to and beg to have mercy on the deceased, who like all of us, is a sinner in need of Christ’s salvific mercy. This is true of the great Antonin Scalia, and it is true of all of us when we die.
This is why there were no eulogies at the funeral Mass. In the words of Justice Scalia himself: “Even when the deceased was an admirable person—indeed especially when the deceased was an admirable person—praise for his virtues can cause us to forget that we are praying for and giving thanks for God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner.”
Lent is a time when we remember Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection in a particular way. Like a funeral Mass, it refocuses our minds and hearts on the fact that we are all sinners and that Christ has died for our sins. And it reminds us that life is not about having a really good time and being praised by others, but about being truly good all the time and joining others in praising God.
Let us continue to pray for the soul of our brother Antonin, and for the consolation of his family. And pray for our nation as we struggle with the mighty task of choosing his successor in office.
Lenten Series. This Thursday, March 3, at 7:30 pm, Fr. Mark Pilon continues his Lenten Series, “Mercy – Another Name for Love.” This week’s topic will be: “Mercy in Relation to Justice and Truth.” You need not have attended last week’s talk to come this week—please join us!
Snow and Collections. On a more mundane note, I call to your attention that on the blizzard weekend of January 24 our Sunday collection was (understandably) only $2,368.00, or $25,254 less than the previous year. In the subsequent 4 weeks you generously made up part of that loss, but we are still down $11,000. Thank you for you continued support, and anything you can do to help “make up” this deficit. And remember that using Faith Direct helps avoid situations like this.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles