11184

Pastor’s Perspective by Fr. Buersmeyer

Pastor’s Perspective is Fr. Buersmeyer’s weekly column. It appears in the parish bulletin and in this space.

 February 25, 2018

*Second Sunday of Lent: The Mountain

 

The first Sunday of Lent brought out the images of the desert and wilderness. The second Sunday of Lent brings us the image of the mountain. Abraham is asked to go to the mountain in Moriah, thinking he will have to sacrifice his son, Isaac. In the gospel Jesus ascends the mountain where he experiences a transfiguration and a taste of the glory that will be his, though he also knows the certainty that he will have to face suffering and death first.

The Church begins the season of Lent with those extremes of desert (where it seems hard to experience the love and nearness of God) and the mountain (where the fullness of God is so tangibly close). In particular, connected to this second Sunday Gospel reading, our glimpses of the glory and fullness of God are always fleeting. Like Peter we want to stay in those moments and their feeling of well-being and peace. But they vanish and the reality of daily life and its struggles re-emerge. It is like the experience of a retreat. Our Confirmation teens are making a retreat this month as part of their preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation. They will experience a closeness to God and one another in a profound way. But then, time to come home and live the reality of family and school and negotiating friend/peer relationships—in other words, the struggles of life. We can never stay on the mountain, though the glimpses of God’s overwhelming love we get while on the mountain help to sustain us in our daily lives.

The second Sunday of Lent proclaims to us that the glory, goodness and overwhelming closeness of God constitutes what is most true about life. But this Sunday’s readings also help us to realize that we are on a journey which will demand sacrifices, taking up crosses, persevering in the midst of suffering. There is no way to succeed on such journeys by being weak of heart, focused only on our own needs and well-being, worried about unimportant things. So we fast and do penance to remind ourselves that so much of what we eat, drink, wear, view, and do is not essential. We take some extra reflective time in prayer so that we do not forget that our relationship with God is the most important reality in life. These two practices give us the strength and courage to reach out to others and witness to justice for others, even when it comes with a cost to our personal well-being and comfort.

Daily life is lived between the desert and mountain, chaos and glory. We need to be strong and persevering in faith to live that daily life well. Lent is a season of grace to help us. If you have not yet, embrace some daily Lenten penance and see where that leads you. Reclaim the Fridays of Lent, especially, and be in solidarity with the whole St. Regis community of faith.

*Immigration Circle of Support Sunday March 4: Who are the Dreamers They Are Talking About?

Last Tuesday the Immigration Circle of Support at St. Regis was able to hear about the experiences of El Salvadorans who have lost their temporary protected status in the United States. If deported, they face the likelihood of gang violence, kidnapping for ransom (because they would have been in the United States they would be considered rich) and other terrible circumstances. The end of protected status would seem to imply that El Salvador’s upheavals have calmed down so that people no longer need to seek refuge elsewhere. That is disputed by the immigrants and by the U.S. Bishops who are on the committee that deals with immigration.

Next Sunday, March 4th at 1:15 pm in the gathering area of the church we will continue our learning about the experiences of immigrants. We hope to hear from some so-called “Dreamers,” people who were brought into the United States without documentation when they were little children and who have since grown up. Now they hold jobs, go to college, seek the same things all young adults do. All they have known is life in the United States and are integral members of our communities. Unless Congress and the President find a way to agree, they face deportation back to Mexico (mainly), a country they have no conscious experience of. In some cases, they do not even speak Spanish all that well.

Join us next Sunday as we explore this facet of the immigration crisis. As with all issues related to immigration, we are taking our approach from the framework Pope Francis and various U.S. Bishops provide. In that way, when these issues touch on political matters, we are not laying down any political philosophy, but focusing on the morality of various actions and proposals. Or, if you cannot make that gathering, join us at our next regularly scheduled meeting on the third Tuesday of the month, March 20.

*Blessing of Homes with Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

A reminder, our Legion of Mary members have initiated an ongoing prayer experience: the blessing of our homes with the enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the home. If you are interested in having that happen, please let the parish office know, and a member of the Legion of Mary will contact you with more information and to set up a date for the blessing/enthronement. On that day, either Deacon Francis or I will come with some members of the Legion of Mary and pray with you and your household.

*Luna at Sunday Masses

I also want to remind everyone that every weekend we are now consecrating the extra host which will be used for the upcoming week’s adoration in the chapel. My hope is that we will begin to appreciate how our Sunday Eucharist is the key for ongoing adoration. What we do on Sunday makes possible the experience of the ongoing presence of Jesus in his Blessed Sacrament during the week. In turn, for those who pray in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament, my hope is that they will say a prayer for the community of St. Regis and have a desire to join us each Sunday for Eucharist. As the Church’s official guidelines on Eucharistic adoration remind us, it is not enough to pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. That prayer is meant to lead us back to a hunger for participating in Sunday Eucharist and to be part of the community that gathers around the altar on Sundays.

*Reclaiming Fridays of Lent

It is never too late to embrace the spirit of the Lenten season. Here at St. Regis we are especially focusing on the Fridays of Lent. In addition to the usual abstinence from meat, we are asking for people to add something else to the day in terms of prayer, fasting or acts of mercy. Then, if possible, to take a few moments sometime between 2-3 pm to pray for the continued renewal of St. Regis Parish, to become even better joyful missionary disciples. For those who are able, we have a Friday evening prayer experience in the church. Join us on Fridays at 6:30 pm.

*Staff Retreat Day at Manresa

At the end of January the parish staff spent a day in prayer/retreat at Manresa Retreat House. We were led through the day by Fr. Howard Gray, one of the retreat directors. The morning consisted of thinking, praying, and talking about the dynamics of discipleship. He gave us some material, including a short article from Fr. Daniel Harrington on that topic (January 29, 2007 issue of America magazine; well worth reading). In that article Fr. Harrington invites us to consider Christian discipleship as a never ending, three-fold process of revelation, recognition of unworthiness, and accepting the call to share in Jesus’ mission and ministry. I think the insights from that article fit well our Lenten journeys.

If we look at how Jesus calls the first disciples/apostles in the gospels, there is a moment of revelation. Think about Luke chapter 5 and the call of Simon Peter. After a miraculous catch of fish, Jesus says “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men [and women].” The fact that this non-fisherman could tell professional fishermen where and how to catch fish, especially after they had been hard at work on it all day and caught nothing, is a sign, a revelation, that this man is sent from God. To be disciples of Jesus—which we are all called to be—means we have to be attentive to the many ways that God is revealing God’s own self to us. Lent becomes a season where we can strip away some of the focus on unimportant priorities through our fasting and penance and be more attentive in prayer to what God is revealing to us.

But for revelation to lead to discipleship a second dynamic has to occur—recognizing and even confessing our unworthiness. In the same gospel story Simon is not just in awe of the catch of fish or thankful for them, he falls to his knees and says “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” It is not so much that Peter has done anything wrong. He is confronted, rather, with the fact that on his own, without God’s help, there is no way he can do what Jesus is asking him to do. He feels deeply his own unworthiness. This is not a false humility but a true experience of the enormity of God’s goodness and what that call of Jesus entails. Lent invites us to a similar humility, to recognize that we are not perfect, in fact, we are sinners and we do harm to ourselves and others by our actions or failure to act. Lent leads us to realize that, without the grace of God, we will not be able to live as we ought.

For discipleship, however, it cannot end simply in self-revelation. It leads to action, to witness, to living the disciple’s life. In the article mentioned above, Harrington points out the verb used for “catching fish” is a peculiar word. It actually means to give life and to keep something/someone alive. That is an odd way to fish! Simon Peter is no longer called to literally catch fish, but is being called to bring life, eternal life, to men and women. There are consequences to the call—leaving home and entering into an uncertain future. But Simon Peter responds by “leaving everything” and following Jesus. Lent encourages us to leave behind the status quo, that which comforts us on an external level, in order to more fully and intentionally follow our Lord.

These are three good areas of reflection for us as we move deeper into the Lenten season. In what situations is the Lord inviting me to live out my discipleship more fully? Think about areas of family life, work life, school, groups and communities we are part of. Second, where do I experience anxiety, worry, doubts about the cost of following Jesus? Third, where am I currently bringing a sign of life, of God’s goodness to others? Where have I seen God at work in my interaction with others?

May God’s Spirit inspire us to “Unleash the Gospel” here at St. Regis Parish, continuing to renew us so that we can be joyful missionary disciples of Jesus.

 

Fr. Buersmeyer