During these weeks of Lent, we’ve been preparing ourselves through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving so that we might open ourselves more fully to God’s presence in our lives. This has been a journey. So here we are now on Palm Sunday, hearing the story of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem, his passion and his death. It’s a story we’ve heard many times before. We know how it begins and how it ends. But I invite you to consider experiencing Jesus’ journey, passion, death, and resurrection this Holy Week.
Today, like the crowds of Jesus’ time, we carry palms and praise him but during the Passion we are reminded that we are all sinners in need of God’s salvation. Today put your palms in a place that will be a constant reminder of your journey from the darkness of sin to God’s eternal light.
In Monday’s gospel, we hear the story of Jesus’ meal with Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. Judas the Iscariot criticizes Jesus for allowing Mary to use a costly perfumed oil to anoint his feet when it could have been sold “for three hundred days wages and given to the poor.” Jesus responds, “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.” This is our reminder that we will never lack opportunities to give ourselves in imitation of Jesus to serve the poor. This week share more of your God-given gifts to help those in need.
In John’s account of the Last Supper in Tuesday’s gospel, Jesus announces that one of his disciples will betray him, leaving them all asking, “Is it I?” We know how the story goes: Judas betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. But, really, haven’t we all betrayed Jesus at one time or another in our lives? Today, identify and resolve to overcome those behaviors that betray God.
In Wednesday’s gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples to prepare a place for the Passover meal, his Last Supper. Today is a good day to reflect on how this Lenten journey has helped us prepare a room for Jesus in our lives. Identify what worked and how you can continue that practice beyond Easter.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist, the sacrament in which we receive his body and blood, and the priesthood through the washing of the disciples’ feet. This evening we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (7:00pm), a beautiful liturgy that reminds us of our call to be Jesus’ disciples, washing the feet of others in service and receiving the life giving food that sustains us in that service. This evening is a good opportunity to renew or commit to being a true disciple of Jesus.
Our Holy Week journey continues to Good Friday, the day Jesus suffered and died. Make a commitment to experience the Lord’s passion by attending one of our Good Friday liturgies (12:00 or 7:00pm) and the Living Stations of the Cross (1:45pm). Reflect today on how you have grown closer to God through your experience of physical or emotional suffering.
Holy Saturday is the night in which God turned death to life. Appropriately, at the Easter Vigil, we baptize new Christians and accept them into full communion with the church. Through the waters of baptism, they “die” to their old life and joyfully join themselves to Christ, to new life. If you’ve never been to an Easter Vigil, I invite you next Saturday (7:30pm). This night discern what needs to die in your life so that you may be joined more fully with Christ.
By experiencing Holy Week and allowing ourselves to enter into Jesus’ suffering, we can truly experience the joy of Easter Sunday when resurrected life begins, when love and light triumph over sin and darkness. At our Easter morning liturgy, the “Alleluia” will never sound so good or be more profound in our hearts.
Faith Life Minister
Help our school! St. Mary Magdalen School, transitional kindergarten (TK) through grade 8, earns money by collecting Box Tops. Each box top is worth 10 cents. This is an easy and great way to help our school earn money. Please collect your box tops and turn them into the parish office.
I want to share some thoughts and reflections with you about our worship, an important part of which is singing together – all of us! We’ve heard Fr. Patrick on several occasions encourage us to sing at mass. He’s even cited Scriptures where God commands us to do so. Yet some of us still are reluctant, or uncomfortable, and sing very softly, or maybe not at all.
Have you noticed how the singing of the National Anthem at sporting events has changed over the years? It used to be that everyone in the stadium stood, put their hand over their heart, and sang, perhaps accompanied by the organ at Dodger Stadium, or by a marching band at a football game. But how often do we see that now? Almost never. Instead, the singing of the National Anthem has become an event at which one person performs for the rest of us. S/he sings, and we stand there with our hands over our hearts (maybe) and then applaud. The next day we take to social media and dissect the performance.
Shows like “The Voice” and “American Idol” reinforce the notion that singing is a specialized activity reserved only for the chosen few. But this is a very recent development in human history and one that I think robs us of our ownership of and our comfort with communal singing and its beneficial effects. Singing together in community can lower blood pressure, relieve stress, reduce heart rate, and cause endorphins to be released that create a sense of wellbeing.
It is not necessary that the singing be perfect, just that it be together. Fr. Patrick recently reminded us that all of God’s commandments are intended for our benefit because God loves us. I’m sure the commandment to sing our praises to God is no exception.
Perhaps bearing in mind that we are singing primarily for the God who created us, who loves us, and who knows us better than we know ourselves – and who has commanded us repeatedly in the Scriptures to do so – can help us. A shift in our perception of the different roles at mass may be called for here.
I think many of us have the notion that we are the audience; that the priest, lector, cantors, servers, deacons, etc. are the performers; and that God is the “executive producer” of the show. But the truth is that God is the Audience and that all of us are called to be performers for one another’s benefit and for God’s pleasure. Of course it is also true that the mass is the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest offered to the Father by the Holy Spirit. And it is also still true that Jesus Christ is present at mass in the person of the priest, in the proclaimed Word of God, in the Eucharist . . . and, yes, in the gathered Body of Christ – you and me and all of us.
Last weekend’s responsorial psalm asked “how could we sing a song of the LORD in a foreign land?” The Chosen People had been exiled from the Promised Land to Babylon and one of the ways their captors there tormented them was by asking them to “sing the songs of Zion.” They thought back longingly to the temple in Jerusalem where they worshipped the LORD, singing together in happier days.
Maybe those of us who still feel resistance to the idea of singing at all, particularly in a way where anyone else can hear us, could step out in faith and just try, this Lent and Easter season, to move beyond our comfort zone for the sake of the worship the Lord asks us for. It could transform the experience of celebrating the liturgy together for all of us.
Dear friends on the journey,
Think back to your childhood. What was your image of God when you were a kid? Now go to your teen or college years. What was your image or impression of God then? Was it any different from your early childhood? What did God mean for you at that time?
What’s your image of God today, as an adult? Has it evolved from your early years? Or is it the same? Is your grownup image a God one of judgement and harshness? Or is yours a loving God? I really hope this is the case and if not, if you feel only judgment from God, I encourage you to stop and reflect on why that is your image of God. Where does that come from? How can your image of God transition to one only of love and generosity?
Today’s gospel is an excellent place to start. It includes probably the most referenced scripture passage of all time, John 3:16 which says: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. The passage goes on to say that Jesus was sent not to condemn the world but to save the world and he does this by death on the cross. He is the truth and the light. This is good news. No, this is fantastic news!
My image of God has certainly evolved over the course of my life and through my ever-deepening relationship with God. Sometimes I have this image of God like a parent who, when her child or teen does something stupid, just lowers her head and shakes it in disbelief. God must have done that with the Israelites, as we read in the first reading.
I’m sure he did that with the apostles and the early Christians and no doubt with us now. But then I picture God chuckling and wrapping his arms around us, knowing our imperfections and offering forgiveness anyway. Jesus did that for us. His crucifixion offers us the way to salvation and not just a few but all of us. We don’t need to earn it; we just need to respond. Our acceptance of this free gift is choosing to believe that, despite our imperfections, brokenness, occasional wrong decisions, God’s love is unconditional. We don’t have to wait to be perfect, happy, mature, rich, smart or have our stuff together in order to be in relationship with God. He wants us here and now so he can wrap his arms around us in forgiveness, comfort and love.
Most often we talk about God’s love for us collectively. To be quite honest, only in the last couple of years did I have a true personal realization that Jesus died for me. I hope you believe this about yourself too: he died for you. Look at the gospel again and read it to yourself:
For God so loved me that he gave his only Son, so that I will believe and not perish and have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn me, but that I might be saved through him.
If we believe this and accept God’s gift of salvation through Jesus, then we have to come out of the darkness and live in the light. As we come towards the end of Lent and prepare for Holy Week, let us all examine our image of God, our personal relationship with God, and our own dark areas. What is the Good Friday of our lives that needs God’s light and love? It’s there for each and everyone of us. Don’t wait.
Faith Life Minister
Dear Faith Family,
Today our Confirmation Year 2 teens embarked on our Confirmation retreat. This year, we had a new date and a new venue (Gindling Hilltop in Malibu), but the same mission: To allow the teens to encounter Christ and to advocate discipleship. I believe that we were successful.
I have been blessed to watch this encounter for almost a decade and it never ceases to move and motivate my spiritual life as well. With the help of the testimonies of our peer, young adult and adult leaders, the goofy ice breakers and the participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament I can honestly say that vibrant evangelization is at the forefront of our retreat.
Every retreat there seems to be, what we call in Youth Ministry, the “retreat high” and there is no doubt in my mind that our teens are currently feeling this. This tends to happen when you fall in love, or realize that someone loves you. This is what happens at most retreats; the realization of God’s love and the reciprocation of it tend to lead to this feeling.
Let us pray that after this retreat the understanding of God’s love is held onto, especially after the “retreat high” subsides. God’s love isn’t conditional, and it is there even in our busyness and our failure to recognize it.
With that said, it is still important to go on those “dates” with God, to reignite the feeling. For this Lenten season, I challenge you all to take time to spend with God. It doesn’t have to be a retreat (but if you can, go for it), but maybe time in the chapel, silent time in scripture or even listening to some music that resounds God’s love for us.
I also wanted to take this time to thank all of you who donated to our Peer Leader Retreat Fund. It was because of you we were able to send all 40 of all our leaders at a reduced cost.
Your generosity always amazes me and on behalf of the leaders, I’d like to say that we are truly blessed to have such a strong parish family that truly cares for each other.
Youth and Young Adult Minister