Today is Mercy Sunday when we celebrate God’s merciful love for us: the Father promises to forgive all our sins because his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, has died on the Cross and has now risen from the dead. Jesus Christ is the Incarnation of the Father’s merciful love. Merciful Love Incarnate! This is what gives us hope in eternal life in heaven.
Our parish has experienced God’s mercy too! Two and a half years ago one of the cornices fell off the church building. We thank God that no one was hurt and that no cars were damaged. God’s angels held the cornice up until everyone cleared out from the 5 pm Sunday vigil Mass. But this event helped us realize, after inspecting the exterior of the whole church with an engineer—the safety issues and repairs needed for St. Mary of the Angels. And the Holy Spirit then moved the parishioners of St. Mary of the Angels to raise over $1 million in cash and pledges. We spent $150,000 for emergency repairs—securing similar cornices, wrapping our cupolas in canvas, our north tower and parts of the façade in steel mesh—leaving about 1 million dollars for building restoration.
Last November we launch our For All Generations campaign. Our school and C.C.D. children have been praying for this campaign and have written to about 30 convents of priests, brothers, and nuns around the country who have responded to these requests by their prayers and Masses for this campaign, even sending us monetary help for our parish. During the silent phase we have added another 1.5 million dollars from about 60 pledges and donations. This means we are currently at 2.5 million dollars in pledges and donations for the permanent restoration of our church. Thank you for your prayers and for these generous initial donors.
With our $3 million Phase I goal within sight—which will restore the north tower, put new bathrooms on the church level, restore the façade, four cupolas, and parapet wall—we are making our in pew appeal for our For All Generations campaign.
We are doing this for our Blessed Mother, Mary, so that the church in her honor may continue to bless her… For All Generations. We realize the church was built over 100 years ago by a generation of faith-filled Polish immigrants. Now we wish to continue their generosity so as to leave this legacy For All Generations to come.
Besides telling us in her Magnificat prayer that we shall bless her for all generations, Mary encourages us that “his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). And since our Lord challenges us in his Sermon of the Mount: “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36), each one of us needs to show—with our gifts, talents and prayers—our mercy to others and to the church. Our For All Generations campaign is an opportunity to do just that… to show mercy and to further receive God’s mercy—God is never outdone in generosity.
I ask you to consider a generous and merciful gift to restore St. Mary of the Angels to the glory due her name. As you do, entrust your loved ones to Our Lady through the Memorare Legacy—anything you do for her and for the church in her honor she will remember and intercede for your intention.
Fr. John R. Waiss
In today’s first Gospel, we reenact our Lord’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, when he rides in triumphantly, seated on a donkey. This was foreshadowed when David had his son Solomon mount his royal donkey and ride into Jerusalem to take possession of his kingship. So now God the Father has his Son mount a donkey so as to ride into Jerusalem to take possession of his eternal kingship. Also this would fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on an ass, on a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9).
St. Josemaría loved this scene of the Gospel, where Christ manifests his humility by riding the gentle donkey. He would imagine himself as that beast of burden, offering his King the use of his life and strength: “If Jesus’ reign in my soul, in your soul, meant that he should find it a perfect dwelling place, then indeed would we have reason to despair. But ‘fear not, daughter of Sion; beloved, your king is coming, sitting on an ass’ colt’ (John 12:15). Don’t you see? Jesus makes do with a poor animal for a throne. I don’t know about you; but I am not humiliated to acknowledge that in the Lord’s eyes I am a beast of burden: ‘I am like a donkey in your presence, but I am continually with you. You hold my right hand’ (Psalm 72:23), you take me by the bridle” (Christ Is Passing By, 181). Let’s let Christ reign over us through our work and study, in our friendships and family relationships. Christ reigns by offering him our life in service, just as did that donkey for Christ.
The second Gospel—the Passion of our Lord—also is about Christ’s kingship. Christ marches into Jerusalem in order to be enthroned on the Cross. As St. Josemaría writes in the Way of the Cross:
“Sentence is about to be passed. Mockingly, Pilate says: Ecce rex vester! Behold your king! (John 19:14). Infuriated, the chief priests reply: We have no king but Caesar (John 19:15)… Offering no resistance, Jesus gives himself up to the execution of the sentence. He is to be spared nothing, and upon his shoulders falls the weight of the ignominious cross. But, through love, the Cross becomes the throne from which he reigns…
“Lord, where are your friends? Your subjects, where are they? They have left you. This running away has been going on for twenty centuries… We, all of us, flee from the Cross, from your Holy Cross.
“Blood, anguish, loneliness and an insatiable hunger for souls… these are the courtiers around your royal throne” (From station 1, meditation 4 and station 2)
Have a Blessed Holy Week!
Continuing with Pope Francis’
Lenten Message we read:
«The Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.
Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbor as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church! For this reason, I echo Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to take up a collection for the community of Jerusalem as something from which they themselves would benefit (cf. 2 Cor 8:10). This is all the more fitting during the Lenten season, when many groups take up collections to assist Churches and peoples in need. Yet I would also hope that, even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God himself. When we give alms, we share in God’s providential care for each of his children. If through me God helps someone today, will he not tomorrow provide for my own needs? For no one is more generous than God.
Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbor. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.
I would also like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!
… Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.
During the Easter Vigil, we will celebrate once more the moving rite of the lighting of the Easter candle. Drawn from the “new fire”, this light will slowly overcome the darkness and illuminate the liturgical assembly. “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds,” and enable all of us to relive the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.
With affection and the promise of my prayers for all of you, I send you my blessing. Please do not forget to pray for me.»
Fr. John R. Waiss
Christians should be on fire with God’s love, filled with the charity that overflows with deeds of kindness that confer joy and peace. The fire of God’s love should move us to reach out to others in their need and to share with them the Good News and everything else good we have received from God.
Yet our Lord warns us: “Because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). We don’t want to be among those whose love has grown cold. As Pope Francis says:
«In his description of hell, Dante Alighieri pictures the devil seated on a throne of ice, in frozen and loveless isolation. We might well ask ourselves how it happens that charity can turn cold within us. What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?
More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments. All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbor who does not live up to our expectations.
Creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity. The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration. The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing his praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.
Love can also grow cold in our own communities. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I sought to describe the most evident signs of this lack of love: selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal» (Message for Lent 2018).
The Pope points out many things that can cause our love to grow cold: love for money and greed, which turn money, possessions, and pleasures into our god, whereby we reject and replace God with an idol of our own creation. The god of greed cannot give us the happiness and peace for which we long, but causes us to lay into others with violence in order to force them into serving the god of selfishness. Euthanasia and abortion, xenophobia and racism often arise from “the root of all evil”—the god of greed.
Chosen isolation can also cause our hearts to grow cold. How many people go into their room and close the door to escape from opportunities to love and serve others? They escape into music, TV, computer games, news sites, or social media, which is often really unsocial. Some find pornography and masturbation their ultimate “relief,” which conveys the message: “God I don’t need you to be happy… by doing this I can make myself happy. I don’t need another person to be happy… I can do it myself.” Certainly this act of isolation gives rise to loneliness, self-absorption, and sterile pessimism.
Lent can be a great opportunity to get out of ourselves and to embrace the fire of God’s love. This fire, though, must radiate outwards in deeds of love and service toward others. So, take advantage of this time of Lent to do something in service of the poor, the elderly, or the needy in any way.
Fr. John R. Waiss
When the apostles asked our Lord about the time when the destruction of Jerusalem would occur. Jesus answers them indirectly, weaving in comments about the end of the world, saying:
“And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:10-13)
In his message for Lent this year, Pope Francis focuses on “because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.” The Pope wants us all “to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.”
The Pope first warns us about false prophets who,
«can appear as “snake charmers”, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!
False prophets can also be “charlatans”, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly “virtual” existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit» (Message for Lent 2018).
Each one of us is different. We ought to identify how the false prophets manipulate us personally. For some it will be for the false hope of material wellbeing—how many play the LOTTO seeking this false hope? Others it is for the momentary pleasure and escape of alcohol, drugs, pornography, computer games, or social media… These false prophets manipulate us, telling us that it isn’t a big deal, I’m not hurting anybody, I need a break and a little fun, I have it so hard, etc., etc., and these false prophets end up controlling our lives. False prophets enslave and control, whereas Christ came to set us free with the intoxication of true love!
Notice how often the Pope warns us of the activity of the devil. He mentions Satan in many of his documents and discourses. Perhaps Pope Francis knows something we don’t about the influence of the father of lies in our time.
Lent is a time of self-giving self-denial that prepares us to embrace Christ’s ultimate gift of himself on the Cross. So, Carpe diem—Seize the day!—turning to Jesus Christ, the Truth who sets us free from the slavery of false prophets.
Fr. John R. Waiss