From the Pastor’s Desk
Twenty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time
Sept 3, 2023
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.”
Brothers and Sisters,
Brothers and Sisters,
The Scriptures this week challenge us to embrace sacrifice and implement penance into our daily lives. I must admit, in my humanity, I resist this message and sometimes find myself leaning on another passage of Scripture to “discredit” this teaching. That being “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.”[MT 9:13] If I am honest in my study and prayer, Jesus’ admonition to the Pharisees does not apply in all situations and circumstances. Jesus chastises them because they want him to exclude the “tax collectors and sinners” from a relationship with God and, therefore, a relationship with the community. We are called to be merciful and understanding to others and, yes, even, at times, ourselves. Yet, we should be cautious of overvaluing our sacrifice. After all, while Jesus tells us to take up our cross, our cross does not have the same salvific value as Christ and cannot save us on its own. Pennance alone is no substitute. We need Jesus in our lives.
But that does not negate the value of embracing suffering. Authentic worship requires sacrifice. As a bonus, the penance we assume opens us to the grace of God in a profound way. As St. Paul tells us, by offering ourselves as a sacrifice, God renews our minds and aids us in understanding God’s ways. We discern the will of God in our life. The penance, while it may make our stomachs grumble or frustrate our instincts towards our use of our beloved electronic devices, provides us freedom: freedom from the enslavements of this world and, with it, the noise that clutters our brains and prevents us from hearing God clearly, as well as hearing ourselves and others.
In a recent letter to the priests of the Archdiocese, Archbishop Lori has encouraged us to reintegrate a discipline of the Ember Days. I’m among those who had to figure out what he was referring to. Ember days appear quarterly, associated with the Feast of St. Michael (September 29), Advent, Lent, and Pentecost. Typically, the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday before the feast are meant to inspire particular acts of prayer, fasting, and charity, much like our practices during Lent. Of course, like other sacrifices, intentionality matters. Ask yourself, why are we making this particular offering? Please consider making intentional sacrifices throughout the year. Perhaps, an act of penance each Friday or join in this season’s Ember days, which occurs on Wednesday, September 20, Friday, September 22, and Saturday, September 23. And let us make these offerings, asking God to sanctify our parish and increase our love for Christ! I am thankful that our men’s and women’s ministries have reemphasized penitential practices and disciplines, including Exodus 90.
May you have a blessed Labor Day with your family and friends! Thank you for the many ways you have labored to bring the love of Jesus to our community and the world.