This Week’s Message
Pope Francis: Message for Lent 2016
Mary: Icon of Evangelization
In the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, I asked that “the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy (Misericordiae Vultus, 17).” By calling for an attentive listening to the word of God, I sought to stress the primacy of prayerful listening to God’s word, especially his prophetic word. The mercy of God is a proclamation made to the world, a proclamation which each Christian is called to experience at first hand. For this reason, during the season of Lent I will send out Missionaries of Mercy as a concrete sign to everyone of God’s closeness and forgiveness.
After receiving the Good News told to her by the Archangel Gabriel, Mary, in her Magnificat, prophetically sings of the mercy whereby God chose her. The Virgin of Nazareth, betrothed to Joseph, thus becomes the perfect icon of the Church which evangelizes, for she was and continues to be, evangelized by the Holy Spirit, who made her virginal womb fruitful. In the prophetic tradition, mercy is strictly related (even on the etymological level) to the maternal womb and to a generous, faithful and compassionate goodness shown within marriage and family relationships.
God’s Covenant: A History of Mercy
The mystery of divine mercy is revealed in the history of the covenant between God and his people Israel. God shows himself ever rich in mercy, ever ready to treat his people with deep tenderness and compassion, especially at those tragic moments when infidelity ruptures the bond of the covenant, which then needs to be ratified more firmly in justice and truth. Here is a true love story, in which God plays the role of the betrayed father and husband, while Israel plays the unfaithful child and bride. These domestic images, as in the case of Hosea (See Hosea 1-2), show to what extent God wishes to bind himself to his people.
This love story culminates in the incarnation of God’s Son. In Christ, the Father pours forth his boundless mercy even to making him “mercy incarnate” (Misericordiae Vultus, 8). As a man, Jesus of Nazareth is a true son of Israel. He embodies that perfect hearing required of every Jew by the Shema, which remains today as the heart of God’s covenant with Israel: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).” As the Son of God, he is the Bridegroom who does everything to win over the love of his bride, to whom he is bound by an unconditional love which becomes visible in the eternal wedding feast.
This is the very heart of the apostolic kerygma in which divine mercy holds a central and fundamental place. It is “the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead” (Evangelii Gaudium, 36); that first proclamation which “we must hear again and again in different ways, the one which we must announce one way or another throughout the process of catechesis, at every level and moment (Evangelii Gaudium, 164).” Mercy “expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe (Misericordiae Vultus, 21)”, thus restoring his relationship with him. In Jesus crucified, God shows his desire to draw near to sinners, however far they may have strayed from him. In this way he hopes to soften the hardened heart of his Bride.
The Works of Mercy
God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy. For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us. It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (See Exodus 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.
In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5) which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and technoscience, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.
For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy. In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy (counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer), we touch more directly our own sinfulness. The corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated. By touching the flesh of the crucified Jesus in the suffering, sinners can receive the gift of realizing that they too are poor and in need. By taking this path, the proud, the powerful and the wealthy (spoken of in Mary’s Magnificat) can also be embraced and undeservedly loved by the crucified Lord who died and rose for them. This love alone is the answer to that yearning for infinite happiness and love that we think we can satisfy with the idols of knowledge, power and riches. Yet the danger always remains that by a constant refusal to open the doors of their hearts to Christ who knocks on them in the poor, the proud, rich and powerful will end up condemning themselves and plunging into the eternal abyss of solitude which is Hell. The pointed words of Abraham apply to them and to all of us: “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:29). Such attentive listening will best prepare us to celebrate the final victory over sin and death of the Bridegroom, now risen, who desires to purify his Betrothed in expectation of his coming.
Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion! We ask this through the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, who encountering the greatness of God’s mercy freely bestowed upon her, was the first to acknowledge her lowliness (See Luke 1:48) and to call herself the Lord’s humble servant (See Luke 1:38).
The Holy Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 10th. As the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport begins its Lenten journey, all are invited to read and reflect upon the Holy Father’s Annual Message for Lent. In these passages, Pope Francis highlights the Blessed Mother as an icon of the Church that shares God’s mercy. He reminds us that God’s relationship with his people over the centuries is the long story of love and mercy in our world. And he encourages us to practice the Works of Mercy in our daily lives. All parishioners, friends, and visitors are reminded that they are invited to join us in prayer throughout this season of prayer, penance, and charity to experience God’s love, friendship, and mercy. All are welcome!
Peace and blessings to all,
Reverend James M. Achadinha, Pastor
Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport
Holy Season of Lent
Ash Wednesday Worship Schedule
Wednesday, February 10th
The Holy Season of Lent is a time of prayer, penance, and charity during which all Catholics are called to renew their faith in preparation for the celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday. This year, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on February 10th, a holy day of fasting and abstinence. In the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, we will celebrate Mass and distribute ashes according to the following schedule:
Our Lady of Good Voyage Church
Mass at 8:00am
Saint Ann Church
Mass at 12:00pm
Our Lady of Good Voyage Church
Mass at 7:00pm
In addition, we will celebrate two Services of the Word (with the distribution of ashes) at 4:00pm in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church and at 5:30pm in Saint Joachim Church. For more information about the Holy Season of Lent in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, please contact Father Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org or see a member of our pastoral team. Please join us as we begin our Lenten journey! All are invited! All are welcome!
The Parables of Mercy
A Year of Mercy Scripture Study
Begins Friday, February 12th
During the Holy Season of Lent, all are invited to join Father Jim for a weekly lunchtime scripture study based on the “Parables of Mercy.” Each Friday during Lent (February 12th through March 18th) in Our Lady’s Hall, Father Jim will lead a one hour discussion and study on various parables of Jesus that focus on God’s love and mercy for his people, including the Two Debtors & Their Creditor; the Good Samaritan; the Widow & the Judge; the Rich Man and Lazarus; and the Lost Sheep. Interested friends and parishioners are welcome to bring their own lunch and to join us for as many sessions as they can. If you would like to join us for this special scripture study series, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com. A donation of $20.00 per person is requested from those who can afford it. All participants will be provided with a copy of the book, “The Parables of Mercy”, along with coffee, hot tea, or bottled water. Please join us! All are welcome!
Stations of the Cross
Begins Friday, February 12th
The Stations of the Cross are one of the most enduring and moving devotions of the Roman Catholic Church. By uniting our prayers with the sufferings of Christ through both word and imagery, we make a spiritual pilgrimage with Lord on his way to the Cross. During Lent, all are invited to join us in praying the Stations of the Cross on six consecutive Fridays (February 12th through March 18th) according to the following schedule:
Saint Ann Church
Fridays at 3:30pm
Our Lady of Good Voyage Church
Fridays at 7:00pm (Begins with Mass)
Please note that Mass will be celebrated at 7:00pm before we pray the Stations of the Cross at Our Lady of Good Voyage on Friday evenings. For more information about Lent in the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport, please contact Father Jim firstname.lastname@example.org or see a member of our pastoral team. Please join us! All are invited! All are welcome!
Lent Mass for Families
Weekend of February 13th-14th
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says: “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs (Mt 19:14).” In response to the Lord’s call, all parents, grandparents, god- parents, and children are invited to join Father Jim for a Lent Mass for Families on either Saturday, February 13th at 4:00pm in Saint Ann Church or Sunday, February 14th at 11:45am in Our Lady of Good Voyage Church.
During Mass, Father Jim will offer a special homily about the Holy Season of Lent and a special blessing for all families and children. In addition, because Lent is a season for prayer, penance, and charity, every child and family will be asked to help us raise $1,000 during Lent for the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, a service organization in our parishes that provides food and financial assistance to local families in need. During the Family Mass, each child will receive a “campaign can” to collect coins for this effort. Thank you in advance for your generous support! As our Lent Mass for Families approaches, let us reaffirm: Mass is our class! Jesus is our teacher! And every family in our pews is a gift from God! For more information about the Mass for Families, please contact Father Jim at email@example.com. Please spread the word! All are invited! All are welcome!
Established in 2014, the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport is a collaborative of two historic parishes: Holy Family Parish and Our Lady of Good Voyage Parish. Our worship sites include Saint Ann Church in Gloucester, Saint Anthony Chapel in Gloucester, Saint Joachim Church in Rockport, and Our Lady of Good Voyage Church in Gloucester. We are a Roman Catholic faith community united in prayer, fellowship, and service. For more information about becoming a member of one of our parishes, please contact Father Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please join us! All are welcome!
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