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Here’s a question for all you football fans, whether Giant fans, or Jets or one of those “other” teams.  Have you ever noticed someone, usually sitting in the end zone (so that they can be seen at every touchdown, touchback, field goal, extra point, etc), holding a sign that read, John 3:16?  Tim Tebow often had it etched across his forehead when he played college ball.  Did you ever wonder what that stood for, or to what it referred?  If you had some inkling, perhaps, that it referred to a Scripture verse (which it does), did you ever feel moved to look it up.

Of course, it does refer to a Scripture verse, what has often been called the most popular verse in Scripture.  “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”  You might recognize it as a verse that’s included in today’s Gospel. 

 As I said last week, beginning last week the Scripture readings were transitioning, from a focus on ourselves and our sins, to a focus on Jesus and what He has done for us for the forgiveness of those sins.  This re-shifting is full-blown today.  But we are not left out.  In this dialogue with Nicodemus, we become interactive partners with Nicodemus, as Jesus invites us to make a choice for Him or against Him.

 John 3:16 is certainly beautiful and comforting as it stands alone.  But when we put it into the context of the whole episode with Nicodemus, the call to believe in Jesus involves so much more of us than the verse implies. In this usual way, John‘s words must be understood both for what they say and the symbolic message they transmit.  Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the night, a recurring symbol in John of the darkness of mind and soul of the Jewish religion, a symbol of the lack of understanding and wisdom to see God at work in Jesus and a symbol of the power of the evil one (as later, when Judas leaves the supper in the night).  This lack of understanding is made more specific in the earlier dialogue (not included in today’s reading) when Jesus talks about being born again of water and the Spirit and Nicodemus can only think of crawling back into the womb.  In a very direct way, Jesus challenges Nicodemus by asking him what kind of teacher of truth can he be if he does not understand these things.  Only then do we come to the words of today’s Gospel, as Jesus testifies to Nicodemus, and to us, God’s purpose in sending His Son, with Jesus’ own prediction – some will accept this and some will reject it.

 Reading the whole passage, John 3: 1-21, helps us to understand better the message the Church is trying to give us on this 4th Sunday of Lent.  Here is the Good News, the reason we call this Laetare Sunday, the call to rejoice – God so loved the world that He sent His only Son.  What will you do with it?  Will you accept it, choose to live by it, and walk in the light?  Or will you choose to reject it (if in actions and not specifically in words) and continue to walk in the darkness?  More than half-way through Lent, what is your answer?

 Nicodemus came to Jesus in the darkness.  The Gospel doesn’t explicitly say whether he left in the light, or was “born again.”  What would it say about you?

 God Bless,  
Fr. Ron

 PS.  On a totally different subject.  In June of 1996, a newly ordained priest came to Mount Carmel.  Fr. Peter Baldacchino, a native of Malta (who worked for Canada Dry, if I remember correctly), Fr. Peter was ordained for the Archdiocese of Newark, but came through the missionary seminary, Redemptoris Mater, knowing that one day he would be asked to go and do missionary work somewhere in the world.  Fr. Peter ministered for three years here at OLMC, working with the altar servers, the baptismal team, among his responsibilities.  I can still see him leading a bunch of kids to go down to Vets’ Field for a soccer game. 

 In 1999, Archbishop McCarrick assigned Fr. Peter to work in the Turks and Caicos Islands which he (the Archbishop) had recently become responsible for.  On his first Sunday there, when he celebrated Mass in the little church in Providenciales, there were 7 people in attendance.  When Archbishop Myers celebrated the dedication of the new church, in 2012, there was standing room only, a congregation numbering somewhere around 500.  In those years, Fr. Peter oversaw not only the building of that new church, but the building of an addition to the rectory on Provo (the shortened name for Providenciales), the building of a new rectory on Grand Turk (another Island in the chain), the building of a new chapel on South Caicos (another Island in the chain), and the establishment of a Catholic School in Provo.  And the building program gives witness to the growth of the mission under his leadership.  In March of last year, Fr. Peter became Bishop Peter Baldacchino when he was ordained Auxiliary Bishop of Miami.

 St. Paul’s Outreach, SPO for short, is a campus presence at Seton Hall University.  It seeks to form small communities on college campuses – communities dedicated to living fully their Catholic Faith.  They are an evangelizing reality, set in a college atmosphere, to reach out to Catholic students and either lead them back to the faith or keep them from drifting away from it.  Each year they honor someone who epitomizes their mission to evangelize, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.  This year they are honoring Bishop Peter Baldacchinio at their annual banquet to be held April 29th. 

 At the same banquet, they will be honoring Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church for its support of Fr. Peter and the mission in the Turks and Caicos Islands over these many years.  Those who have been around know that our parish has had a “soft spot” for the work of the Mission.  Our parish has supported many of those building projects, including a $90,000 gift for the new church, from the proceeds of our celebration of the 50th anniversary of the building of our own church.  Our Youth Group has done a mission trip to the Islands on a couple of occasions and parishioners have supported scholarships to the Catholic School and the Academy of Our Lady has sent all sorts of “educational stuff” down to the school.  Mount Carmel has been a true partner in so much of the growth of the mission in the Turks and Caicos Islands over these more than 15 years. 

 In the bulletin next weekend there will be a flyer about SPO, about its work and about the annual gala.  SPO is obviously looking for support for the dinner.  I hope you will support it too.  For those who were here when Fr. Peter was here, it will give you a chance to re-connect with him, to congratulate him on his appointment as Auxiliary Bishop of Miami and to receive his episcopal blessing, and to support this good cause.  For those who were not here, it will give you the chance to show support for the special place Mount Carmel has had in the growth of the Mission, to get a chance to meet Bishop Peter and maybe even a blessing as well.  It can be a wonderful night for him, for us and for the cause of evangelization on our college campuses.  More info will follow next weekend.  For now – April 29th. Mark it down.  Thank You. 

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Mass Schedule

Weekend Liturgies
Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
Sunday
8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m.,
11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m.,
3 p.m. (Spanish), 6:30 p.m.
Weekday Liturgies
Monday thru Friday,
6:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m.,
and 12 noon
Saturday, 8:30 a.m. only
Holy Days
Eve: 7:30pm (anticipated)
6:30am, 8:30am, and 12noon 

 

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