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Dear Friends,

The sublime—meaning Scripture

Turning first this week to the Lenten Gospels. I have mentioned many times that the Church uses a three-year cycle of readings for the Sunday liturgies. These are generally identified as the year of Matthew (Cycle A), the year of Mark (Cycle B) and the year of Luke (Cycle C). We are in the year of Matthew, Cycle A, and have been reading from Matthew since the end of the Christmas season. The themes of the first two Sundays of Lent, no matter what cycle is read, are always the same, the temptation in the desert, (1st Sunday) and the transfiguration (2nd Sunday) and we read Matthew’s recounting of these events on the last two Sundays. Beginning with the third Sunday, today, the readings diverge in their themes. As I mentioned in my homily last weekend, in Cycle A, the themes for all the Sundays of Lent keeping asking the same question—who is this Jesus of Nazareth and what does it mean to believe in him as the Messiah? Cycle A is especially used for the catechumens, those preparing to be baptized, asking them to reflect on this question, who is this Jesus, before they ask to be baptized into his life. On the 1st Sunday of Lent, Satan challenges Jesus, “If you are the Son of God.” Last Sunday, God acknowledges Jesus as His Son, “this is My Beloved Son.” The next three Sundays will focus on thirst (today), on light (the 4th Sunday) and on life (the 5th Sunday) and they will all come from the Gospel of John.

After acknowledging Jesus as His Son, the injunction from the Voice in the cloud, last Sunday’s Gospel, the Gospel of the Transfiguration, was, “Listen to Him.” Of course it was addressed to us, as well as the disciples present. And we might respond, “OK, we’re listening. To what?

These weeks before Palm Sunday, Jesus specifically speaks to us about Who He is, and what He can do for us. Today, with the story of the woman at the well, He tells us—I can quench your thirst, Me and nobody and nothing else. Thirsting has always been real and symbolic. In reality, we don’t get much chance to thirst in body these days, everywhere you look, almost everyone has a bottle of water in their hand. I’ve never seen so many people sip so much water in so many strange places as in these last years. We certainly don’t live in an under-hydrated society. At least, not in the United States.

But not so symbolically. We say we “thirst” for identity, for intimacy, for meaning, for eternity, for wisdom, for freedom. And it seems that as much as we have hydrated our bodies, we have left our spirits parched. The goods of this life will never satisfy us. The TV’s will always need to be bigger, the houses more spacious, the cars with more gadgets, the vacations more exotic. Like the woman at the well. Not living in a time when all those modern advances were available, she thirsted for intimacy, meaning, identity in her husbands, seven of them in fact. And I guess she never really found enough of it because when she met this Jesus, she found in HIM something she had never found before. And the more she listened to Him, the more His words quenched her heart and her longing and her thirsting was finally satisfied. He tells us Who He is—the living water and what He can do for us—satisfy that thirst that you have that you can never seem to quench.

Next week, He will tell us He can cure blindness, our blindness. But often, Like the Pharisees, we say, “who me, blind? Not me. Aren’t we blind when we drive people out of our lives, sons or daughters, mothers or fathers, sisters or brothers, old friends? And we allow the wounds to fester so much so that if, by chance, we should see them, our blood pressure goes through the roof and we rob ourselves of peace that day, and maybe many days to come? Aren’t we blind when we work so hard, so many long hours in the office, so much time away from home, “for the happiness and security of our families,” that we don’t see the drift in our children’s lives, the roads that open to drugs or alcohol, the boredom and loneliness of our spouse? Did we learn a lesson from the pandemic that nothing can ever replace presence in family life? Aren’t we blind when at that job, anything goes, corners get cut, ethics go out the window and cutthroat competition, with competitors and co-workers becomes the rule of the day? The blindness Jesus speaks of, like the thirst He quenches, is not of the body, but of the soul and the spirit. Who is He—He is the cure. What can He do for us—open our eyes to see the really important things in life, before it’s too late.

So, in these two Sundays, Jesus gives us the answers to the questions that we only sometimes have the guts to face, about life and about ourselves. But, hey, can I give you a clue. Don’t expect to be hit by lightening. Clarity, belief and discipleship, for both the woman at the well and the blind man came slowly and not without effort. They needed to take that first step. And so do you and me. That’s what Lent is all about. That’s why we’re reading about them in these weeks.

These Gospels for these two Sundays are long, containing many symbols. But most of all they challenge us to look deeply into the well of our own souls to discover whether Jesus is the one who is truly giving us the answers to our lives and whether or not His light helps us to see those answers clearly. Take the time in these two weeks to really accept His challenge.

Now—the mundane, the Annual Appeal.

If you are still thinking about a gift to the Annual Appeal, I invite you to do two things. First, look over the materials that you received in the mail in January. They explain the various needs of passing on the Faith that the Appeal helps to fund. If you can’t find those materials, there are some in the bookracks at the side doors of the church, as well as pledge envelopes. Secondly, go to the homepage of the website a click on my video. Within that video you will find a video of the Cardinal’s message about the campaign as well as a message from me about one of the major works of the Church, Catholic Charities, which receives a substantial part of the funds raised by the Appeal, especially to support its homeless shelter programs which constitute Catholic Charities largest deficit program. Catholic Charities provides almost 500 beds for the homeless, one of the largest, if not the largest, provider in the State of New Jersey. And in the video I talk about the opening of a brand new shelter in Jersey City which I think you will find not only interesting but a compelling reason to support the Appeal. Since I spoke of the new shelter I want to bring everyone up-to-date on its construction. The shelter finally has full, permanent power, which had been held up for months by supply chain delays. The contractors are now finishing the punch list. When that’s complete, the building hopefully will get its CO (certificate of occupancy) after which it needs to pass certification from the State. It looks like we’re looking at a May dedication and opening. When that happens I will be sure to provide pictures for this bulletin.

After reviewing all this information, I hope you will find it a good cause to support and make a pledge, especially those households which have never supported the Appeal in the past. Please join the 213 parish households who have already supported the Appeal. Last year, 482 households joined together in their support, this year we hope we can get that number to 600. Do you think we can do that? With your help, we can. The easiest way to make a pledge is to go back to the homepage of the website and you will find the link to the Appeal at the top left hand side of the page. Click on that and it will take you through the process. Be sure to identify Our Lady of Mount Carmel—Ridgewood as your parish so we get “credit” for your gift.

God Bless,
Fr. Ron


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