This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the holy season of Lent. I will be writing about Lent in coming weeks, so today I will just ask you to see the flyer in this bulletin with all the basic information and to save the flyer for the coming weeks.
The Sunday before Ash Wednesday is when the Diocese of Pittsburgh kicks off the Parish Share Program. Your generosity with the program can be a big help to us. Remember that this year we are also including a special envelope once a month for any extra help anyone can give us.
This Sunday is also an interesting confluence of two other special celebrations. Pope St. John Paul designated February as the World Day of the Sick, “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding us to see in our sick brother and sister the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying, and rising, achieved the salvation of humankind.” This is an opportunity for me to say thank you to all who kept me in prayer after my recent hernia operation. The doctor was right when he told me that recovery is much easier than it was when I previously had that surgery, but it still was a struggle. We get so accustomed to being able to do things for ourselves that it becomes difficult for us to limit ourselves. After hernia surgery, one is not supposed to lift much of anything. I felt rather strange asking people to move things that I should normally be able to carry without any trouble. It reminds me that the word “patient” comes from a word meaning one to whom things are done, as opposed to “agent,” which means one who does things. That word relates to the word “Passion,” which we apply to Christ’s suffering. Eucharistic Prayer II speaks of how Christ “entered willingly into his Passion.” I have to admit that I was not as willing. But by joining our sufferings to Christ, we can grow in our faith by knowing that we are always in the arms of a loving God.
The Church also takes the Sunday before St. Valentine’s Day as the World Day of Marriage. It seems strange to me to have World Marriage Day fall on the same day as the World Day of the Sick, but that’s how it happens this year. Of course, we think of the marriage vows where a couple promises love “in sickness and in health.” When working with engaged couples, I often talk about things that they may face in their lives, such as sickness, unemployment or simply disagreements. Most couples are quite willing to admit that there will be difficult times. Yet I generally get the feeling that they actually feel as if everything is going to be happy and beautiful. (To be fair, on my ordination day I didn’t realize what struggles a priest would face.) Yet as I try to point out, if they truly rely upon God, then the moments of struggle will be the times that truly allow their love to grow. Our culture has made marriage disposable to much the same degree that it has made marriage simply a way to make ourselves happy. On this World Marriage Day, we see marriage as a reflection of God’s love and a way to reach out to others with that love.