Black bears are fairly common in the Smoky Mountains, or so they say. But you won’t see them very often. When my good friend, Todd, and I were first building our cabin on the edge of the mountains, a bear would come up and paw into a standing dead oak tree near our lane, and we have preserved the tree in his memory. Todd encountered him one night – face to face! – but after the cabin was finished he stopped coming around. Or, at least, we stopped seeing him. Bears are excellent tree climbers. One time Todd and his wife were hiking in the Smokies, heard a rustling sound, looked up and saw a momma bear and her cub way up in a white pine tree, about 70 feet in the air. Todd and I are wondering now how many times on our many mountain hikes that we might have missed seeing a bear up in the tree, simply because we weren’t looking for it. This Sunday’s Gospel reminds us that following Jesus is a matter of recovering our sight enough to see our own sinfulness. There is no place for a blind person in God’s kingdom. Being aware of our own sin is uncomfortable, even scary – like seeing a bear in the woods. But it is only by being so aware that we recognize our need for the Savior, the One who died for us on the cross. May the Lord Jesus open our eyes to see all things more clearly! - - - Fr. Jim
The sacrament of Reconciliation is one of our Church’s best kept secrets! It is a place where you can truly experience the forgiveness and hope of Christ, through the words and in the person of the priest.
On Thursday, March 27, 7:00 pm, we will celebrate our Lenten Penance service (in Purcell). After a short prayer service and homily, three priests will be available to hear private confessions. Two of these – Fr. Rusty and Fr. Oby – can hear confessions in Spanish. Before celebrating the sacrament, each of us should prepare ourselves with an examination of conscience. An examination of conscience is a “prayerful self-reflection on our words and deeds in the light of the Gospel to determine how we may have sinned against God” (Catechism). There are various types of examinations of conscience but regardless of which one you use to prepare yourself for the Sacrament it should be rooted in Scripture - particularly, the Ten Commandments and Beatitudes, or in Catholic social teaching. If you need help in doing a good examination, there are several good guides for you online, including several on the U.S. Bishops’ own website (www.usccb.org). The first letter of John reads: “If we say, “we are without sin”, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.” (1 John 1:8-9). Please come on Thursday night, prepare yourself thoroughly, and feel the grace of forgiveness. And….shhh….don’t tell anyone. It’s our little secret. - - - Fr. Jim
“He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts.”(Mark 6:8). Jesus wanted his followers to travel light, as light as air, so that the way of God might be made clear to them. The excess “baggage” that we carry is often in the form of compulsions or desires that burden us with their need for attention. During Lent, we identify these compulsions and decide to gently let them go, as we would empty our bag of excess items that weigh us down. The compulsions we have can take many forms. It might be my compulsion to criticize constantly. Or to shrink in self-pity when I am confronted with my own inadequacies. It might be my compulsion to eat, or shop, or indulge myself when I am stressed. It might be my compulsion to work long hours, separating me from my family and my God in prayer. During Lent I choose a discipline that directly confronts one or two of these compulsions and, in doing so, I clearly take a stand for my Lord who walked through these same temptations before me, carried His Cross, and gave His life up totally on my behalf. Light as air, I will soon kneel with His mother, Mary, before the Cross. - - - Fr. Jim
Medical advances often happen quickly; while the Church deliberately takes much time for prayer and reflection. Since recent Popes have rejected the usage of artificial birth control, many people think that they also promote large families, like back in the “good ole days”. But that is not necessarily true. World bishops wrote about the responsibility of parents in Gaudium et Spes: “Let them thoughtfully take into account their own welfare and that of their children, those already born and those which the future might bring.” In 1984, Pope John Paul II stated that responsible parenting takes into account “not only the good of one’s own family, and even the state of health and the means of the couple themselves, but also the good of the society to which they belong, of the church, and even of all humankind.” We can be sure that couples who already are raising 3, 4 or 6 children have fulfilled their sacramental marriage promises of fruitfulness! With the support of the Church, couples may prayerfully decide, in good conscience, and for various worthy reasons, to limit the size of their families. - - - Fr. Jim
Lent is a very special season of our Church year. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, these six weeks leading up to Holy Week are a time in which our parish essentially goes on retreat together. Every Friday during Lent is a day of abstinence from meat (beef or poultry) to remind us of the coming Passion of Our Lord. . Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are marked out as days of both fasting and abstinence – we limit ourselves to one full meal on these days. We choose to mark these forty days in a way very similar to Jesus who placed himself voluntarily in the desert to pray and fast and reflect on his coming work (Mt. 4:1-11). Traditionally, we make our retreat by choosing a personal practice of prayer, fasting, or almsgiving. Many Catholics choose to do a little something in all three categories! These are a way of uniting ourselves to Jesus in prayer. As a constant reminder, we wrap ourselves in purple (violet), the color of sorrow, penitence, and preparation. May you be blessed with forty days of rich prayer, reflection on your sinfulness before God, and the color purple. - - - Fr. Jim
Fr. James Chamberlain
Pastor of Saint Catherine of Siena Catholic Church