Greetings in Christ!
A blessed and holy Lenten Season to you all! For the next 40 days, we are challenged to "take it up a notch": to focus on fasting, prayer and almsgiving (charity). This is a time to be conscious of our sin (not other people's sin!) and make sure that we abstain from meat on Fridays during this season. It's also important that we get to confession and, as a result, there are tons of options in our area to make sure we don't wait till the last minute or miss it entirely.
I'm going to try something new for this Lenten Season: I'm going to preach Themed Homilies. The idea of a themed homily is a minor custom in the Church where the priest prayerfully chooses a theme for a Season and preaches that theme as opposed to focusing on a particular reading. I was going to do this last year, but it involves a lot more preparation time than I had so I spent the last year tinkering on and off with a schedule and prepping the homilies so that I would be ready for this year. God is so good...He really helped and guided me on this and I'm blessed.
So...what's the theme? …..."The 7 Deadly Sins and the 7 Cardinal Virtues". Here's how it will look:
Feb 18 - Greed & Gluttony/Generosity & Abstinence
Feb 25 - Envy/Gratitude
March 4 - Anger/Patience
March 10 - Lust/Chastity
March 18 - Pride/Humility
March 25 - Sloth/Diligence
A couple notes on this: When we look at Lust/Chastity, I found I was uncomfortable preaching it in congregations that have little ones, which would be every congregation. As a result, I chose to do it for the March 10th weekend because I will be away. What I'll do is, instead of preaching a homily, I'll write one and send it to the bulletin so you can read it at your leisure.
Palm Sunday is a tough one: it is one of the longer masses of the year and even without a homily, is going to be close to impossible to preach anything substantial because I'll have to fly out of Church to get to the next mass on time. So, that is the Sunday I'll preach on Sloth/Diligence and again, most of it will probably be written, unless I figure a way to trim it more than I have already.
I'm excited about this and hope that God bears great fruit in all our lives as a result. I know that, just working on these and praying about them, I was convicted of a lot of sins in my life that I had lost track of...praise the Lord!
As everyone and their brother knows, its flu season and, according to the CDC, its one of the worst on record. As a result of that, I'm going to do one thing and ask you to do two:
First, I'm going to set aside the Precious Blood for now. I hate doing this, but it really seems like something we need to do. Normally, I'm a fan of trusting people to not go to The Cup if they are sick, but it seems that, with this virus you can be sick for four days before you even know it. If you are scheduled to offer the precious blood, please come forward as usual. We will replace the Precious Blood with two more stations of the Sacred Body.
The two things I'll ask you to do are:
Not hold hands during the Our Father. I'm not a fan of this practice and I don't want my motives to get muddled up into the problem. However, I've had a couple people tell me that, when they don't hold hands at the Our Father because they are sick, they get "a look" from others that indicates they are offended. I assume that we all have more than enough drama in our lives that we don't need more, so we'll just say "No" to holding hands during the Our Father. According to the rubrics, the appropriate posture during the Our Father is our hands together near our heart.
The second thing is that, during the Sign of Peace, please either bow to each other or accept that some people are not going to shake hands/hug because of their sickness or desire to not get sick. It's not a rejection of you or your desire to share a sign of Christ's Peace: its more a practical thing to keep us all as healthy as we can.
So...there it is! I hope you read this section in the spirit I am offering it: a spirit of affection and respect.
I pray that God bless and convict each of us to enter into this Lenten Season with our whole heart, mind and soul!