Lent Preview: Reach Up, In and Out with the Spiritual Works of Mercy
“At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives,” Pope Francis wrote when explaining his reasons for proclaiming the current Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. He went on to say that, “It is absolutely essential for the Church and for the credibility of her message that she herself live and testify to mercy.”
Zeroing in on one part of this statement, the U.S. bishops have said, “To live mercy, we must rediscover both the spiritual works of mercy . . . and the corporal works of mercy.”
If any particular time within the Year of Mercy is right for gazing more attentively on this godly quality and for rediscovering ways to live it out, the season of Lent surely qualifies! So Our Lady of the Lake’s liturgy staff is excited that we’re about to launch a Lenten homily series on the spiritual works of mercy. Then in the Easter Season we’ll follow up with a fresh look at the corporal works of mercy. A focus on the spiritual works of mercy during Lent shows the close fit between this holy season and our parish’s description of Christian discipleship, “Reach Up, Reach In, Reach Out.”
You see, we aid others in their spiritual needs when we perform these works. So in part, they involve helping people reach up to God. And we should include prayer—“reaching up”—as integral to performing all these works, not just the last one, “To pray for the living and the dead.” Also, developing habits of mind, heart, and action to do these works involves our own “reaching in” for inner growth as disciples who are glorifying the Lord by our lives. And the spiritual works of mercy are acts of service that by definition involve “reaching out” for the good of others.
Let us gaze attentively on mercy during the season of Lent. May doing so help us become ever more vibrantly and effectively able to live mercy and to testify to mercy through all seasons and at all times.
Listen to our current homilies.
One of our past Homily Series: The Acts of the Apostles
When is the Birthday of the Church?
St. John Chrysostom (4th Century) referred to the water and blood, which flowed from the side of Christ after being pierced by the soldier’s lance, as a foreshadowing of Baptism and the Eucharist by which the Church is born. He was mostly describing the conversion experience of new Christians. This year, here at Our Lady of the Lake Parish, and throughout the world, we have new Catholics who were “born again” in Christ and into the Church at the Easter Vigil through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
The Catholic Tradition, however, usually regards Pentecost as the “Birthday of the Church” because that is when the first disciples, empowered by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, found their voice and began to preach the Gospel. Even though we won’t celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost this year until 50 days from now (May 24), we will be hearing of the impact of that first Pentecost during the weeks ahead. From now until Pentecost the first reading at all the Masses (Sunday and daily) is from The Acts of the Apostles (Acts).
St. Luke is the author of both the Gospel According to St. Luke and Acts. In fact, rather than think of them as two different books it is better to think of them as one book in two volumes: 1) the Life of Christ and 2) the Life of the Church.
This is Our Story.
Acts is the story that describes how we as a Church came into existence. It tells of the transformation of a timid group of followers into a movement that shook the Roman Empire; the transformation of a violent persecutor of Christians who became the movement’s greatest evangelist; the transformation of an apparently new sect of Judaism located in Israel into a Universal Church that spans the entire globe. It describes the Spirit-fueled rapid growth in membership, the disagreements along the way (especially between St. Peter and St. Paul), and a growing awareness of what it means to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. You need to know this story. It is your story.
This year, as your pastor, I invite all members of our parish to read The Acts of the Apostles by Pentecost Sunday (which concludes the Easter Season). It is about 35 pages (depending on the size of print in your bible). It is made up of 28 chapters or about 1000 verses. The Easter Season is 50 days long. You could read it all at once, or read about 20 verses a day. Actually, I recommend doing both: Read the book in its entirety in one sitting, and then, either read 20 verses a day, or just read the scriptures of the day for Sunday and daily Mass (see usccb.org/readings). It matters less how you do it. It is more important to just do it.
It is my hope and prayer that this Easter Season will foster a new birth to a deeper faith for all our parishioners and a new birth to the true faith for all who come to join our parish.
Fr. John Kerns, Pastor