Our community decided in 2008 that the mission of our parish was life-long learning. Everything we do centers around teaching the depth and richness of the Roman Catholic Faith. Our weekly 3-Minute Catechesis is read from the Ambo prior to Mass beginning. A written copy is made available in our weekly bulletin along with additional information for those who want to learn more. Visit us online at www.risensaviorcc.org for more information.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Scrutinites

During Lent especially, parishioners are exposed to the adults going through a process called the R.C.I.A. or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Although much of the formation of these men and women is done in evening gatherings, as Lent advances and Easter approaches, the community takes a more active role in witnessing the journeys of these people.

Throughout the year, as they discerned their calling to be a disciple of Christ in the Roman Catholic tradition, these men and women participated in a Rite of Acceptance. Then, at the beginning of Lent, there was the Rite of Sending in which those who were accepted were sent to the Rite of Election or, if they had already been baptized, to the Rite of Continuing Conversion. This involved getting out of their comfort zone – this parish! – and taking part in a rite involving the bishop.

What’s left for those participating in R.C.I.A.? Those who were accepted and then sent will now be taking part in the Scrutinies. The Scrutinies are short liturgical rites that invoke the grace and power of the Holy Spirit and call the Elect out of the darkness of evil and sin and into the light of Christ. The Scrutinies serve many purposes for the Elect, including calling on the intercession of the parish community as these men and women prepare for the Easter sacraments. Another purpose of the Scrutinies is to purify the catechumens’ minds and hearts and strengthen them against temptation. The three rites, which take place on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent, help make them firm in their resolve, so that they become more closely united with Christ and make progress in their efforts to love God more deeply.

Each of the three Scrutinies is based on a Gospel reading with the theme of conversion and coming into the light of Christ. These are the stories of the Woman at the Well, the Blind Beggar, and the Raising of Lazarus.

While these Scripture readings are proclaimed for the benefit of the catechumens, the stories offer we who are already baptized and among the Elect something to think about as we prepare for the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. We, too, scrutinize our lives through the biblical examples. The woman at the well leaves behind her bucket, the blind man runs off and forgets the cloak in which he caught the coins of his beggary, and Lazarus leaves behind an empty tomb. What will we leave behind to follow Jesus? As we ponder that, we understand that, like those in R.C.I.A., we are all still on the journey.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Elect of God

This Sunday, the unbaptized catechumens who are in RCIA will be participating in the Rite of Election. While they will be meeting the shepherd of our diocese, the real purpose of this rite is not to meet the Archbishop, but to celebrate their election by God and the Church, in preparation for the Easter Sacraments. What does it mean to be elected, and why doesn’t every Catholic participate?

Election has to do with being chosen. Just a few months ago, the United States held a rather contentious midterm election in which choices were made, but this is a little different from the Church’s concept of election. In the Bible, we hear many stories of God choosing a person or even an entire people. The Israelites were God’s “chosen people.” David was chosen by God to be king of Israel. The angel Gabriel brought Mary the news that she had found favor and had been chosen to be the mother of God’s Son. And, of course, Jesus is called the Messiah, the “chosen one” of God. It is God who chooses. God takes the initiative and claims a person or a people as his own.

Many of us were born into Catholic families and baptized as babies. At baptism, the priest or deacon who baptized us claimed us for Christ. This was symbolized by his making a cross on our foreheads and then inviting our parents and godparents to do the same. The Church teaches that all of the baptized are the Elect, God’s chosen people. This concept comes originally from the Hebrew Scriptures.

God's promises to Abraham are recorded in the book of Genesis. First, Abraham is promised that he will have a child and a nation of descendants that are uncountable. Second, Abraham is told that his descendants will inherit the land of Canaan. Third, Abraham and his descendants will be blessed and the rest of the nations of the world will be blessed through him.

These promises prefigure of the coming of Christ and the salvation offered to everyone. The child we are given is the incarnate God and the land we inherit is a place in Heaven. In going to the cross, Christ made salvation possible for all people in all nations. When does this possibility become an actuality? That happens when, in exercising free will, we choose to have faith in Jesus Christ and say yes to the salvation He offers. Those of us who are baptized, even if we were baptized as infants, continually use our free will to choose salvation. We don’t have to run for office, but being counted among the Elect is done in cooperation with our God-given free will.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Operation Rice Bowl

For many families, Lent is a special time of prayer and reflection. While we pray for our loved ones and those closest to us, we should also reflect on so many of our brothers and sisters in the developing world who struggle every day to provide enough food for their families.

When we were children, most of us knew little about what was going on outside of our community. There wasn’t CNN or Twitter or any other way for us to get instant information about what was happening out in the world. Our main exposure to poverty and hunger was participating in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF on Halloween and donating part of our allowance to Operation Rice Bowl during Lent. Today, we understand that it is nearly impossible to shelter our young people from the injustices in the world, nor do we want to. Instead, we educate ourselves and our families about social justice.

Solidarity is one of the seven tenets of Catholic Social Teaching. This tenet says that we are one human family, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. As Jesus’ disciples, we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and we have a responsibility to care for them.

Operation Rice Bowl, a Catholic Relief Services program, began in 1975 in the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, as a response to the drought in Africa. Each Lent for the past thirty-five years, thousands of faith communities across the United States have participated in Operation Rice Bowl. Symbolic cardboard "rice bowls," which will be distributed today in the lobby and at the west entrance, are used as the focal point of prayer, fasting, and learning – and to help people in poverty around the world. Participants make a small sacrifice every week, putting the change into the rice bowls. That money goes to support the CRS mission to fight global hunger and poverty. Seventy-five percent of Operation Rice Bowl donations help fund development programs designed to increase food security around the world. Twenty-five percent of the donations support food pantries and soup kitchens within New Mexico.

So…why a “rice bowl?” Because rice is the most important food crop of the developing world and the staple food of more than three billion people, or more than half of the world’s population.

Operation Rice Bowl includes a wonderful Lenten calendar that provides information about communities being helped and opportunities for the entire family. Make this Lent a truly holy time by giving back to God in gratitude for the salvation we are offered through the sacrifice of Jesus.

Friday, March 4, 2011

When is Ash Wednesday?

Because Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, people make the effort to begin this period of repentance by coming to Mass and receiving ashes on their foreheads. Last year, Ash Wednesday was on February 17th. That may seem like old news, but our parish gets several calls this time of year asking why we didn’t give out ashes in the middle of February! This is due to a basic misunderstanding about how the dates of holy days are calculated.

Some holy days and feast days of the Church are easy to remember. Christmas is always on December 25th, while St. Patrick’s Day is fixed on March 17th. However, the most important holy day in the liturgical year, Easter Sunday, is a movable feast. It does exactly that – it moves from year to year, within a range of time. When Easter occurs also determines when Ash Wednesday is, as well as Palm Sunday, Ascension Thursday, and Pentecost.

So how is the celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection calculated? In 325, the Church Council of Nicaea set the date of Easter as the first Sunday following the first full moon on or after the vernal or spring equinox. Easter always occur on a Sunday, because Sunday was the day of Christ's Resurrection. As a result, Easter dates can range from March 22 to April 25 in Western Christianity. Just three years ago, in 2008, Easter was on March 23rd, one day short of the earliest it can occur. This year, Easter is on April 24th, one day short of the latest it can be!

Once the date of Easter is known, the other information you need to calculate Ash Wednesday and other related holy days is that there are 6 Sundays in Lent. Count back to the 1st Sunday of Lent, and then back four days to the Wednesday before, and you know exactly when Ash Wednesday is.

Then beginning with Easter as day one, count forward forty days, since that is the length of time Jesus stayed with his apostles after His Resurrection before ascending into Heaven. That 40th day is always a Thursday, and is celebrated as the Ascension of the Lord, except in dioceses like ours, when that celebration is moved to the following Sunday. Pentecost, which means “50th”, is celebrated 10 days later. Following Jesus’ Ascension, the apostles gathered and prayed, and on that 10th day, they received the Holy Spirit.

And that is how the dates of Lent and Easter are determined!