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, February 24, 2012

Grateful Giving During Lent

Lent has now begun. It is a time of repentance and conversion and second chances. In the book of Jonah, the prophet is sent to preach to the king of Nineveh and warn him that his people’s wickedness will result in the destruction of their city by God. The king and the residents of Assyria’s capital city hear God’s message and put on sackcloth, fast from food and drink, sit in ashes, and turn away from sin. “When God saw by their actions how they turned away from their evil way, he repented of the evil he had threatened to do to them…” And it wasn’t just the Ninevites who got a second chance in that story: Jonah, reluctant to preach God’s message to Israel’s enemy, ended up in the belly of a great fish, but was given another opportunity to do God’s will.

Like Jonah, we are called to act according to the will of God. Many of us made resolutions on January 1st to begin the new secular year. Those resolutions probably included things like exercising more, losing weight, quitting smoking, and generally participating in activities that are healthier for our bodies. All of those are worthy endeavors, and are in line with the teaching that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

Lent is a time in the liturgical year, the Church year, when we make similar resolutions – but for spiritual reasons. During this penitential season, the faithful generally commit to a form of fasting or give up certain types of luxury. Many of us stop going out to eat or eliminate unproductive activities, like playing Angry Birds on our iPhones and iPads. This desert environment in our lives is reflected in the environment in our churches: Roman Catholic and even some Protestant churches remove flowers from the altar, while statues are often veiled in purple fabrics in pious observance of Lent.

But a legitimate alternative to “giving up” something is to do something – actions that conform to one of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. You will see the blue “Divine Opportunities” posters in every building in our church, letting us know that in giving of our time, the difference we make in the lives of our brothers and sisters in need is divine. As you consider the actions you will be taking for the next forty days, make it your personal Lenten mission to discern your gifts and then find a way to grow spiritually by investing your time and talent.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ash Wednesday

It seems as though the joy of the Christmas season just ended, and already Lent is looming. Ash Wednesday arrives and hits us squarely between the eyes, forcing us to face our own mortality and sinfulness.

At Mass on Wednesday, we will hear Scripture readings that are urgent and vivid. The Prophet Joel tells us that God wants us to return to Him with our whole hearts and to acknowledge our sinfulness with fasting and weeping and mourning. In the Gospel reading, Jesus reminds us that our fasting, our prayers, and our almsgiving are important ways to atone for our sinfulness, but only when we do so humbly, in a way that only God sees what we’re doing: Jesus criticizes pious displays, not pious actions.

We have ashes rubbed into our foreheads, ashes from the palms that we waved last year on Palm Sunday. It’s a tough day, but take heart! This is one religious day that won’t fall into the clutches of retailers. There aren’t any Hallmark cards celebrating sin and suffering, or shop windows decked out with sackcloth and ashes.

On Ash Wednesday, we come to church to kneel, to pray, and to ask God’s forgiveness, surrounded by other sinners. Church tradition sets aside Ash Wednesday as a particular day to address sin and death. We are all sinners, no better and no worse than our brothers and sisters. This is a day to acknowledge that, to ponder our mortality, and repent.

Most of us don’t spend much time thinking about death. But death is the great equalizer. In death there are no presidents of corporations, no maintenance workers, no one percent versus ninety-nine percent. All of us are in the hands of our loving God – that's it. The trinkets of this world – honor, wealth, pleasure and power – are but dust and ashes. When we remember “to dust we shall return,” we recall that we are made for more than the here and now. We are made for life with God – now and forever.

Ash Wednesday is the gateway to Lent. We have forty days or so to open ourselves up to God and examine ourselves in the presence of the One who created us, knows us, and loves us. We are dust, but with God’s grace we can learn to live this life more fully, embrace our sinfulness, and allow God to transform us.

Ash Wednesday and the six weeks of Lent that follow give us an opportunity – once again – to turn away from sin, and follow the gospel.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Over the past few weeks, we have talked about standing, sitting, genuflecting, and bowing in church, especially during Mass. These are not random postures chosen by individual parishioners or even by the local parishes. The place to find direction for the various postures at Mass is the General Instruction of the Roman Missal or GIRM, which is issued for the entire Roman Catholic Church.

When it comes to kneeling, the GIRM instructs that the faithful “should kneel at the consecration unless prevented by lack of space, the number of people present, or some other good reason.”

According to this directive, the only time we would kneel at Mass is during the consecration. However, the GIRM goes on to say that the local bishops’ conferences may adapt these postures. Here in America, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops added the following directive: that the assembly should kneel not just for the consecration but for the entire Eucharistic Prayer, from after the Holy, Holy to after the Great Amen.

Some people find standing during the Eucharistic Prayer to be a prayerful posture that makes a powerful statement of faith. Others see kneeling as a sign of deep respect for the action of the prayer and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Both postures have historical precedence, so neither posture is irreverent.

While pews and kneelers in churches are relatively new, kneeling itself is found in Scripture . In the Old Testament, King Solomon dedicated the temple he built for the Lord, "kneeling down in the presence of all the multitude of Israel, and lifting up his hands towards Heaven.” Daniel opening the windows in his upper chamber towards Jerusalem … knelt down three times a day, and adored and gave thanks before his God..." Kneeling and praying got Daniel thrown into the lions’ den, but he was saved by the Lord.

Kneeling is also found in the New Testament. At the Agony in the Garden, Luke tells us, Jesus withdrew “about a stone's throw from (the disciples) and kneeling, he prayed…” In the book of Acts, Peter kneels to pray before the lifeless body of the disciple Tabitha, and she is returned to life. And Paul, after giving a farewell speech to one of the churches in Asia, “knelt down and prayed with them all.”

Kneeling, like bowing, is associated with reverence, submission and respect, especially if one kneels before a person who is standing or sitting: the kneeling position renders a person defenseless and unable to flee. For this reason we assume this position signaling our submission to and dependence on God.

Friday, February 3, 2012


When passing in front of the tabernacle, it is appropriate to genuflect, since Jesus is present in the tabernacle. Before sitting in a pew, we genuflect toward the tabernacle, and again when we leave our celebration to share the Gospel message.

When moving past the altar before and during Mass, however, a different gesture is required. The gesture of respect for the altar differs from that of the tabernacle. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, or GIRM, tells us that "A genuflection indicates adoration ... while a bow signifies reverence and honor shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them."

In the liturgy, we bow to the altar table, we bow at words in the creed, we bow to each other, and we bow to the Body and Blood of Christ.

Why do we bow to the altar table? In that gesture, without words, we admit our dependence on it. Just as God humbled Himself to share in our humanity, we humble ourselves in recognition of the sacrifice made for our sins. In the opening procession, when they have arrived at the sanctuary, the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers reverence the altar with a profound bow and a kiss, actions which are repeated at the end of Mass.

We also bow at words. In the Nicene Creed, we bow as we recite the words, “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” We revere and respect the great mystery of the Incarnation, that God became one of us.

We bow to each other on occasion. When a priest or deacon incenses us, he bows to us, and we bow in return.

Finally, we bow to the Body and Blood of Christ. The GIRM suggests that we show some sign of reverence for the holy food and drink that we are about to share, and so, before the Eucharistic Minister greets us, we bow. We bow low so that God can raise us, nourished, united to Christ and to each other.

How do we bow? Standing up straight, arms at our side or folded or crossed in front of our chests, we bend at the waist. A truly reverent bow bends so that the upper half of our body is almost parallel to the ground. We bend slowly, gracefully, without looking up. Then, just as slowly and gracefully, we rise, to stand upright again to face the object of our bow.

Bowing is more than just a ritual gesture. It is a way of understanding and expressing how to live in right relationship with God and with one another.