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Announcements ~ 21 April 2019

 
Happy Easter!
 
fleur cross logo The liturgy sheet for Mass today begins on page 7 of this bulletin.  At the end of Mass, please take one bulletin per family, and leave the rest in the vestibule for people to use at later Masses on Easter.
 
fleur cross logo Our Second Collection this Easter weekend is a Special Collection for Parish Buildings and Maintenance.  Following the past record-setting rainy year we will need to do some brick maintenance and pointing on all parish buildings. Thank you for your generosity.
 
fleur cross logo Parish offices are closed on Easter Sunday and Monday, but some evening activities will still be held.  Please check with your ministry leaders to confirm schedules.
 
fleur cross logo ECHO’s Yard Sale is next weekend, Saturday in the gym.  Check out the biggest yard sale in Christendom.
 
fleur cross logo Please join us for the Feast of Saint Bernadette, which will be celebrated this year with a special Mass on Monday evening, April 29, at 7:30pm.
 
fleur cross logo Divine Mercy Devotions are scheduled for 3pm on the Second Sunday of Easter, next Sunday, April 28.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 21 April 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,

What is your relationship with the Word of God? And then the next question: What is your relationship with the Word-made-Flesh? First, the Word. Are you one who reads the Bible out of curiosity, interest? To be more knowledgeable of the body of Sacred Scripture, maybe to be able to cite a few texts? Maybe you can take away a few insights that will help inform your life, making every day more understandable. To maintain such an impersonal interaction with God’s living Word is to only take as much as we want out of it, not to receive fully the Spirit that breathes behind the Word with the power to transform us.

Likewise, with Jesus. Do we allow ourselves to come close enough to him to just see what is going on, what he might be saying or doing (many simply wanted to see him perform signs), file all this away for future use if it should become necessary? Do we really identify ourselves in him? Or only with him? Do we enter into his experience as members in him?

Our relationship to the Passion narratives which we have listened to this week set a tone to our approach to the Mysteries of Christ, these saving Mysteries of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection as they unfolded on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Where do you fall in the story?

We asked that everyone not read the lines of the crowd for a very specific purpose. So you would not be focusing only on “your” lines and when they were coming next, these lines of condemnation and hate. Focusing only on these lines, as onlookers, might cause us to miss the message of the love of Jesus which lies behind all the other lines. And “whose” lines are they anyway?

Especially today, it seems, the last thing we need is another angry crowd. Look around us, how many angry crowds, everywhere, shouting and demanding. We are called to be more.

Reading this Gospel like a script was an experiment in the 70s that, oddly, contradicted the message of Vatican II. At a time when unity was of utmost importance, we segregated our congregations by this new mode of addressing these passion narratives as if we were characters in a play. You became the mob, the shouting mob. The priest alone became Jesus. ...Why?

Today it seems like this divide is becoming wider, a clericalism (an emphasis on the centrality of the priest as Christ) is more common today (as before) that can seek to deny the common priesthood of all baptized lay people to assume the role of Jesus in the world. …All of us are called not only to speak the lines, but live the role of Jesus…to be him.

Lay people—same as clergy—are called to be more than bystanders. Your spiritual life is more than being the angry mob. Somebody said to me last year, “Well, I like to shout ‘Crucify him!’ because then this Gospel reminds me how my sins crucified Jesus.”

I have thought about this all year. Our sins did not crucify Jesus, as if we could have such power over him. We are dead in our sins, there is nothing we can do. We are powerless, we are nailed down, unable to move, even unable to speak. So utterly helpless. It is Jesus who lovingly, intentionally climbs up onto that Cross (as the Church Fathers said) to give us life again—and life eternal! He followed the will of his Father and chose to do this. It is a story about love, not hate. Just one tear of the Son of God in the Garden of Gethsemane would have been enough suffering to ratify the new, eternal covenant given to us on Holy Thursday—but Jesus wanted to show us how radically deep is this love of God for you, so he emptied himself, entirely.

I gave you spiritual homework last week: while rereading those passion narratives, to read out loud all the parts of Jesus. Now I have Easter homework for you. We have now experienced the sacred Mysteries first hand—now consider his resurrection. If we have truly lived in him through these Mysteries, risen life will follow just as truly.

That vocabulary of Jesus now flows equally from your own heart, a vocabulary of kindness and mercy, forgiveness and peace, self-emptying love. Be transformed in this new life you have already received! We are called to be so much more than even the faithful friend who stands at the foot of the cross and stays until the end. In Christ, there is no death, no end, no division.

We are called beyond the end, to be Christ himself.

God bless you.

Announcements ~ 14 April 2019

fleur cross logo Please find the Sacred Triduum schedule for Holy Week on page 7 of today’s bulletin. During this period of three holy days, we ask that regular parish activities be suspended and everyone try to come as much as possible to our liturgies.
 
fleur cross logo Again, we will have the traditional blessing of Easter foods on Holy Saturday morning at 10:30am.
 
fleur cross logo Please start returning Rice Bowls
We would appreciate it if you would change the coins and bills into a check (it is more easily tax-deductible too!) but we will accept coins. Any donation will be graciously received!
 
fleur cross logo Saint Bernadette’s new subscription to Word on Fire’s ENGAGE is your doorway to all the Word on Fire materials: text ‘saintbern’ to 84576 to join our parish account and receive updates and notices of what is happening in our parish community!
 
fleur cross logo Easter Flower Memorials Available - Remember someone you love, either living or deceased, with a donation for our beautiful Easter Flowers. Envelopes are available in your envelope packets, in the Church and in the Parish Office. The deadline for the listing in the bulletin is today.
 
fleur cross logo Again this year, when we proclaim the Gospels of the Lord’s Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, the part of the crowd will be read by one of lectors, not by the assembly. In this way all can be attentive to the entire Gospel.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 14 April 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
There is a lot coming up, liturgically speaking, here at Saint Bernadette. It can seem a little overwhelming, especially to those who don’t have a daily practice of coming to church. Please don’t be intimidated, though. The Sacred Triduum and Holy Week is the time of year that God touches more hearts than any other:  all you need is a heart open to hear what God has to say to you as we enter into the depths and heights of Jesus’ own experiences as God-Man, of whom we are real members.
 
Let me break it down for you based on levels of participation and time expense.
 
If you are looking for one event, the most important, most ancient expression of faith that we know as Catholics, and want to see the Church at her best and most beautiful, you must plan to attend the Easter Vigil, on Holy Saturday at 8:30pm. Yes, it is a long liturgy, maybe several hours long, but it takes you throughout salvation history from the moment of the creation and blessing of fire, through Scriptures old and new, reaching the moment of resurrection at the Glory to God. Then a lavish celebration of God’s mercy and grace as we celebrate the sacraments of initiation for all those who have been preparing this year in the RCIA program. In the middle of it we reach our goal for the whole season of Lent, too, as we joyfully renew our baptismal promises together.
 
If you can spend a little more time, come to the three events which compose one continuous liturgy of Three Days (Triduum). This liturgy ends with the Vigil of Resurrection, but begins on Holy Thursday night at 7:30pm with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and continues with the Triduum liturgy of the Passion, Veneration of the Cross and Holy Communion on Good Friday night at 7:30pm. The three liturgies represent a harmony and a unity of the Mysteries of Christ as our Passover from death to eternal Life, we are not along as spectators, but we enter with him as members of his Body to know the depths of his mercy and love. Once the Mass begins on earth on Holy Thursday night, it does not end with a blessing, nor does the Good Friday liturgy have a beginning or an end (we simply disperse randomly), and the Easter Vigil doesn’t have a beginning either. But something wonderful happens:  this one liturgy consists of two Masses, the second now being the heavenly celebration, trasforming the earthly into the heavenly, the human into the divine. Of course, we look back and see the divine liturgy already present to the assembly on Holy Thursday, in the same way knowing that what is human is not lost in the light of Easter, either. It is divinized, we are awakened and charged with the power of God himself. We are a new creation in him.
 
Add-ons to this structure of the Triduum also greatly enhance the principal celebrations.
 
One traditional observance of the three hours of agony of Jesus on the Cross is a presentation of his Seven Last Words, or Tre Ore. You don’t have to come for the full three hours, but roughly every 20 minutes or so one of Jesus’ last Words will be read from the Gospel, surrounded by choral pieces, congregational hymns, instrumental music, a meditation and prayers. It is a lovely, peaceful way to stay at the foot of the Cross with Jesus at his lonely death. We will take turns giving the reflection.
 
Another traditional observance of the several hours of agony Jesus experienced praying in the Garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper and before his arrest is the Adoration in the gym on Holy Thursday night. We literally leave the Last Supper place with Jesus in procession to another place, recalling how the Apostles accompanied him to the Garden to pray. We will stay in the gym until the recitation of Night Prayer at midnight, when the Eucharist is suddenly taken from the Garden and is hidden, as in death.
 
Stations of the Cross are popular on Good Friday, but not a part of the Sacred Triduum. The Stations will be prayed at 3pm. Some have asked why we don’t do the proper Triduum liturgy of the Passion Gospel and Veneration of the Cross at 3pm. At Saint Bernadette we have kept it in the evening so that those who still have to )work on Good Friday will have the opportunity to come for the beautiful liturgy. On Good Friday no sacraments are celebrated; the church is stripped of all adornment and the bare minimum of our survival is observed, as Holy Communion consecrated the night before is brought out and we wait in vigil for the new life to come.
 
We will have the traditional Eastern Blessing of Easter foods at 10:30am on Holy Saturday morning.
 
We also will include the public prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours in the mornings of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday at 8am. Please join us!  Remember, there are no other regularly scheduled daily Masses throughout the Sacred Triduum, not even the 5pm on Holy Saturday afternoon.
 
God bless you.
 

Announcements ~ 7 April 2019

fleur cross logo Our Parish Penance Service is THIS Tuesday, April 9 at 6:30pm, a time that we will have sixteen priests (English and Spanish) who will be here for you. Please plan to come.  + Martes, 9 de abril.  Unanse a nosotros para un servicio especial que incluye confesión individual rápida y absolución.  Favor mirar el boletín.
 
fleur cross logo Please find the Sacred Triduum schedule for Holy Week on page 7 of today’s bulletin.  During this period of three holy days, we ask that regular parish activities be suspended and everyone try to come as much as possible to our liturgies.
 
fleur cross logo Our progress in the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal seems to have stalled out a bit in recent weeks.  We are at about 85% of our goal with 22% of our families participating.  We have a ways to go in our obligation to the diocese. Please, if you plan to make a pledge to the BLA, make it quickly and we will be able to finish strong in our support of the many people who rely on this collection for programs and services.
 
fleur cross logo Make All Things New Capital Campaign Kicks Off
This weekend marks the official launch of the Saint Bernadette Make All Things New Capital Campaign to raise funds so we can build a new parish hall, add an elevator for accessing the church and parish offices, and renovate the current office building. After Mass in the vestibule, look for volunteers wearing the “Ask Me about our Capital Campaign” badge. They will be there to answer any questions you may have about the campaign.
 
fleur cross logo Saint Bernadette’s new subscription to Word on Fire’s ENGAGE is your doorway to all the Word on Fire materials: text ‘saintbern’ to 84576 to join our parish account and receive updates and notices of what is happening in our parish community!
 
fleur cross logo Easter Flower Memorials Available - Remember someone you love, either living or deceased, with a donation for our beautiful Easter Flowers. Envelopes are available in your envelope packets, in the Church and in the Parish Office. The deadline for the listing in the bulletin is Palm Sunday.
 
fleur cross logo Again this year, when we proclaim the Gospels of the Lord’s Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, the part of the crowd will be read by one of lectors, not by the assembly.  In this way all can be attentive to the entire Gospel.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 7 April 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
As you know, next weekend is Palm Sunday.  It is time that all of Christendom pauses, in memory of our Savior, who died for us.  Believers pause, even if but for a moment of silence, to remember this complete loving act, the One who gives up his life for his friends.  Believers whose faith is strong unite in him as well as those whose faith is weak.  For this moment, it doesn’t matter, we don’t matter; it is only that we find ourselves in him, who makes this perfect act of love, dying so that we might live.  The Father’s plan is fulfilled.  The love of the Son is the visible reality of the love of the Father.
 
We are confronted with this infinite love which we did nothing to earn or deserve.  Even though the world wants us to believe that somehow we deserve what we want, we know down deep that this is all God’s work.  All we must do is receive his love in humility and return his love by the fruitfulness of our lives.
 
At this moment I am attending the National Workshop on Christian Unity.  We joined together at the Old Cathedral of Saint Louis under the arch in Saint Louis, Missouri at the side of the Mississippi River tonight, peoples of over a dozen Christian ecclesial communions, to praise and give thanks to God in Christ, and to ask him to deliver us from ourselves. 
 
You see, when we begin to claim credit for this saving work of Jesus our selfishness leads us away from the truth, into some version of our imagination. We can begin to convince ourselves we determine the truth.  Suddenly my truth doesn’t match yours.  We put our logo on the Word of God and start making distinctions and define ourselves by differences which, though having defined a difficult and complicated history of corrupt motives, may not be Church-dividing, they are individual-dividing.  When our understanding doesn’t match what we are told is true, doubt enters that threatens our autonomy, our identity.  The world tells us (and all 12 year-olds) to go with our gut, and not with a position of humility which might lead us back out of ourselves to God.  Schism is caused by a lack of humility on both sides.
 
At our prayer service tonight I looked around me.  All these people with a beautiful faith in Jesus, people baptized just like me, people who come together to do something about the pain of separation and division.  We know Jesus’ prayer at/after the Last Supper (Jn. 17) makes it clear what Jesus’ will is fulfilling the Father’s plan.  That we might be one, as he and the Father are one, so that the world might believe that the Father sent him.  He knows what to pray for; he knows what the Father wants to give us.  He would not pray for what is not possible, or not the will of his Father.  Unity.
 
Have you noticed?  All the prayers around the consecration and following it are for unity and peace.  We pray for it, too, it is the keystone of the Mass, so that all might come to full, visible Communion, to taste and see the goodness of the Lord.  It was the keystone of our prayer service tonight in Saint Louis, Missouri as we came together to pray in whatever way possible that we might bring on this new Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit will restore to full stature the Body of Christ, which he came to bring together.
 
I imagine all of us—Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, Baptist, United Church of Christ, American Methodist Episcopal, Pentecostal, Evangelical—the list goes on and on—reflecting on this Passion narrative of Jesus on Palm Sunday, united in our love for Jesus and sorrow in our participation in his Passion.  He died for us.  We are called to give ourselves in the same way for each other, and the divisions of denomination can’t deny the truth of devotion or the spirituality of living as true members of his Body.  Of course, I believe that the fullness of truth is found in our full Tradition.  Still, a spectrum of faithfulness exists within our own Catholic Church with all its divisions, and we must acknowledge that true faith is not limited to the Roman Catholic observance, that God’s grace will not be limited by our individualism or our division to protect our privilege of “place.”
 
This is one of the best reasons I can give for wanting our assembly not to be limited to the part of the “angry crowd” who calls for Jesus’ crucifixion in the Gospel narratives of Palm Sunday and Good Friday.  I want people to take ownership of our sin, yes, but I also want you equally to identify with the words of Jesus himself, who you really are.  Why is the priest the only the one who gets to read the part of Jesus?  These “script narratives” were only an experiment in the 70s, anyway, and I think the test of time has led us to realize that reading the Gospel like a morality play is not that helpful. 
 
Join with me this Holy Week: we are here not to be onlookers or observers.  The Mystery of Christ is happening within us; we are the Body, judged, tortured, crucified, and glorified.  We are not called to be followers; we are called to be CHRIST.  May our love reflect his mercy and loving kindness for all.

God bless you.
 

Announcements ~ 31 March 2019

fleur cross logo Easter Flower Memorials Available - Remember someone you love, either living or deceased, with a donation for our beautiful Easter Flowers. Envelopes are available in your envelope packets, in the Church and in the Parish Office. The deadline for the listing in the bulletin is Palm Sunday.
 
fleur cross logo Today’s Second Collection is for the annual second for Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Catholic Relief Services is the official international relief and development agency that assists the poor and vulnerable in more than 100 countries on behalf of the Catholic Community in the United States. Your gift helps miracles happen. Thank you for your support and generosity.
 
fleur cross logo Saint Bernadette’s new subscription to Word on Fire’s ENGAGE is your doorway to all the Word on Fire materials: text ‘saintbern’ to 84576 to join our parish account and receive updates and notices of what is happening in our parish community!
 
fleur cross logo Our progress in the Bishop’s Lenten Appeal seems to have stalled out a bit in recent weeks.  With the initial totals in, we are still holding at about 75% of our goal with 22% of our families participating.  We have a ways to go in our obligation to the diocese. Please, if you plan to make a pledge to the BLA, make it quickly and we will be able to finish strong in our support of the many people who rely on this collection for programs and services. BLA funds are restricted gifts that provide many programs, services and ministries that serve people in need, and may not be used for any other purpose. Don’t forget every new donor or gift over last year’s gift will be matched by a challenge gift.  
 
fleur cross logo Our Parish Penance Service will be Tuesday, April 9 at 6:30pm, a time that we will have at least sixteen priests (English and Spanish) who will be here for you. Please plan to come.  + Martes, 9 de abril.  Unanse a nosotros para un servicio especial que incluye confesión individual rápida y absolución.  Favor mirar el boletín.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 31 March 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
Last week I got together for lunch with a good friend, a leader in the Hindu community in Fairfax County.  We are planning some kind of event, not sure exactly what we will do yet, some sort of dialogue of beliefs and culture so that our communities can get to know each other better.  We were talking about what a good topic might be for us to consider for our talks.
 
I suggested that we talk about how youth are not continuing with religious practices.  You see, it is not only a Catholic problem, it is a human problem that stretches across all religions.  Humanity has lost its identity as being related to the divine.  For us, humanity is charged with the divinity of Christ.  For Hindus, the divine is present in all people, really, all things.  How can we desire what we no longer know?  If there is no Authority beyond my ego, why would I consider that there might be more?  He agreed.  Few young people go to temple, much the same as Mass.
 
He then suggested that we might talk about how we have allowed others to undermine our religious identity.  Apparently in India the situation of Hindus is dire in their relationships with Muslims and Buddhists.  In many cases, Evangelical Christianity has also done what they can to damage the ancient culture of the Hindu people.  Hinduism, he says, is characterized primarily by certain stereotypes which have been twisted without seeking any understanding about their historical or social origins.  I nodded.  Catholicism has been stereotyped even by many Catholics on opposite sides of internal divisions, not to mention those who actively seek to do damage.  We are defined today by the sins of some, which are terrible but not faith defining.  If anything, they outline a kind of bankruptcy resulting from a lack of faith.  My friend said that we Hindus and Catholics have begun to identify more with the ways others define us because our roots are not deep and we don’t know how to articulate the mysteries of our own faith when criticized.  He said that many young Hindus are ashamed to be Hindu.  I nodded.
 
I suggested we start with something a little less difficult.  What about the way we treat each other today?  Where does this anger flash originate and who said it was okay?  I was thinking at the time about the reaction we have gotten from many about a recent request to update our database.  You see, we just wanted to reach out to anyone in the parish who might not be confirmed to offer the opportunity.  Yes, we keep very careful sacramental records in handwritten books, recorded and to be kept for generations, for hundreds of years.  We record every sacrament, but it has never been doubly recorded in the digital database of the parish.  We did a database search, and sent out 3,800 letters to people for whom we had no record of confirmation, to make it available and encourage.  Also, many families still list their adult children as members.  I’m thinking we have a lot fewer members than are shown and it’s time for a clean up.
 
But it was the flash reaction of indignation and anger on the part of some that made me wonder:  why is this now the way we respond to each other?  And who said it was okay?  We automatically expect the worst and can be so disrespectful of each other.  My friend said that he thinks that people have become so impersonal making the majority of their communication in electronic form that we no longer realize we are speaking with a person.  Some kind of mental construct.  Eventually, he said, the internet trolls will come out into the light of day and we will realize how far we have come (or not).  It will be a world of Hindu and Catholic trolls. 
 
Based on the readings for this Sunday, I asked him if, in the context of all these topics, we might consider a discussion of how we come to know these things as truth, we recognize that we are not living up to our full potential (in our case, as God calls us to live), and how do we heal?  How do we say we are sorry?  Do we say we are sorry?  “Father, I no longer deserve to be called your son, treat me as one of your hired hands.”
 
The prodigal son, knowing his Father, counts on at least a job in the barn.  He awakens in a pig sty far away and realizes how far away he truly is.  There is a faint memory of when things were better, and he gets up and starts moving.  His Father, who was watching (for how long?  years?), sees him coming finally at the end of the road and runs, embraces, restores.
 
The story requires (1) knowledge of mercy, (2) a memory of something better, (3) real contrition and humility, and (4) a getting up and going.  I wonder, today, if these things are part of the common experience of life for people in our culture or even Church?  Such basic human experiences seem to be extra-ordinary items for so many who haven’t had such things passed on to them by their parents, or maybe weren’t paying attention when they were.
 
God bless you.
 

Announcements ~ 24 March 2019

fleur cross logo Easter Flower Memorials Available - Remember someone you love, either living or deceased, with a donation for our beautiful Easter Flowers. Envelopes are available in your envelope packets, in the Church and in the Parish Office. The deadline for the listing in the bulletin is Palm Sunday.
 
fleur cross logo Saint Bernadette’s new subscription to Word on Fire’s ENGAGE is your doorway to all the Word on Fire materials: text ‘saintbern’ to 84576 to join our parish account and receive updates and notices of what is happening in our parish community!
 
fleur cross logo The Bishop’s Lenten Appeal is coming to fulfillment and we are asking every household in our parish to support this appeal to the extent you are able. BLA funds are restricted gifts that provide many programs, services and ministries that serve people in need, and may not be used for any other purpose. Don’t forget every new donor or gift over last year’s gift will be matched by a challenge gift.  Thank you for responding so quickly.  Once our goal is met we may begin our own parish Capital Campaign!
 
fleur cross logo Our Parish Penance Service will be Tuesday, April 9 at 6:30pm, a time that we will have at least eighteen priests (English and Spanish) who will be here for you. Please plan to come.  + Martes, 9 de abril.  Unanse a nosotros para un servicio especial que incluye confesión individual rápida y absolución.  Favor mirar el boletín.

Fr. Don's Weekly Letter ~ 24 March 2019

Dear Good People of Saint Bernadette,
 
Lent is all about fasting, prayer and almsgiving.
 
Having spoken about fasting and prayer in the two last bulletins, we turn now to the topic of almsgiving this week.  Our parish 40 Hours of Eucharistic Adoration and Parish Mission last week was really a time of palpable grace for our parish family, thanks to all who made it such a huge success.  As you know, many effects of grace are realized later when God knows we are ready.  So much groundwork was done for our parish family last week, and we will be better for it, if we aren’t already.
 
“Giving” is one of the gifts which might be received at baptism, as we learn in the Called and Gifted Program.  It is relatively rare, apparently, or else people are so saturated with the world they are completely unaware that they have it.  A person who has received the gift of Giving doesn’t ask (like most of us do), “How much must I give?”  She or he asks, rather, “How much do I really need to keep?”  A person who gives needs a lot of trust, and a humility that recognizes that we don’t identify ourselves by what we have, but by what we have given to others.  This is not just money I’m talking about, it is about precious hours in the day, and about sharing the things that you can use to actually make another person’s life better rather than your own.
 
We get a glimpse of what Christianity looked like in the years immediately following the Resurrection of Jesus in the account of the Acts of the Apostles.  People lived in community, sharing all they had in common, providing for those in need with the resources of all.  People would literally bring what they had and lay it at the feet of the Apostles, who would figure out how it could be best used to provide charity and well being to others, regardless of their affiliations.
 
Think of it logically:  we cannot be a community that calls ourselves Christian if we are not a community that gives of ourselves.  It would be a lie.
 
Early Christianity might seem like socialism to many.  Such a system of socialism seems to be impractical, even dangerous because such social systems have been established and taken advantage of by corrupt and ruthless dictators.  The state becomes more important than the value of the life of the individual or even the life of the community. 
 
But in the system of the Apostles, there was no power involved.  Everyone remained humble, people lived in peace as equals.  The only thing that still exists today that is faithful to this “new way” of Jesus is religious life.  Communities of Sisters, Priests and Brothers who have no goal but to love and serve God, and exercise their respective charisms for the good of the apostolate, whether that be education, development, caring for the afflicted or helping the poor.  Great religious orders throughout the history of western civilization such as the Benedictines, Franciscans and Jesuits have always lived with all things shared in common, with no personal property and no agenda other than the purpose of their Order or community to serve God in his creation.
 
I wonder how that happens in our lives who are not committed personally as men and women religious are?  Just because we haven’t made a vow of poverty (diocesan priests don’t, either) does that give us license to be rich?  To keep all that we can and build up barns to storing all we can?  To live in this world without regard to the Lazaruses that sit outside our door in the dirt, waiting for someone to be kind?  Jesus is clear.  Even to give a glass of water to one who is thirsty is enough not to lose your reward. 
 
The thing is, the more you do it, the more you do it.  It becomes a part of your personality, even identity, to be generous.  It starts with kindness, maybe nothing more than a smile, and grows into greater and greater contributions of yourself to others and the community.  A personal transformation is underway.
 
For this reason almsgiving, classically understood as providing sustenance to the poor, is considered one of the greatest works of penance (instruments of personal conversion) for the season of Lent as well as throughout the year.  We make a sacrifice of something significant, so that the gift actually means something to us, too.  And the person who receives our generosity will, in turn, glorify God in their own way.
 
Giving makes reparation for the sins we ourselves have committed, as well as builds virtue enabling us to live a life more faithful to the Gospel.  It gives another hope, and reveals to others the way that Jesus went about doing good and helping provide the healing and peace that was, and is today, so needed.  Our lives become living Gospels, even without necessarily needing to use the words.
 
God bless you.
 
 

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