Sunday, 22 March 2020 – Cause for Rejoicing: Laetare Sunday

Sunday, 22 March 2020 – Cause for Rejoicing: Laetare Sunday

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This Sunday is called Laetare Sunday—a relaxation in Lenten penance and austerity, reminding us of the joy of the Resurrection we will soon celebrate. But for so many of us, this Sunday seems anything but joyful: public Masses are canceled, and there is so much fear and uncertainty throughout our country.

Remember what St. Peter wrote: “There is cause for rejoicing here. You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears,” (1 Peter 1.6-7). 

The friars here at St. Gertrude are doing our best to serve you throughout this painful time. We are offering Masses for you, hearing confessions every day, keeping the church open for adoration from noon to nine, and producing videos every day to stay in touch (with much more to come). We’re also preparing to care for the sick and dying as the pandemic deepens.

We’re relying on you, even in this time of trial, to keep supporting our parish. Our main revenue stream, the weekly collection, is gone. Without your generosity, we won’t be able to keep paying our staff and serving you. Please give to the parish using WeShare (see button below) so we have a vibrant parish to come back to when this ordeal is over! 

Thank you for standing by us, and one another, in this tough time. 
Below you’ll find both video and text of Fr. Ignatius’ homily from today. We also have Episode 4 of Closing the Social Distance: Fr. Paul and I share a glass of wine and a conversation about staying sane amidst the craziness.

We’re working on much more content for you all this week, so stay tuned—and stay joyful, even amidst the trial.

Oremus pro invicem—let us pray for each other,

The Dominican Friars

Clay in the Hands of the Lord – John Chapter 9

Fr. Ignatius Schweitzer, O.P.

The Lord formed man from the clay of the earth and breathed the breath of life into him (Gen 2:7), thus does Genesis recount the creation of man.  In our Gospel today, the Lord Jesus also holds the clay of the earth in His hands as He forms man anew, and gives the man born blind new life.  It’s a new beginning.  The clay of our humanity is being refashioned by Jesus through His mission among us.

For us in our own day, the coronavirus has reduced us to something like formless clay.  The normal structures of our daily life have, to some extent, been taken away and left us with a formlessness, like unformed clay.  The world we are used to, to some extent, has been shaken to its foundations in the clay of the earth.  In other words, we are more face-to-face with the simple clay of our humanity.

We are not entirely in charge.  Our efforts to form the world sometimes fail. We try our best but we are not in control of everything.  We are having to face more and more the poverty of the clay of our humanity.

Even the extra time of silence and prayer, that our circumstances are placing us in, are an occasion to return to our humble origins, the humble clay of the earth from which we were formed by the hand of the Lord.

Ah, but we are not just a formless lump of clay packed down and pushed away into a corner.  No.  Rather, we are humble clay, but clay in the hands of the Lord!  So as we are being stripped and shown our poverty in different ways, brought to our humble origins of clay, the question for us is what the Lord wishes to refashion us into.  What is the Lord doing now in our souls and how does he wish to refashion us?  This applies to us individually but also to our community, the Church, and the whole culture and world at large.  In our poverty, we are humble clay, but clay in the hands of the Lord. And what does He want to fashion us into?

We are the clay and the Lord is the Potter (Jer 18:6).  And this makes all the difference in the world.  The Lord is the potter in the midst of everything, refashioning us as clay in His hands.  We need those times of prayer and silence for us to be the docile, malleable, formable clay in His hands.  And the work He wishes to accomplish through all this is good…indeed very good.

Looking at our Gospel, I wonder what sentiments must have bubbled up and surged through the being of Jesus as He held the clay in His hand, about to heal the blind man.  He was about to create this man (and every man) anew, giving him sight, the light of faith, and the life of God. 

Millenia earlier, in a primordial distant past, this same Son of God had already held clay in His hand, forming man from the mud of the earth in the first creation.  What profound feelings, deeper and more mysterious than usual, then, must have echoed through the God-man’s human heart and consciousness, as he worked the cool clay in His hand in this act of re-creation?

It could have been that a strange intuition arose in Jesus’ human soul: He has been here before; something is so familiar about it yet also so new.  He stands before the blind man working the clay in His hand and it’s as if He’s been here before, millennia earlier.  And yet it’s something new He is doing now.  What a marvel!  Indeed, the man who receives his sight exclaims, “Never since the world began (never since the world began!) has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind”—so exclaims the new creature re-formed by Jesus (Jn 9:32).  Never since the world began—creation!—has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind—re-creation!  These words ironically allude to the creation and re-creation theme and that first beginning that the man born blind too has sensed with a tremor as Jesus touches him.

And this new beginning is just as fundamental as the beginning of creation in Genesis.  The new beginning of Baptism is also hinted at in our Gospel passage.  Jesus tells the man to “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam (which means Sent).” And the man comes back seeing (9:7, 11).  Baptism as washing, as illumination, as a being sent with a new purpose and mission, as a new creation, as new life.

The joy of the Creator, and re-Creator, will be made complete as He accomplishes the Paschal Mystery and makes all things new in Christ.  This joy will be made complete when Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into His disciples (Jn 20:22).  This joy will be made complete as what began in Genesis 2:7 is brought to its fulfillment: “Then the Lord God formed man from the clay of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being;” and, indeed, in Christ, man becomes the new man in the Spirit.  The Father’s wonderful masterpiece is reaching its fulfillment and it is not only very good…but very, very good (cf Gen 1:31).

And what we face today in the world, with the coronavirus, is part of the Lord’s fashioning of his wonderful masterpiece.  What does the Lord wish to bring about in us and in our society through it?  Perhaps a greater simplicity and a greater focus on what’s most important in life.  As we are stripped of more and more things and brought to the humble clay of our humanity, hopefully we’ll reconnect more deeply with what’s most important: God, spiritual things, faith, hope, charity, strong families, love and service of others, things that will endure into eternity.

That creative surge of life that began at creation is still pulsating today in the touch of Jesus.  That creative surge of life of the Holy Spirit can refashion us in the hands of the Lord.  So in our Lenten journey to the Paschal Mystery this year, let us be that docile, malleable, and formable clay in the hand of the Lord.  For, we are the clay and He is the Potter, even now.  Amen.