Monday, March 28, 2011

You Hypocrites!

It’s a charge I hear frequently - the Church is full of hypocrites.

I have to admit, as frequently as I hear it, it never fails to sting me. There is no doubt that the biggest obstacle to evangelization is the bad example of Christians. If we were living the gospel message with integrity, sharing our food with the poor, loving one another and worshiping with joy every Sunday, there would be no need for apologetics and evangelization. The beauty of Jesus’ message and the power of the Christian life would be clear to all. It is painfully evident to me that my primary evangelizing effort must be to my own heart, mind and soul. If I am not preaching the word of God with my actions, none of my words will have any effect.

On the other hand, I have found that I need not fold whenever someone pulls the hypocrite card. I usually counter by asking them what they mean and if they can give me an example. Usually I find with a little prodding that what is really going on is that they are projecting on to Christians their own feelings of shame and inadequacy. They realize how they have failed to live up to their own ideals and so picture a Christian community looking at them with the same disdain they often feel for themselves.

One approach I’ve taken when dealing with the charge of hypocrisy is using the example of a gym. We do not go to the gym to show off our strength but to build it. We are not there to model our physique but to improve it. Just so, we do not go to church to show off our holiness but to grow in it through the grace of God. Jesus put it this way: “Those who are well do not need a doctor. Sick people do.” A congregation at worship will be made up of all types of people with all types of sin, weaknesses and temptations. None of us deserves to be there or has earned our spot in the pew. We are there because we have been touched by the teaching of Christ and are striving to emulate Him. We often fall and so are in need of forgiveness, inspiration and renewed resolve. Just as we shouldn’t be surprised to find sick people in the hospital, we shouldn’t be surprised to find sinners in church.

Also, when I go to church, I want to be accepted as I am - even with my sins and faults. I don’t want to be looked down upon because I struggle to live my faith. I don’ want to be judged because I still have a long way to go to be the model of love that Jesus calls me to be. So, I would really be a hypocrite if I did not extend that same charity to my fellow worshipers. I should be willing to accept them with all their sins and failings just as I would want them to accept me - even when their sin is that of hypocrisy.

Most often, I find the hypocrisy card is played as an excuse for not going to Mass and living the Christian life. Sadly we too often give such people more than enough reason to level that charge at us. But we must still press on, pushing through to the heart of the matter which is Jesus and the relationship of love He extends even to hypocrites like me.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

At the Well

I'd like you to take a minute and think about the teachers who made a difference in your life. If you're like me, I remember those teachers not because of what they taught me, but because of how they taught me. A good teacher does more than lecture students and spoon-feed them raw data. Instead, he or she tries to draw out from students an understanding of the material and an ability to relate that information to real life. By engaging them in the learning process, a good teacher not only teaches students what to learn, but teaches them how to learn.

Like a good teacher, Jesus did not get his point across with lectures or by assigning book reports. Jesus, instead, encountered people face to face and sought to draw faith out from them.

In today's gospel, Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well. Under the hot, noon time sun, Jesus sees an opportunity to draw faith from the well of the Samaritan woman's soul. By speaking to her and asking her questions, Jesus guides the woman through a gradual understanding of who he is. At first, she recognizes him to be a Jew. When he offers her living water, she asks if he is "greater than our ancestor Jacob". Then, when Jesus tells her that she has had five husbands, and that she is living with a man who is not her husband, she recognizes that he is a prophet. Finally, when Jesus tells her that true followers will worship in spirit and in truth, she asks him if he is the Messiah. Elated at her new discovery, she drops her water jug and runs off to the village to tell the people that she has found the Messiah. Like a good teacher, Jesus did not just tell her who he was, but revealed himself to her gradually in a way that she could take to heart.

But not only is there a change in the woman's understanding of who Jesus is, there is a change in the woman herself. Remember that Jesus told her that she had had five husbands and that she was living with a man who was not her husband. That's probably why she was at the well at the hottest time of the day, to avoid the other women in the town who would look down on her. She was the town harlot, a public sinner, who lived as an outcast. But now that she had encountered the Messiah and came to believe in him, she went from being the town sinner to being a herald of the good news of Jesus. She leads the people of the village out to meet this man "who told her everything she ever did!"

We are now in our third week of Lenten prayer and sacrifice. Through our prayer, bible study and works of charity we have sat at the foot of our teacher, Jesus, and learned from him. By his presence in our lives, we have come to a deeper understanding of who he is. We may know in our minds that Jesus is our Messiah, but to have it change our lives is another story. Like a good teacher, Jesus is patient with us. He knows it will take time for our understanding of him to penetrate our hearts and to really make a change. The important thing is that we keep going to the well, that we keep seeking out Jesus, that we keep learning from him. Jesus will not deny us the living water when we approach him with sincerity and humility.

Jesus thirsts. Jesus thirsts to have us know him and to live a life of intimate friendship with him. He also longs to quench our thirst for hope and truth. We are gathered here today to worship in Spirit and in Truth. Our worship is guided by the Holy Spirit who was poured into our hearts at our baptism. And, we worship in the truth revealed to us in the Gospels and taught to us by our master, Jesus. If we open our hearts this day to that truth and to that Spirit, Jesus will draw from the well of our hearts a living water which is the promise of everlasting life with him in heaven. And, we will leave this place forever changed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Happy Anniversary

Today, my brother and sister-in-law celebrate their wedding anniversary. Below is a draft of the homily I gave on that beautiful day. It was based on a talk given to the Taunton Deanery a few months before.

It is frequently said that communication is the key to a good marriage. But, what does that mean, and how do you achieve good communication in your marriage and other relationships? Sociologists tell us that the to communicating better is by remembering the four "T's": TALK, TIME, TOUCH AND TRUST.

The first "T" is TALK. Of course, communication is about talking. But, if we were to look honestly at our lives and at our relationships, how often do we talk about the things that are most important? So often, married couples are concerned with working out the details of their busy lives - who will pick up the kids from school, what will we have for supper, what color do you want to paint the walls? While that "small talk" is necessary, how often do we talk about what is in the deepest part of our heart? How often do we talk about our dreams? How often do we talk about our faith and what we believe? Without that, we really don't come to know each other. We can even lose touch with ourselves. So talking, and especially talking about the most important issues in our lives, is the first "T".

The second "T" is TIME. Setting aside time to talk is easy when you're first married. But as kids - and bills - come along, there is less time to be alone together. And often, when the housework is all done and the kids are finally in bed, the last thing you feel like doing is having a deep conversation. But, making time to be alone, just the two of you, is as important as any other appointment you might set. Sometimes couples don't leave their children with a sitter because they are afraid that it's selfish, or they feel guilty about spending time away from them. But the truth is that spending time together is the best thing you can do for your children. They will only be as happy as you are. If there are unspoken tensions between you and you're feeling stressed, your children will pick up on it and start feeling insecure themselves. And often couples use their work and responsibility for their children as an excuse to not make time for each other so they can avoid their problems. Then, as their children need them less, they find that they have lost touch with each other. There's no lonelier feeling than finding out that you no longer know the man or woman you're sharing your life with. Jesus is our example here. The Bible tells us that he always made time to pray to His Father. Even though the crowd so often pressed in on Him seeking His wisdom or wanting to be healed, He always found a secluded place where He could spend time in touch with His Father. We are no different. We need to make time to pray, and we need to make time to talk. So making TIME for each other is the second "T" in forming a strong relationship.

The third "T" is TOUCH. Holding hands and rubbing your loved one's shoulders are ways of showing affection, ways of communicating that we love that person. Touch has the power to soothe and calm our loved ones. When a child falls down and hurts himself, what a difference it makes when his father or mother picks him up and rubs the "boo-boo". Jesus Himself used His touch to heal. The power of touching tells us that the intimacy between a man and a woman is something that goes beyond words. Words cannot always capture the deep emotional and spiritual bond that a man and woman forge over many years of life together. This third "T" teaches us that communication is not just about words, but about the gestures and expressions we use. Sometimes, by simply putting a hand on the other person's shoulder we communicate that we care about what he or she is saying. Other important gestures - other ways of touching - can be leaving a message when you know your spouse is having a tough day at work or emptying the dishwasher when the housework is piling up. And so the third "T", TOUCH, is an important tool for building a happy, affectionate marriage.

Our final "T" is, TRUST. Communication in a marriage or in any relationship should be a simple matter of telling the other person what we think and feel. But, it is rarely that simple. Why do we so often fail to be honest about what we are thinking or feeling? Isn't it because we don't trust the other person to take us seriously or to hear what we have to say without getting defensive? And, isn't it often the case that we don't even trust ourselves? We often fail to say what we're really thinking and feeling because we don't think we deserve to be thinking or feeling that way. And so, we hold it in and grow resentful. Building trust is essential for good communication. It takes the courage to express what we're thinking and feeling no matter how juvenile or selfish we think it sounds. And it takes the patience to listen to our spouses without getting defensive. This fourth "T", TRUST, is what really makes any open and honest communication possible.

Remembering the four "T's" - TALK, TIME, TOUCH and TRUST - is essential to building a strong marriage. The four "T's" strengthen communication so your marriage can be all that God intends it to be. And what God intends for your marriage and for your home is that it be a place where peace is lived and learned. By practicing open communication through the four "T's" you will experience the peace of God's presence in your home, and you will be more open to God and His work in your home as you root out divisiveness and resentments. Most importantly, you will be teaching your children how to communicate, and they will have stronger relationships later on in life because they will have learned it from you.

As you begin your lives together, may you be examples to your children, your family and to all of us of the power of TALK, TIME, TOUCH and TRUST and may your home be a true school of peace where God's love is alive and at work in the world.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.

Have you ever noticed in supermarkets a lady at the end of the aisle with a table full of little goodies to give out as samples? Usually the goodies are little pieces of cheese or meat served on a cracker. What the store hopes is that we'll get a taste of the product and want to buy it. It is a powerful means of advertising a product by enticing us to give it a try even before we have committed to buying it.

In today's gospel reading, Jesus is offering a little taste of his glory to us. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain and reveals to them his glory as the only Son of the Father. They had already come to believe in him because of his words and because of his miracles. In the previous chapter of Matthew's gospel, Peter had made his profession of faith that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. This, now, was an opportunity to see for themselves the divine glory of Jesus which was hidden in his humanity. Jesus was giving them a little taste of who he was as the Son of God.

Jesus didn't bring Peter, James and John up the mountain just to show off to them. He had a specific purpose in mind. Jesus wanted to give them a taste of what his resurrection would be like, so they would desire it enough to endure Jesus' passion and death, and to endure the demands that ministry with Jesus would place on them.

Jesus was asking a lot from Peter, James and John. First of all, he asked them to leave their families and jobs. Secondly, he asked them to believe that he, a carpenter, was the Son of God. Thirdly, he asked them to proclaim that to others. Finally, he would ask them to accompany him through his suffering and death. Remember, it was Peter, James and John who would also go up to the Mount of Olives with Jesus as he suffered the agony in the garden. For them to accomplish all this, they would need something to hold on to, a memory of Jesus' glory to sustain them along the way. And so, Jesus' transfiguration gives the apostles a taste of the future resurrection to help them accept the suffering and shame of the cross.

Paul encourages us in the second reading: "Bear your share of the hardships which the gospel entails." Jesus is asking a lot of us as well. Unlike the apostles, we have never seen Jesus, yet he expects us to accept him as Savior and Lord. To each of us he has given a certain mission which he expects us to undertake. Whether our mission is to be a good parent, a good student, a good spouse or a good priest or deacon, we need help, especially when we encounter hardships. We need the hope that things will turn out okay, that things will get better, that we will adapt to whatever difficult situation we may find ourselves in. For us to be faithful to Jesus and to the mission he's called us to, we need small tastes of his glory. It could be as simple as someone telling us we're doing a good job when we feel like a failure. It could be a beautiful, sunny day reminding us of the beauty of our God. Or, it could be a powerful experience of God's presence in prayer. Whatever it may be, we need to hold on to those experiences to give us the strength to endure whatever difficulties we may encounter. And, we need to ask God to open our eyes to his presence in our life so that we can take notice of those transfiguration moments in our day to day lives.

God is revealing to us His glory in the face of Christ so that our desire to know and love Him will be greater than any difficulty we may face on our journey to Him. Peter, James and John were privileged to see for themselves Jesus transfigured in glory. We have to hold on to less dramatic manifestations of Jesus' presence in our lives as a small taste already on earth of the life that we will share with Jesus in heaven. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Eucharist. Bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ to give us on earth a taste of the intimacy we will have with God in heaven. Through the Eucharist, Jesus is really present among us and within us. We hold on to that small taste of future glory to sustain us during the hardships which come with living the gospel message of love. And, we claim it as a promise that one day that glory will be ours with Jesus at the end of time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Happy Patron Saint of Fathers Day

Every retreat I go on, I am saddened by the number of young people who feel let down by their fathers. Well, besides being patron saint of the Church, the unborn, workers, and fathers, Saint Joseph is also an intercessor for the fatherless. I found this beautiful prayer for those who need a father

Saint Joseph, I need a dad.

You know that I don’t have a father. I can’t count on a strong, comforting, and wise guide to protect and care for me.

I feel alone.

Would you be my father? Would you do for me all that you did for Jesus? Would you provide the fathering I never had? Would you prepare me for life, even though I am all grown up? Would you teach me to love Jesus the way you did? Would you provide for me, teaching me how to make my life in this world with dignity, justice and peace? Would you help me have a meaningful life, a depth of soul, and strength of character that would allow me to completely fulfill my life’s mission entrusted to me by God?

I feel now that I am not alone. You are my foster father, given to me by God.

Thank you for hearing my prayer. Amen.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Temptations of Christ

The devil is a stone-cold liar.

This Sunday's first reading proves it. God had provided a paradise for Adam and Eve with all types of fruit trees to satisfy their hunger. They had dominion over the whole earth. No other person since has had as much power over the world as God had given to Adam and Eve. Along with all that, they enjoyed an intimate friendship with God. They saw Him face to face and talked with Him as with a friend. However, in his cunning, the serpent whispers to Eve that God has held something back from them. Even with all the wonders of creation at their disposal, he convinced her that there was something that God hadn't told them. There was a fine print they hadn't read. According to the serpent, all they needed to do was taste the forbidden fruit, and it would all become clear to them. We know the rest of the story. From then on, the goods of creation which were freely bestowed on Adam and Eve and the dominion over that creation are now only available to us through the "sweat of our brow." However, no amount of toil and striving could recapture for us our greatest loss - that personal, face-to-face intimacy with God. The serpent cheated Adam and Eve out of it through the lie that God was holding something back from them.

The gospel, however, tells a different story. From the lush garden of paradise, we are taken to the arid deserts of the blazing hot Middle East. Finding Jesus at his weakest after forty days of fasting, the devil decides to strike. As he did with Adam and Eve, he wants Jesus to believe that God is holding something back from him, that He hasn't told him the whole story. But Jesus is not so quick to believe his lies. Jesus knows that bread cannot satisfy the deepest longing of his heart which is intimate union with his Father. Jesus knows that the devil has no power to grant him the kingdoms of the earth. The devil is trying to convince Jesus that, alone in the desert with nothing to eat, the Father has abandoned him. It's a temptation that would later revisit Jesus on the cross when he cries out, "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Like the crowds taunting Jesus at his crucifixion, the devil wants Jesus to use his power to save himself without suffering hunger, want and, ultimately, death. But Jesus knows that the Father is with him always even when he suffers. Because of His confidence in God, Jesus can dismiss the devil and his lies. He will not use his power to make a comfortable life for himself or to prove himself to others. Jesus will not believe that he is abandoned by his Father in the desert of his human existence.

Even with Jesus' victory over temptation, the devil has not stopped lying. He can't help it. He continues to lie to us when he tells us that God has abandoned us and doesn't care for us. He lies to us when he tells us that the Church is just a bunch of old guys who never had any fun and don't want you to either. He lies to us when he says that money, food, alcohol, sex, power, fame or status are the solution to the pain and emptiness we carry in our bellies. The devil lies to us when he says that he - and not God - can tell us the whole story about our lives. The devil lies to us so that he can rob us of the gifts that God wants to give us.

Probably the devil's biggest lie is that we are too far gone to be forgiven, that we have wandered too far off for God to find us. Jesus' life, death and resurrection are a testament to the truth that, when we recognize our sin and commit ourselves to living our faith with renewed innocence, we are forgiven. Jesus would not have gone to the lengths he did, he would not have suffered and deprived himself of as much as he did, if we were not worth the effort in His eyes. And He is not about to give up on us now.

The truth is that Jesus came into the world to save us, every one of us. The truth is that God works tirelessly to get us to notice Him and to accept His love into our lives. The truth is that God wants to shower us with grace upon grace, to carry with us whatever burden life may impose and to transform our lives so that they shine with the brilliance of His joy. And the truth is that no one can take that away from us unless we allow them to.

(image by Rohann Zulienn)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

40 Days--Matt Maher

Great video to help contemplate the temptations of Christ and His humanity

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We Rise Again From Ashes

September 11, 2001 was a terrible day for our country and for the world. It's hard to believe that it has been over nine years now. The horrors of that day are still so fresh in our minds. We remember how everything stopped. If you were at work, you stopped what you were doing to listen to the reports. Whatever you may have been watching on TV that day was interrupted to bring the latest news of the event.

And the news was not good. Death, destruction, fire, explosions, hatred, fear: All these form the images from that tragic day. At ground zero, only smoke, rubble and ashes were left. That day changed our perspective on life, on our country and on the world. We have not been the same since.

We begin the season of Lent today. Lent is a blessed time when we stop what we are doing to observe a tragedy, the tragedy of sin. Our history as a human race is scarred by endless conflicts as a result of sin. Sin has brought nothing but death and destruction. Some of it has been devastating, like the events of September 11. Most sin, however, wreaks its havoc in small ways in our personal lives. Nonetheless, there is no one who has not been marked by the effects of sin.

However, unlike September 11 when we weren't sure how to handle the tragedy or how to prevent another one, we do know what to do about sin. God tells us through the prophet Joel in today's first reading: "Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning." Once we realize the damage that sin has worked in our lives, we have no choice but to turn to God and to show our regret in a dramatic way. This is what Lent is about. It is about returning to God and asking God to change our lives.

Today, we will mark our foreheads with ashes. It is a symbol that we are guilty of the destruction which sin has wrought in our world. But, more importantly, it is a symbol of hope. For the God who created us out of dust, can also bring good out of the world's misery and evil. We approach the altar to be marked with ashes as a sign of our repentance, as a sign that we mean to change. We bear proudly on our foreheads the mark of a God who brings life out of death.

And so sin, destruction and death are not the final chapter in human history. It has a happy ending. For, as tragically as sin has disfigured our lives, just so mercifully and completely has God saved us in Jesus Christ. Adam and Eve could never have imagined what evils their disobedience would unleash on the world. Neither could they have imagined that God, the Almighty Creator, would take on flesh and die to bring the new life of the Resurrection.

We have stopped everything to gather here today. We are fasting and not eating meat to show that we mean to change. The God who knows our hearts sees how serious we are. We can never know just how deeply our sin has offended God nor how far our bad choices have rippled out and hurt others. Nonetheless, we can know how completely we are forgiven. Marked with ashes, we can live these next forty days leading up to Easter with a new commitment to turn things around with the strength God provides.

Saint Paul sums it up best in the second reading: "We beg you not to take the grace of God in vain. For he says, 'In an acceptable time I have heard you; on a day of salvation I have helped you.' Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!"

(photo by Ian Britton)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Saint John of God

Today is the memorial of the great Portuguese saint, Saint John of God. The Catholic News Agency offers a great synopsis of his life.

The Catholic Church will celebrate the extraordinary life of St. John of God on March 8. The saint lived through decades of sin and suffering before a profound conversion that led him to embrace poverty, humility and charity.

John was born in Portugal during the year 1495 to middle-class parents. Tragically, at the age of 8, he was kidnapped by a stranger and was later abandoned to homelessness in a remote part of Spain.

He worked as a shepherd until age 22, when the opportunity came along for him to join the army of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. This apparent stroke of fortune, however, would eventually lead John into greater misery.

For the next 18 years, John lived and fought among the emperor's foot soldiers, first against the French and later the Turks. His morals began to decline, as he completely abandoned the piety of his earliest youth for a greedy and brutal way of life.

John's conscience was occasionally troubled, particularly by the memories of his early years before he was taken from his parents. And despite falling into a lifestyle of violence and plundering, he
had a certain weakness for those who were poor or in extreme distress, and would give alms to them.

He was narrowly saved on two occasions from what seemed like certain death – once after instinctively uttering a prayer to the Virgin Mary after falling wounded in enemy territory; and again, when he was falsely suspected of theft and nearly executed but for another soldier's intervention.

Events such as these weighed heavily upon him, and when his regiment was disbanded he decided to amend his life – beginning with a pilgrimage to Spain's Santiago de Compostela Cathedral along the "Way of St. James." There, he confessed his sins and committed himself to living a life of repentance.

Soon after this, he returned to Portugal and discovered what had become of his parents. His mother had died, brokenhearted, after the loss of her son, after which his father had become a Franciscan monk.

At age 42, John returned to Spain and picked up nearly where he had left off 20 years before, working again as a shepherd. This time, however, he was committed to living out the faith in God that he had regained.

He traveled briefly to North Africa, seeking to help Christians there who had been enslaved by Muslims. Eventually, however, he returned to Spain and settled for a time in the occupation of selling religious books and other goods, always encouraging his customers to live their faith sincerely. St. John of God's later reputation as the patron saint of booksellers derives from this period of his life.

Later, however, he felt compelled to give himself entirely to the service of the poor, sick, and vulnerable. He opened his house to them – allowing it to become a combined hospital, homeless shelter, and halfway-house, run entirely by John himself. When he was not bandaging occupants' wounded or breaking up fights between them, he would go out begging on their behalf.

The Bishop of Granada approved his work, and gave him the name "John of God." A group of volunteers came to accompany him in his work, many of whom had first come to him while in dire need themselves.

Others, who resented his work, assaulted John's reputation by focusing on his past sins – but John, unfazed in his humility, would acknowledge the truth of what was said, as a testament to God's grace in his life. He once offered to pay a woman to tell the entire city what she had been saying about him in private.

John served the sick and poor for 15 years, before meeting his death through an act of charity. He jumped into a freezing river and managed to save a drowning man, but came home shivering and weakened from the ordeal. He lay down in one of his own hospital beds, where his condition further declined.

The Bishop of Granada came to administer the last rites. As the bishop prepared him for death, John expressed a number of anxieties.

"There are three things that make me uneasy," he said. "The first is that I have received so many graces from God, and have not recognized them, and have repaid them with so little of my own."

"The second is that after I am dead, I fear lest the poor women I have rescued, and the poor sinners I have reclaimed, may be treated badly."

"The third is that those who have trusted me with money, and whom I have not fully repaid, may suffer loss on my account."

The bishop, however, assured him that he had nothing to fear. John then asked to be alone, and summoned his last strength to rise from bed and kneel before a crucifix.

He died in prayer, with his face pressed against the figure of Christ, on the night of March 7, 1550. St. John of God was canonized in 1690, and has become the patron of hospitals and the dying.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Fever for Jesus

The word “Lent” comes from the old English word for “Spring”. Just as nature is shaking off the cold, sleepy winter so we are awakening from the dark night of sin. Just as nature is beginning to bud forth with the green, leafy life of Spring, so the new life of grace breaks forth in our hearts. Lent is a time to embrace and celebrate the freedom from sin offered to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We have suffered through a brutally cold winter in the Northeast. It has been just in the past week that all the snow has finally melted away. Now, all the destruction of winter is in plain sight. The streets are full of sand left behind by the plow trucks. Uncleared leaves from the Fall cling to the grills of the storm drains. Our lawns are littered with broken branches, newspapers, cans and other trash carried by the wind. It is time to spruce up our yards in preparation for the budding trees and blooming flowers. Our houses need a good spring cleaning after being closed up tight against the cold all winter. We need to open the windows to let in the fresh, spring air. So our hearts need to be swept clean of all the debris of sin so that they may become fresh dwelling places for the Holy Spirit.

Lent is the time when new Christians prepare for baptism through penance, prayer and instruction in the faith. For those who are already baptized, it is an invitation to return to the springtime of our faith, when it all seemed so new and exciting. We are called through prayer and penance to fall in love with Jesus again, to catch a spring fever for the Lord and to live our faith with renewed commitment and joy in preparation for the renewal of our baptismal vows on Easter.