This year Lent began on Valentine’s Day which magnifies in a very special way the shape and character of our Christian life. The six weeks of the Lenten journey moves us by stages more deeply into the mystery of God’s love through the dying and rising of Jesus Christ. Christ’s dying and rising, what we call the “Paschal Mystery”, was given to us as an example to enter into and to make our own so that the teachings of Jesus about the power of God’s love that he preached about during his life is confirmed at the end of his life and continued on in us.
The living out of the paschal mystery in our Catholic tradition is done in a number of ways. Some people follow the traditional Lenten practices of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer from Ash Wednesday until Holy Thursday evening. Fasting−eating only one full meal and not eating between meals−is observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday by all who are 18 years old but not yet 59 years old. Abstinence−not eating meat−is observed on all Fridays by those who are 14 years of age and older. Fasting and abstaining is observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Prayer may include meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary, walking the Stations of the Cross, reading or listening to Scripture, and joining a community for the celebration of daily Mass.
I believe that our traditional Lenten practices are meaningful. But I also believe that the scripture readings we hear during Lent do three things: 1). they challenge us. 2). they call us to conversion, and 3). they comfort us. Challenge is the call to reorder and restructure how we as individuals and as a community do things. Conversion is accepting the challenge and moving forward to change. Comfort is what is given to us knowing that the challenge we have accepted and the conversion we have undergone is bringing us new life.
During the Season of Lent, the Liturgy Committee and I are asking you to accept the challenge, the conversion, and the comfort when it comes to liturgical ministry at the Church of St. Matthew. This means that everyone who comes to worship with us needs to look at how we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist together. Our celebrations cannot be done effectively without the following ministers:
- Mass Coordinator—an adult who sets up liturgical items and the worship space. Oversees scheduled Mass Ministers to assure coverage and the smooth flow of Mass.
- Eucharistic Minister—a confirmed member with the ability to stand holding a ciborium or chalice. Distributes the Blessed Sacrament or Precious Blood to those wishing to receive.
- Lector—a confirmed member with the ability to speak distinctly and loud enough to be heard. Requires reviewing the Readings and Prayers of the Faithful before Mass to pronounce names properly.
- Altar Server—girl or boy in 4th grade or higher as well as adults. Leads the procession and recession at Mass and assists the priest and deacon at the altar.
- Gift Bearers—families and individuals of any age who volunteer to carry up the financial offerings, and bread and wine in preparation for the offertory prayers.
- Greeter/Usher—adult or older teenager who arrives early to greet members and visitors and assists with passing out songbooks and worship aids. Helps to pass offertory baskets.
- Music Minister—supports and enhances worship through singing or playing an instrument. Leads the community in sung prayer as a cantor.
Because some of our ministers have died, some of our ministers have moved away, and some of our ministers are not able to continue doing ministry, we all must look at the spiritual gifts that God has given to us for building up the Body of Christ. Being a liturgical minister at the Eucharist does not mean that we are not celebrating the Eucharist. It means that we are given the opportunity to enter more deeply into the experience of the paschal mystery where Christ serves us and we in turn use our gifts to serve our community.
We live in a world that God has chosen to enter through the acceptance and cooperation of human beings. During the first week of Lent you are asked to pray to the Holy Spirit for help in discerning your call to be a minister. Discernment is a process leading to decisions that are in harmony with the will of God in concrete situations. It is recognition of the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance within us as we make choices.
In prayer ask yourself:
- What are my strengths?
- What are my weaknesses?
- Do I have any physical disabilities that limit what I can do?
- Do I have problems being on time and being prepared?
- Can I be both a leader and a follower?
- What activities do people say that I am good at?
PRAYER OF DISCERNMENT
Spirit of God, guide me as I seek to discern whether or not you are calling me to be a minister. Help me to be honest with myself and with others. If an exalted ego or a superiority complex stand in my way, teach me humility and restore my perspective. If fear of failure or an overwhelming shyness bind me in place, loosen their grip and give me courage. Empower almsgiving, fasting, and prayer to become challenge, conversion, and comfort to bring us new life. Amen.
On the Third Sunday of Lent, March 4th, we hear the story of Jesus driving those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers out of the temple. Our hope is to increase the number of people who are willing to serve so that those who serve now are not worn out and our new life continues to thrive. Everyone will be given the opportunity to indicate the ministry you believe God is calling you to do. Training for the different ministries will be provided after Easter.
Fr. Bob Kelly