Mar 3, 2019

Marching Battle Hymn

First I would like to welcome our visitors, some teachers, parents, and students from Maple Mountain High School, Spanish Fork, Utah. They are a school choir and on a tour. I have invited them to sing "It is Well With My Soul" after our Holy Communion. It's an appropriate selection as it reflects in some way, the 700-year-old prayer we have written on the wall (Anima Christi). And after the final blessing, they will sing the "Salve Regina".

Now, I suspect that for many of you, this may be your first time in California. I am sure that there has been much excitement, apprehension, and probably a little bit of drama mixed in. I also suspect that this may be the first time that most of you have attended a Sunday service in a Catholic church. Don't be nervous! The word "catholic" simply means "universal, all-embracing". So, regardless of culture, language, nationality or background, this Church of Jesus Christ is two thousand years old and there is room for everyone. So whether you are a saint or a sinner, you are welcome to be included in our Catholic Christian family of saints and sinners this morning. Welcome!
In a few days time, the church will embark on a journey. We are used to traveling. We have been doing so for two thousand years.  From Jerusalem, Our Lord sent his apostles out in every direction. Of the twelve, St. Peter the apostle got to Rome where be established the enduring bedrock of the Church for all ages. Saint Thomas the apostle got as far to India. So when Catholic Portuguese sailors arrived in the 1600s, they were surprised to find a thriving flock already there in that distant continent.

Throughout time and history, we have been a Christian people on the move.  Even locally, the Catholic priest and missionary Saint Junipero Serra, in the 1700s began his journey from San Diego, establishing Missions all the way through California.  About the same time, two Catholic missionaries, two Spanish priests, Father Dominguez, and Father Escalante began their missionary journey from New Mexico. They wanted to link up with their brother missionaries in California. So, they traveled inland and westward, to where no one had ventured before.

400 hundred miles into their journey from Santa Fe, these two Catholic missionaries arrived at a canyon and wondered, if this place could mark a crossroads between the Missions of New Mexico and the Missions of California. The two Catholic missionaries, because they got there first, got to name the place. They named it Spanish Fork. (Is there anyone here from Spanish Fork?)  Then know that, when you arrive home from here, you are halfway to Santa Fe! Which of course means, halfway there to the Holy Faith! So, complete your journey and I pray that you will safely reach home.)

For the Church, this is also our duty - we must ready ourselves to go on tour. Borrowing military language, we have to ready ourselves to enter into the battlefield for 40 days and 40 nights that will take us on an adventurous and even a dangerous campaign that will bring us to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Along the way, we will venture into a desert and battle with the elements of evil. The season of Lent will be a time of food rationing, physical and spiritual  We will also experience hunger and thirst. But Christ will lead the way and feed us with His sacraments.

During Lent, we will cross borders and enter foreign territories where we will be tempted to sin and at times feel a stranger, far from home. But Christ will comfort us with stories and parables of God's mercy and forgiveness.  

We will climb mountains, become exhausted, and be tempted to despair or give up. But Christ transfigured before us like a beacon, will spur us onward and upward.

We will revisit the places and retell the final events of Our Lord’s life, climbing up to the stairwell to the Upper Room or through the brush and stone pathways into a hidden garden. We will stand by Him as He is arrested - when he faces charges of treason and conspiracy. Our loyalty will be tested and we will see deserters among our ranks. But we will accompany Him along the road of sorrows to His place of crucifixion and death. We will encounter our own weaknesses and the limits of our own strength and resolve. But if we persevere and hold on to Christ, even in His silence from the cross, the Good Shepherd will lead us through the dark valley of death to the victory sung of the resurrection.  

Our life, every life, is a life and journey in the company of Christ. The approaching Season of Lent simply reminds us that this is not a private journey - we share the road with others. Their stories are also our stories. It is also Christ the traveler’s story who leads the way.

As we tie our laces and prepare our body for the journey ahead into the Season of Lent, we will want to pack only what we truly need. Ash Wednesday and Confessions will remind us what we are made of and of God’s kindness as we admit to our weaknesses and ask for forgiveness. Our Friday Stations of the Cross will test our resolve to carry the responsibility of saving grace. Our fasting will remind us of our hunger for God’s strength.  Our preparation for the Easter Sacraments will retell, relive and weave our own pathway into the epic journey of the People of God from slavery to freedom.

So what should be our attitude as we get ready for our journey through the weeks of Lent? In today’s Gospel, Christ sets the stage - before we journey forward to attempt to lead by example, we should first watch our own step. The blind can’t lead the lead. We need to see the way before us clearly and without distraction.  Trust in the guidance, the protection and the good nature of God to see us safely to our journey's end. Trust in Him to see you through just one day so that tonight when you rest your tired feet, you can also rest in peace knowing you are a little bit closer your heart's desire - to stand at the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem and rejoice in the victory of Christ.

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