St. Thomas à Becket is a Roman Catholic community. We believe in Jesus Christ and His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
“Faith is a flame that grows stronger the more it is shared and passed on, so that everyone may know, love and confess Jesus Christ…Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church…Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some…Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.” – Pope Francis, World Youth Day homily (7/28/13).
Mission: Our parish is committed to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As members of the Roman Catholic Church, we seek to share the love and joy of a relationship with Jesus. We hope to introduce the world to the beauty of our faith.
Bishop Robert Barron
Friends, today’s Gospel tells the story of the Lord calling Levi, also known as Matthew. As Jesus was passing by, he spotted Matthew at his tax collector’s post. To be a tax collector in Jesus’ time—a Jew collaborating with Rome’s oppression of one’s own people—was to be a contemptible figure.
Jesus gazed at Matthew and simply said, “Follow me.” Did Jesus invite Matthew because the tax collector merited it?
Was Jesus responding to a request from Matthew or some longing in the sinner’s heart? Certainly not. Grace, by definition, comes unbidden and without explanation.
In Caravaggio’s magnificent painting of this scene, Matthew, dressed anachronistically in sixteenth-century finery, responds to Jesus’ summons by pointing incredulously to himself and wearing a quizzical expression, as if to say, “Me? You want me?”
Just as creation is ex nihilo, so conversion is a new creation, a gracious remaking of a person from the nonbeing of his sin. Matthew, we are told, immediately got up and followed the Lord.
Reflect: Reflect on a time in your life when grace came to you “unbidden and without explanation” and how you responded.
“Let’s see if Instagram gets the point. I posted this on twitter and so many responses were so weirdly insulting so let’s talk about Lenten penance:
1. Penance doesn’t mean that we are better than other people.
2. It doesn’t depend on what we give up: as we think that giving up beer is holier than giving up chocolate or bread.
3. Penance becomes just a diet if your heart doesn’t change. If it doesn’t transform you to be better.
4. What’s difficult for some might be easier for others. I don’t drink alcohol, so giving up beer for me is not a sacrifice.
5. The point of it all is that by sacrificing something we are more aware of the sacrifice of Christ for us. It gives us the discipline to stop bad habits and pick up holier habits. It also gives us the opportunity to reflect on our sins and practice (discipline) to not fall. It makes us more aware of others’ suffering.
6. THE WHOLE POINT OF MY POST was not about competing to see who has the biggest penance, but to encourage us all that even when we fall and fail, we can try again and again. That’s the practice and discipline to become better everyday.
So I hope that if you already failed in your penance, that you try again until it becomes a holy habit during the whole year, whether you gave up chocolate, alcohol, or gossip, or lying, or insulting drivers in the freeway. Those good habits will help you develop virtues like picking up more prayer time. Being more loving. Picking up a spiritual book or simply going to confession more.
I wish you all a wonderful journey towards holiness this Lent and the whole year.”
Fr. Cedric Pisegna
Burned Biscuits...Author unknown
When I was a kid, my Mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work. On that evening so long ago, my Mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed!
All my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my Mom and ask me how my day was at school. I don't remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that ugly burned biscuit. He ate every bite of that thing...never made a face nor uttered a word about it!
When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my Mom apologize to my dad for burning the biscuits. And I'll never forget what he said, "Honey, I love burned biscuits every now and then."
Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, "Your Mom put in a hard day at work today and she's real tired. And besides--a little burned biscuit never hurt anyone!"
As I've grown older, I've thought about that many times. Life is full of imperfect things and imperfect people.
I'm not the best at hardly anything, and I forget birthdays and anniversaries just like everyone else. But what I've learned over the years is that learning to accept each other's faults and choosing to celebrate each other’s differences is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, and lasting relationship.
And that's my prayer for you today...that you will learn to take the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of your life and lay them at the feet of God. Because in the end, He's the only One who will be able to give you a relationship where a burnt biscuit isn't a deal-breaker!
We could extend this to any relationship. In fact, understanding is the base of any relationship, be it a husband-wife or parent-child or friendship!
Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.
So, please pass me a biscuit, and yes, the burned one will do just fine.
If you're still trying to figure out how to approach Lent 2020, Pope Francis has some advice: https://bit.ly/2I3FbA1
Bishop Robert Barron
Friends, in today’s Gospel people ask Jesus why his disciples do not fast. He says that as wedding guests they will not fast while he, the Bridegroom, is with them. But “the days will come,” he says, “when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
Why do we fast? Because we have a hunger for God, which is the deepest hunger. We’re meant to get access to that hunger. We’re meant to feel it so that it can direct us toward God. Every spiritual master recognizes the danger that if we allow the superficial hunger of our lives to dominate, we never reach the deepest hunger.
Thomas Merton once observed that our desires for food and drink are something like little children in their persistence and tendency to dominate. Unless and until they are disciplined, they will skew the functions of the soul according to their purposes.
And fasting is a way of disciplining the hunger for food and drink. It is a way of quieting those desires by not responding to them immediately, so that the deepest desires emerge. Unless you fast you might never realize how hungry you are for God.
Reflect: Why do we fast during Lent? How does this practice affect you?
Fr. Cedric Pisegna
Jesus, I trust in You. 🙏🏻❤️
Pope cancels scheduled meeting due to a cold
Bishop Robert Barron
Friends, in today’s Gospel, the Lord lays out the conditions for discipleship. He makes this demand: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Notice that this is not simply a question of accepting suffering that happens to befall one. This is not simply a Stoic resignation.
Jesus is telling us actively to take up our crosses, to seek them out, to carry them as he willingly carried his. What Jesus did on the cross was to bear the burden of the world’s sin. He bore others’ burdens in love. And this is what we must do: actively, proactively seeking out ways to lighten other people’s loads.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer commented that when the Lord summons a person to discipleship, he calls him to come and die. When the blind Bartimaeus received his sight, at the midpoint of the Gospel of Mark, he followed Jesus up the road that would lead to Calvary. The way of the Christian life begins and ends with the man who is God dying on a cross.
Reflect: In what ways can you go out of your way this Lent to choose one person in your life and lighten his or her load?
“Once a person learns to read the signs of love and thus to believe it, love leads him into the open field wherein he himself can love. If the prodigal son had not believed that the father's love was already waiting for him, he would not have been able to make the journey home - even if his father's love welcomes him in a way he never would have dreamed of. The decisive thing is that the sinner has heard of a love that could be, and really is, there for him; he is not the one who has to bring himself into line with God; God has always already seen in him, the loveless sinner, a beloved child and has looked upon him and conferred dignity upon him in the light of this love.”
— Hans Urs von Balthasar
Father Corapi Catholic Channel
The “desert" is also the negative aspects of the reality that surrounds us: the arid, the poverty of words of life and of values, secularism and the materialist culture, which shut people within a horizon of mundane existence, robbing them of all reference to transcendence. And this is also the environment in which the sky above us is obscured, because covered by the clouds of egoism, misunderstanding and deception. Despite this, even for the Church of today the time of the desert can be transformed into a time of grace, because we have the certainty that even from the hardest rock God can bring forth the living water that refreshes and restores.
Dear brothers and sisters, in these forty days that will lead us to Easter may we find new courage to accept with patience and with faith situations of difficulty, of affliction and trial, knowing that from the darkness the Lord will make a new day dawn. And if we are faithful to Jesus and follow him on the way of the Cross, the bright world of God, the world of light, truth and joy will be gifted to us once more: it will be the new dawn created by God himself. May you all have a good Lenten journey!
- Pope Benedict XVI 2009
Father Corapi Catholic Channel
WHY DO CATHOLICS PUT ASHES ON OUR HEADS ON ASH WEDNESDAY?
by MARK HART
“Excuse me, you’ve got some dirt on your head.”
Every year someone says that to me on Ash Wednesday. Maybe it has happened to you too. In the past it used to frustrate me, but in recent years I have come to see it as a great opportunity to evangelize, to share with someone about the most important person in my life: Jesus Christ.
So, what do you say when folks ask you about that smudge on your forehead?
Here are a few responses that I would not recommend:
THE IGNORANT RESPONSE
‘My mom made me go to church and get them. I have no idea what they mean.’
THE SARCASTIC RESPONSE
‘I’m protesting showers. Today, ashes; tomorrow I’m going to swim in raw sewage.’
THE RIDICULOUS RESPONSE
‘I have a big zit that I’m trying to cover up. Is it working?’
THE PRACTICAL (but Misguided) RESPONSE
‘Better dirty on the outside of my head than on the inside.’
And here are a few responses that I would recommend:
THE BIBLICAL RESPONSE
Over forty passages in the Bible associate ashes with mourning and grief. In Old Testament times people used ashes as a sign of repentance. They would sit in ashes, roll around in them, sprinkle them upon their heads, or even mingle them with their food and drink. They did this as an outward sign of their inward posture of repentance. Check out Daniel 9:3-6, for an example.
Ash Wednesday begins Lent, a time when we stop and assess how we’re doing in our walk with God. Lent helps us identify spiritual areas in which we can grow and sinful areas that we need to avoid. To repent, put simply, means to turn away from sin and turn toward God. We use ashes as an outward expression of our need to begin again.
A TRADITIONAL RESPONSE
Ashes are a sign of physical death, as in ‘ashes to ashes, dust to dust.’ We began as dust (a joyless and lifeless existence), and our bodies will return to dust until we are raised up by Christ. By receiving ashes and keeping them on, we publicly proclaim our intent to die to our worldly desires and live even more in Christ’s image, which we focus on during the season of ‘rebirth’ that is Lent (a Latin term for ‘Spring’).
THE HISTORICAL RESPONSE
For over twelve hundred years on the dies cinerum (day of ashes) faithful followers have approached the altar and received ashes upon their foreheads. These ashes are made from the burnt palm fronds that were blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water, usually fragranced with incense and blessed using four prayers that are thousands of years old.
The use of ashes for repentance and penance can be traced even further back and is practiced throughout the world. On Ash Wednesday ashes are applied to believers’ foreheads in the shape of the cross.
THE SYMBOLIC RESPONSE
God formed Adam out of the ‘dust’ of the earth, which we read about in Genesis 2:7. In addition, Jesus healed the blind man with clay (earth and spit) in John 9:6. We mark ourselves with ashes as a ‘new beginning’ at the onset of Lent, allowing the life of Jesus Christ to make us whole and new again.
THE MOST BASIC RESPONSE
I’m a sinner. I don’t always love God as strongly as I could or as directly as I should. Ash Wednesday reminds me that it is only through God that I have life; He gave it to me.
Ash Wednesday also begins my preparation for Holy Week and the Passion and Resurrection of my Lord, Jesus, without Whom I have no life here and no chance at eternal life in Heaven. This is just a great opportunity for me to get better. Thanks for asking.
God forgives. He loves. And He gives this sinner a second chance. Put simply: my God kicks ash.
Via Clive Fernandes on Catholic Christianity
Bishop Robert Barron
Friends, in today’s Gospel, the Lord prescribes prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as our Lenten disciplines.
The Church traditionally says there are three things we ought to do during Lent, and I put stress on the word do. In recent years we’ve emphasized the interior dimensions a little too much—that Lent is primarily about attitudes, about ideas and intentions. In the traditional practice of the Church, Lent is about doing things, things that involve the body as much as the mind, that involve the exterior of your life as much as the interior.
The three great practices of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving— are three things you do. This is going to sound a little bit strange, but my recommendation for this Lent is, in a certain way, to forget about your spiritual life—by which I mean forget about looking inside at how you’re progressing spiritually. Follow the Church’s recommendations and do three things: pray, fast, and give alms. And as you do, pray to draw closer to the Lord as the center of your life—and the reason you do everything.
Reflect: How do you think the practices of Lent, specifically prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, can lead us to a deeper relationship with Christ?
“This absolute certainty sustained Jesus during the 40 days he spent in the Judean desert, after he had received Baptism from John in the Jordan. For him that long period of silence and fasting was a complete abandonment of himself to the Father and to his plan of love. The time was a “baptism” in itself, that is, an “immersion” in God’s will and in this sense a foretaste of the Passion and of the Cross. Going out into the desert alone to remain there at length meant exposing himself willingly to the assaults of the enemy, the tempter who brought about Adam’s fall and whose envy caused death to enter the world (cf. Wis 2: 24). It meant engaging in battle with him, with nothing but the weapon of boundless faith to challenge him, in the omnipotent love of the Father.”
- Pope Benedict XVI
Tonight’s Reflection + Prayer:
“This is the difference between a journey on earth, and that which leads to Heaven. For in the former, not only may we stop without fear of going backward, but rest is necessary that we may sustain our strength to the journey’s end; however, in the latter journey which leads to perfection, our growth in strength is proportionate to our advance, inasmuch as the inferior appetites which throw all possible obstacles in our path to Heaven, grow gradually weaker while our good inclinations acquire new strength. Thus as we advance in piety, our early difficulties fade into the background, and a certain delight, with which God sweetens the bitterness of this life, increases in our souls. Going cheerfully on from virtue to virtue, we finally reach the summit of the mountain."
— Dom Lorenzo Scupoli
Via The Catholic Company
Thomas Merton Prayer:
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
The Care for Our Common Home Ministry (CCH) at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Reston, VA, promotes the vision of Laudato Si' in our parish and beyond.
We, the faithful of SJN, commit ourselves to celebrating & giving witness to the presence of God in our midst by living the Gospel to its fullest.