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Dear St. Martin’s Parishioners,

One of the difficult concepts that we have to grapple with in our relationship with God is his anger. We see in this Sunday’s first reading that Israel’s infidelity to the covenant and resistance to God provokes his anger: “the anger of the Lord against his people was so inflamed that there was no remedy.” How do we understand this?

St. John the Apostle states outright, “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8). God is not capricious, meaning that our actions towards him don’t cause him to swing between emotional states, as we know happens in human interactions. He is love, and every action of his towards his creation flows from his unfathomable love. His same love gives us freedom to choose sin. He allows the consequences of sin to produce their full effect: alienation from him, destructiveness, violence, etc. This state of affairs is often described in the Old Testament as God “turning his face” from his people. It is our sinful decisions that cause this action of God, and God chooses to conceal himself because he cannot associate himself with our sinfulness. But God’s self-concealment has the goal of our salvation. In this Sunday’s first reading, he allows Israel to be taken into captivity for seventy years. This is a time for purification and repentance. Yet he is with his people in the wilderness; he does not abandon them. After seventy years, he restores Israel to their land and their temple. Here I quote Margaret Turek’s excellent book, Atonement: “Though God’s passionate love-as-wrath takes the form of a withdrawal (hiding his face) God aims to regenerate love in the heart of his estranged partner, enabling Israel to bear God’s self-concealment as the pain of love, and precisely in doing so, to atone.”

During Lent, we are invited to feel the pain of our sins inasmuch as they alienate us from God. This isn’t due to any spitefulness in God but is part of his mysterious plan for our return and salvation. The more we love God, the more our sins pain us, and the more grateful we are for his redeeming love.

I look forward to seeing you this Monday, March 11 and Tuesday, March 12 at our Lenten Parish Mission: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, given by the Capuchin Franciscans from the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Washington, D.C. The mission begins at 6:30pm each evening, with talks given in English and Spanish. The Franciscans will offer music, lead Eucharistic adoration and be available for confessions on both nights.

As we focus on almsgiving in Lent, please keep the extraordinary needs of our pantry in mind. We are currently serving more than 400 families every Monday, which far exceeds any other year’s weekly average. Thank you for your generous response!

In Christ,

Fr. Dave

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