The Spirit equips us for paradise
By Father Paul Turner
Catholic Key Scripture Columni
The Good News for the 5th Sunday of Lent
March 13, 2005
John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33b-45
This St. Patrick's Day will mark the 25th year that the Knights of Columbus in Cameron have organized a parade. The route runs all through downtown Cameron, which, by city standards, makes it short. Our Coadjutor Bishop Robert Finn will celebrate Mass that morning at 10. The altar society feeds the town lunch, from 11 till 1.
The parade will begin at the traditional starting time - 4:03 pm. (The first parade was announced to begin at 4. When it started at 4:03, it was determined that that was the traditional starting time.)
Our parish in Cameron is named for St. Munchin, not St. Patrick. Munchin is not as well known, and his feast day is Jan. 2 - not a good time for a parade. The Roman Martyrology, which has the last word about Catholic saints, says only that Munchin died in the 7th century, and that he is honored as a bishop in Limerick, Ireland. That's about all we know for sure. The genealogy of his clan says Prince Feardomnach, who lived in the 7th century, gave Munchin the island of Sitband. He could have been an abbot (His name means "little monk"). Early martyrologies called him "the Wise." The people of Limerick, who celebrate his feast on Jan. 3, believe he was the founding bishop of the diocese, and he is still revered there as their patron. A college, a Protestant church, and a Catholic church in Limerick are all named for him. There is a St. Munchin School in Australia.
But there are only two St. Munchin Catholic parishes in the entire world. One is in Limerick, Ireland. The other is in our diocese, in the city of Cameron, which is celebrating its sesquicentennial this year. Among the founders were immigrants from Limerick who came to build the rail line between St. Joseph and Hannibal. They founded a parish in 1867 and named it for their patron.
One of the priests currently at St. Munchin in Limerick is Father Michael O'Shea. He's spending a few weeks in Cameron this month to help celebrate St. Patrick's Day. He and Bishop Finn will both be grand marshals for the parade.
As Lent draws to its close, signs of celebration and spring emerge. From parades to baseball to chocolate eggs, the spirit of joy anticipating the news of resurrection is already breaking through the gloomy days of Lent.
This Sunday's passage from Paul's Letter to the Romans (8:8-11) feels strikingly upbeat. On a day that used to mark the beginning of Passiontide, we hear instead the powerful work of the spirit of the risen Jesus.
Paul, who loves to write about contrasts, crams several into this short passage: Those who are in the flesh versus those who are not; those who are in the spirit versus those who are not; the body that is dead because of sin versus the spirit that is alive because of righteousness; and the risen Jesus versus mortal bodies.
Basically, the argument is this: Sin makes people morally dead, but Christians have the Spirit. The Spirit is alive within Christians because of righteousness - a sanctification that overpowers sin and makes us pleasing in God's sight. Righteousness helps us lead a good life. At the end of our days, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life also to our mortal bodies, through the Spirit dwelling within us. So, to those who used to live in sin, the Spirit has come with righteousness, equipping them for paradise.
It sounds like a good passage for Easter, not for Lent. But we hear it this Sunday because of the Gospel, where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and proclaims, "I am the resurrection and the life." That sentence bursts with the promise of spring. Easter doesn't come out of nowhere. It comes from the pledge of eternal life, from suffering and from righteousness.
St. Patrick, keenly aware of the Spirit of the risen Christ dwelling within him, enjoyed the peace that comes from promised immortality. Near the end of his famous poem, the Breastplate, he writes, "Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me! Christ below me, Christ above me. Christ at my right, Christ at my left! Christ in breadth, Christ in length, Christ in height! Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me!"
Father Paul Turner is the pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron.