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The Flood & the Desert: The Hidden Meaning Lent’s 40 Days

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 23:07

Forty days—the duration of Lent—is one of the most symbolically significant periods of time in the Bible.

It’s not just the 40 days of temptation that Jesus faced in the desert. Or the years that the Israelites wandered in the desert and the days that the waters of the Genesis flood covered the earth. The Old Testament is punctuated with numerous other 40 days periods including:

  • Moses was on the mountain with God for 40 days and nights
  • the scouts explored the Promised Land for 40 days
  • Goliath challenged the Israelites to a fight each day for 40 days
  • the meal delivered by an angel sustain Elijah for 40 days in the desert
  • Ezekiel bears the punishment of Israel for 40 days
  • God postpones the destruction of Nineveh by 40 days giving the city time to repent

The number 40 itself also appears in years. It represents the periodic ‘rests’ granted to the land of Israel in the book of Judges. It is also the duration of the reigns of Saul and David and the number of years Israel was supposed to be in exile according to Ezekiel. Forty is also the number of lashes allowed in a punishment (Deuteronomy 25:3) and the length of the main hall of the first and second temples in the Old Testament. (See this site for a complete list.)

Forty is a number of punishment and repentance, testing and resting, and, above all else, absolute dependence on God. Whenever God wants to do something significant, He does it in 40 days (or years). As this Bible encyclopedia notes, “Forty is associated with almost each new development in the history of God’s mighty acts, especially of salvation.”

Each of the above certainly marks a new era in salvation history. The Genesis flood obviously marks the destruction of the known earth and a new beginning for mankind. The 40 days in the desert, on the mountain, and in the Promised Land, of course, are from the exodus account, the new beginning in the history of Israel. So also, the institution of a monarchy, with Saul and then David, also marks a new era for ancient Israel.

The biblical symbolism of 40 has an intriguing analogy in the natural world. Forty, it turns out, is the traditional number of weeks for a pregnancy. (This site makes the connection between the two.)

Pregnancy is indeed an apt model for the biblical periods above. It begins with the intensity of the moment of conception, is followed by a time marked by both pain and joyful anticipation, and then, only after this period of postponement, is there the birth of someone new.

It is most fitting then that the new era of salvation for the whole began with a pregnancy: Mary’s.

Recall that the exodus account particularly parallels the highs and lows of pregnancy. It began with the extraordinary crossing of the Red Seat, was followed by the long sojourn in the desert, and concluded with the dramatic entrance into the Promised Land by another miraculous river cross, that of the Jordan.

The crossing of the Red Sea is a familiar symbol of baptism. But so is the crossing of the Jordan River (see for example, Origen.) And remember, it is through baptism that we are ‘born again.’ (In fact, one could perhaps see a continued analogy with childbirth, which begins with a woman having her ‘water break.’) Incidentally, the 40-day Genesis flood also prefigures baptism.

The connections among faithful endurance, spiritual renewal, and baptism in particular are driven home for us each Lent, at the end of which we are called to renew our baptismal vows.

In this way, we participate in Christ’s own desert experience, which ended with his own baptism (in the Jordan River of all places).

In the Old Testament account, the 40 days of wandering anticipated their future dwelling in the Promised Land. The relationship between the two was reinforced by the fact that the scouts’ advance mission in the Promised Land lasted for 40 days.

So also in the New Testament, the disciples are granted a 40-day taste of their future life of glory: 40 days happens to be the amount of time Jesus remained on earth after His resurrection.

Scripture beckons us to embark on our own 40 day exodus. And it equips us with many models for these spiritual sojourns. Whether it’s to weather our own floods, survive the desert, or slay our own Goliaths, Lent is the time for spiritual action and passion—knowing ultimately that it is Jesus who journeys with us, who acts within us, and suffers for us and with us.

image: ChameleonsEye / Shutterstock.com

The Liberating Power of Fasting

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 23:05

“Do you wish your prayer to reach God?  Give it two wings, fasting and almsgiving.”

 -St. Augustine, Discourse on the Psalms

“What happened to fast and abstinence in the Church in the United States?”  This was the question Pope John Paul II asked Msgr. Charles M. Murphy, the former Dean of the Pontifical North American College, in a conversation they had in Rome in 1980.  Pope John Paul perceived what is readily apparent to us still today, the seeming collapse of the practice of fasting in the day-to-day lives of Catholics.  This question is particularly relevant now in the midst of Lent as the Church unites herself “to the mystery of Jesus in desert.” (CCC 540)  The Bible tells us that Jesus “fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards He was hungry.” (Mt. 4:2)  If we are to unite ourselves more closely with Christ, we need to rediscover this holy practice of fasting.

The Catechism lists fasting as one of the three pillars of penance in the Christian life.  Fasting, prayer and almsgiving express our conversion, respectively towards oneself, God, and neighbor. (CCC 1434)  Fasting is a critical part of our metanoia, our turning away from sin.  We are in constant need of this conversion towards God.  It was when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit that Original Sin and concupiscence entered our human nature.  Since then, as St. Paul eloquently wrote, “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.” (Gal. 5:17)  This is our human predicament.  The question we must ask ourselves is: Do our bodily desires and instincts rule our spirit, or does our spirit control our bodies?  The mortification of the flesh, through fasting, offers a sort of “liberation of man” against this “wound inflicted on the dignity of our nature by intemperance.” (Paentiemini, II)  Through fasting, we can cultivate this cardinal virtue of temperance, as moderation and self-control tame the unruliness of the flesh.

In the Old Testament, Nineveh turned away from their sins.  The wickedness of the city had reached a point that God sent the prophet Jonah to warn them that in “forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed.” (Jnh. 3:4)  However, the people of Nineveh believed Jonah and the words of God, so “they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.”  God reacted by not carrying out His threat against them.  God showed Himself to be “a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.” (Jnh. 4:2)  It is an example for us.  By fasting, we can demonstrate our humility before God by repenting of our sins and asking forgiveness.   As the story of Nineveh shows, God readily accepts this act of contrition.

Jesus is our example par excellence on the vital spiritual importance of fasting.  Scripture tells us that before He began His public ministry, He was “led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” (Mt. 4:1)  Just as the first Adam was tempted by the serpent and failed by eating the fruit, so the second Adam, Jesus, was tempted by Satan, and yet resisted him by not eating.  Satan tempted Jesus to break His fast by turning stones into loaves of bread, at which Jesus countered him, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”  Jesus’ fast spiritually prepared His humanity to confront and resist the devil.  This is reminiscent of the disciples, who were unable to cast out a demon from a boy.  Jesus rebuked them for their lack of faith, and then, exorcised the demon.  Later, when the disciples asked Jesus why they could not cast it out, He replied, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.” (Mk. 9:29)  Prayer and fasting are fundamental tools we have to overcome the devil and his minions, and temptation.  Fasting is a powerful weapon.

This self-denial and mortification, as expressed in fasting, is also efficacious for the conversion of others.  Sacrifice and prayer are the vicarious payment we make towards the redemption of another.  It is the required “money,” if you will, offered on behalf of their “debt.”  St. Paul captured this eloquently when he wrote, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body.” (Col. 1:24)  This remains the same for us.  We know that our love and intercessory sacrifices for others will cover a multitude of sins. (Jas. 5:20)

Intercessory prayer and fasting is exactly the message of Fatima as well.  Our Lady of Fatima said, “Pray, pray very much, and make sacrifices for sinners; for many souls go to hell, because there are none to sacrifice themselves and to pray for them.”  Mary revealed that our prayers and sacrifices are truly efficacious reparations, in which we can even positively affect someone’s eternal destiny.  This Lent is the perfect opportunity for us to heed her words, especially this year, the 100th anniversary of the Fatima apparitions.  Heaven is waiting for our daily prayers, sacrifices, and fasts.

As Christians, we need to re-embrace this pillar of our faith and practice regularly the discipline of fasting.  It is a transformational habit that would enliven the modern Church, liberate us from our intemperate desires, and bring us into a closer divine intimacy with God.  It also draws us nearer to the hungry and the poor, in line with the Beatitudes of Jesus.  Although Jesus forbade His disciples from fasting while He, the divine Bridegroom, was still here, He did exhort future generations, and for that matter, us, that once the Bridegroom was gone, “then they will fast.” (Mt. 9:15)  Some 2,000 years later, we continue our fast, at the behest of Jesus’ Good News, “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Mt. 4:17)

Of course, fasting is not easy.  It is a discipline that we must train our bodies to handle.  We can accommodate fasting to our life situation.  The important point is that we fast in some fashion, in union with the Church, particularly on Fridays in remembrance of Christ’s Passion, whether just giving up meat, or strictly on bread and water, or somewhere in between the two.  The ancient ascetic monks perfected the discipline of fasting in the desert.  Yet, we can bring fasting into the hustle and bustle of our lives, and families, and homes, and Churches, to form an oasis of sanctity in our modern world.  Let us renew our faith – and fasting – this Lent, and beyond.

Lent, Subterranean

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 23:02

On Ash Wednesday, we planted the seeds of our Lenten observance. We committed to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We resolved to give something up.

Today is our first chance to check in on our progress.

How’s it looking?

We evaluate and see… a bare patch of earth. If one area of dirt, having been newly turned over, didn’t display a darker, richer hue than the surrounding soil, we might not even remember exactly where we had planted those Lenten sacrifices, those small deaths to self. It doesn’t look like anything has changed yet.

But we are mistaken.

Beneath the surface, things are happening. Pivotal things.

The seed is taking its chance.

“No risk is more terrifying than that taken by the first root,” writes the geobiologist Hope Jahren in her memoir, Lab Girl (52). Her reflection on the natural order speaks poignantly to the spiritual order, especially for these first days of Lent.

The mission of the tiny rootlet, she explains, is to anchor:

Everything is risked in that one moment when the first cells (the ‘hypocotyl’) advance from the seed coat. The root grows down before the shoot grows up, and so there is no possibility for green tissue to make new food for several days or even weeks. Rooting exhausts the very last reserves of the seed. The gamble is everything, and losing means death. (52)

Now that’s asceticism. The seed spends all it has and is for the sake of finding its life. We have begun a similar process of self-emptying, driven by the desire that we may have life more abundantly. Yet we need not fear the small deaths of our Lenten mortifications. Nurtured by grace, we can embrace them: “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies,” St. Paul stresses. “It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power” (1 Cor 15:36,42). The prophet Isaiah speaks with assurance that the Lord “gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak” (40:29). We find an analog for this power and resilience in the life of the fledgling plant, as well:

If a root finds what it needs, it bulks into a taproot—an anchor that can swell and split bedrock… Tear apart everything aboveground—everything—and most plants can still grow rebelliously back from just one intact root. More than once. More than twice. (Lab Girl, 52)

From this first root’s ability to stabilize the plant and stimulate growth, all else follows. These first days of Lent are all about allowing the spiritual taproot to plunge us deep into the penitential season. In the weeks to come, it will sustain us in times of temptation, should our zeal slacken or our wills waver. And even if we do slip, new growth is possible. More than once. More than twice.

Whereas roots can weather away bedrock, we might say that our Lenten roots are meant to hew a new tomb in the rock. Our death-to-self carves out a place for Christ to be laid in death and to rise in glory. “If we have died with him, we shall also live with him” (2 Tim 2:11).

Beneath the surface, things are happening indeed.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Dominicana and is reprinted here with kind permission. 

In the first reading Yahweh tells the

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 23:00

In the first reading Yahweh tells the Israelites to be holy and to love their neighbor as themselves. We are all created to glorify God in our lives and we do so by imitating his holiness and loving our neighbor.

In the Gospel reading Jesus tells us that each one of us will be judged on how we loved our neighbor, how we acted towards the hungry and thirsty, the naked, the sick and those in prison, those in need. “Whatever we did or did not do to our neighbors, ‘to these little ones who are my brothers and sisters,’ we did or did not do to the Lord.” And we would be rewarded or punished accordingly for all eternity.

St. Colette

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 23:00

She was born Nicolette DeBoilet at Corby Abbey in Picardy, France, on January 13, 1381, but was called Colette. Her mother’s name was Marguerite and her father, Robert, was the carpenter at the famous Benedictine Abbey of Corby.

At the age of seventeen Colette was orphaned. After distributing her inheritance among the poor, Colette became a Franciscan tertiary (a member of a secular third order). For a while she lived as a recluse. She became known for her holiness and spiritual wisdom. In 1406 she ended her seclusion after having a dream that she felt was directing her to reform the Poor Clares. Benedict XIII (Pedro de Luna), who at that time was recognized as the Pope in France, allowed Colette to enter the order of the Poor Clares. He also gave her permission to found new convents and complete the reform of the order. By the end of her life, Colette had founded seventeen convents with the reform rule and had reformed many other older convents. One branch of the Poor Clares is still known as the Colettines.

Colette was well-known not only for her sanctity, but also for her great intellect. She had much influence over others, who respected her for her great austerity. She was blessed with many gifts, including visions, ecstasies, and prophesy. She even prophesied her own death, which took place in her convent in Ghent, Belgium, on March 6, 1447. She was canonized in 1807.

Lessons

Colette prescribed for her convents extreme poverty, including going without shoes, and regular observances of fasting and abstinence. Colettine Sisters are found today in Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, and the United States.

Prayer

Pray for us, dear Saint Colette, that we may learn the great benefits of sacrifice, especially through fasting, abstinence, and acts of penitence during this holy season of Lent. In Christ’s Name we pray. Amen.

Other Saints We Remember Today

Sts. Filicitas and Perpetua (203), Martyrs, Partonesses of Widows, Death of Children

St. Fridolin (650), Priest, Founder

Lent, Suffering, and the Death that Brings Life

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 15:05

Lent is here, and quite frequently the weather suits the sombre tone of the season. Ashen gray skies and the bare reaching arms of trees create an atmosphere that is at once stark and solemn.

Yet this season is not entirely bleak or without hope. Warmer days replete with sunshine break up the gloom, and bird songs welcome the green buds shooting forth from once barren trees. Green grass breaks forth in clumps among the coarse and yellowed remnants of the year before. Spring is a time of death mingling with new life—the dormant world waking up with a lingering yawn.

It would be difficult to imagine a time more suited to the Lenten season, in which we remember the death of Christ, but also look forward to his glorious resurrection. It is a time when we remember the death that brings new Life. For the great paradox at the heart of Christianity is that a Death was the remedy for death. It was in losing his life that Christ brought new life to the world.

Growing up a protestant, I was taught quite young the theological idea of imputation. That is, that Christ died in our place to bear the death sentence that we deserved, and in doing so, transferred his righteousness to us. It was a grand exchange. He takes ours sins and we get credited righteousness. But most importantly, Jesus suffered and died so that we do not have to suffer and die. We escape the cross because Jesus went there in our place.

The Catholic idea of salvation is quite different. Imputation is largely foreign to Catholic theology. Instead, Catholic theology operates on the idea of participation. That is, Christ came to earth and died on the cross, not so that we could avoid death and suffering, but so that he could transform the inevitability of death and suffering from the inside out. By communion with him, by participation in his cross, we could receive eternal life.

After all, what is the fate of each and every human being? Death. It is the great equalizer. No matter how rich, famous, beautiful, or healthy we are, we will all die sooner or later. Death is the consequence of sin, for sin is a movement away from God who is Life itself. Sin is therefore by definition non-Life. It is death by its nature. And because our first parents chose sin, death is the fate of every human being.

Our enemy was gleeful at our demise. He meant for our death to be eternal, and for our physical death to be the gateway into eternal doom. But Christ came and changed all that. He embraced death and death could not hold him. He transformed it from the inside out, changing it from the gateway to eternal death to that of eternal life. In the words of the Byzantine liturgy, “He trampled down death by death.”

Put another way, Christ did not suffer and die so that we did not have to—he suffered and died so that our suffering and death could be transubstantiated into a means of life. He embraced the cross not to keep us from it, but so that our crosses could be changed from instruments of death into healing remedies that bring life.

As baptized Christians, we are members of the body of Christ. We are incorporated into him and we live in communion with him. This communion means that we share in his life—not by making some act of intellectual assent, but by living his life after him. And living his life after him requires carrying the cross after him and sharing in his death. The cross is the price of eternal life.

This is the meaning of Jesus when he said, “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Could there be any clearer sign that he did not come to keep us from the cross? No, rather he came to transform our crosses into the means of life.

Having been instructed by Christ himself, St. Paul understood this well. “I die daily.” “I have been crucified with Christ.” “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” “The cross is foolishness to them that are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God and the Wisdom of God.” The cross was always in his heart and on his lips, for it was to him, as it is for us all, the means of eternal life.

Suffering is inevitable. To varying degrees, we will all suffer. And with a similar certainty, we will all die. It could be said that a cross lies at the heart of human existence. But the cross need not be a fate to be feared. Our Lord trampled down death by death. In the greatest paradox of all, he changed death into a means of life. What was once our doom is now our salvation.

“You must accept your cross,” said the holy St. John Vianney, “If you bear it courageously it will carry you to heaven.” This lent, let us not fear or flee the cross, but carry it with love and with hope, as the means not of death but of eternal life.”

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at The Catholic Gentleman.

How to Set Up a Sacred Space (Video)

Sun, 03/05/2017 - 02:35
How to Set Up a Sacred Space

In this video, I further explore one of the secrets of the saints regarding how we can better engage in prayer. The idea of the sacred is lost in our time but that doesn’t have to hold us back in restoring this powerful reality in our own homes. When we do this we will find that just as with beautiful architecture, we can speak truth to our bodies and thus be drawn more powerfully into prayer, especially when we struggle. In this video I reveal the details of my own sacred space and offer suggestions for how you might be able to do the same in your home. If you have done so already, please share your ideas in the comment box below.

A Note from Dan Burke:

Dear Friends, was this video a blessing to you? Do know others who might be blessed by it? Did you follow the link at the end of the video to the other resources we have prepared for you and those who also desire to know the life and peace that only God can give? Have we helped to encourage you to dig deeper in your faith? Please help us by sharing these videos on Facebook, through email, or whatever way that works best for you. Join with us in our desire to reignite the fires of prayer in the Church and bring about the renewal we so desperately desire to see from the Lord.

Yours in Christ,

Dan

PS: If you have been deeply blessed by these efforts and would like to help us create more, please click HERE to donate.

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This video on how to set up a sacred space in prayer has been provided courtesy of Dan Burke and the Avila Foundation … and is used with permission. Photograph of Dan Burke, used with permission.

About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Divine Intimacy Radio, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, and his newest books Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep and Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux. Beyond his “contagious” love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN’s Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.


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This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.

St. John Joseph of the Cross

Sat, 03/04/2017 - 23:00

John Joseph was born to a noble family on the Island of Ischia in Southern Italy in 1654. Even in childhood he was a model of virtue. Though he could afford nice clothes, out of respect for the poor, John Joseph preferred to wear simple clothing. As a teenager of sixteen, he entered the Franciscan Order of the Strictest Observance (the Reform of St. Peter of Alcantara). John Joseph was the first Italian to join this reform, instituted in Spain. He fasted constantly, abstained from wine, and slept only three hours each night. He had been in the order for a little over three years when, because of his great piety, he was sent to establish a monastery in Piedmont. He helped build the monastery with his own hands.

Although he felt unworthy, he became a priest out of obedience. In 1702 he was appointed Vicar Provincial of the Alcantarine Reform in Italy. Even as superior, he still would insist on helping with the lowliest of chores. John Joseph was blessed with the gift of prophecy and miracles and had a great zeal for souls. Many came to be near him and to ask his blessings and prayers. He had a great devotion and love for the Blessed Mother and strove to cultivate this devotion in others. John Joseph died in Naples on March 5, 1734. He was canonized in 1839.

Lesson

John Joseph lived the life of a true Franciscan, denying himself and serving others. At the end of his term as provincial, he spent his time hearing confessions and practicing mortification. Even in sickness, he denied himself rest to serve others. The more he mortified and humbled himself, the more Christ-like he became. As Jesus said, “I am among you as He that serves.”

Prayer

St. John Joseph, we ask today for your mighty intercession, to pray for us that we learn humility and seek an attitude of service so we, too, may follow in the footsteps of Jesus. In His Mighty Name we pray, Amen.

St. Casimir (Prince)

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 23:00

The patron saint of Poland and Lithuania, St. Casimir (1458-1483) was the second son of King Casimir IV and third in line for the Polish throne. While a youth, Casimir was educated by the great Polish scholar John Dlugosz, from whom he learned to be virtuous and devout; he also practiced many forms of penance, and dedicated himself to a life of celibacy.

In 1471 Hungarian princes became dissatisfied with their king, and sent a delegation to King Casimir, asking him to send his son to take over the country. Against the young prince’s wishes, the king agreed. Casimir was sent to Hungary at the head of an army, but found that he was outnumbered by forces loyal to the Hungarian king. Accepting the advice of his officers, Casimir decided to return home without seeking battle. His father was very angry, and had Casimir imprisoned for three months. The youth, for his part, decided he would never again become involved in military affairs (and thus Casimir is considered the patron saint of conscientious objectors).

From then on Casimir devoted himself to prayer and study, though he reigned briefly as king when his father was out of the country. In 1483 he withstood intense pressure to enter into a marriage with a daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, wishing instead to maintain his vow of celibacy. Soon after this Casimir died of tuberculosis, and was buried in the Lithuanian city of Vilna, which he had been visiting at the time of his death.

Lessons

1. Young people, with proper guidance and encouragement, are capable of making noble and heroic decisions; St. Casimir was influenced by his tutor to shun the attractions of luxury and power and to choose a life of celibacy and penance.

2. Acting on Jesus’ words “What profit would a man show for gaining the whole world in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26), St. Casimir spurned military glory and power and instead chose peace.

Other Saints We Remember Today

St. Lucius I (254), Pope, Martyr

#FultonFridays: There Is No Reason For Despair

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 09:00

 

This post is part of the ongoing #FultonFridays series.

Many minds regard our modern world as hopeless. It is indeed like a vast and horrible Good Friday where everything divine seems gone down to defeat. The future never seemed so completely unpredictable as it does today. Mankind seems to be in a kind of widowhood, in which a harrowing sense of desolation sweeps over it, as one who set out on life’s journey in intimate comradeship with another, and then is suddenly bereft of that companion forever.

There are wars and rumors of wars. Economics is a tangled mess. Communism is robbing men of their souls and a false education is stealing away their faith. Lives have been made flabby with worldliness, and ill-prepared for the rigors of an enforced discipline. Platitudes abound on lips and unrealized desires embitter hearts. Everywhere there is confusion, hopelessness, and despair.

And yet there need not be such hopelessness and despair. The world seemed just as hopeless before, when it crucified its Savior; and yet with all its paganism and nationalism it arose to newness and freshness of Christian life and civilization. The miracle of the Resurrection can happen again.

The World Can Rise Again

The world may rise once more as it rose before, at least a dozen times since the advent of Christianity. But let us suffer no illusions. It will not rise to peace and happiness through economic and political remedies alone; it will rise only through a spiritual regeneration of the hearts and souls of men.

The Resurrection of Our Lord was not the resumption of an old life, it was the beginning of a new life. It was the lesson of Christmas all over again, namely, the world will not be saved by social recovery but by rebirth—rebirth from the dead by the power of Divinity in Christ.

We must not reconstruct our old life; we must rise to new life. There must be a new energy introduced from without, in the absence of which we must rot in our graves. Christ rose from the dead by the Power of God. It is vain for us to try and rise by any other Power. This life and Power the Risen Savior has given to His Mystical Body the Church. His Truth comes to us through His Vicar; His Life comes to us through the Sacraments His Authority comes to us through the Episcopacy. But here is the stumbling block of the world. It may admit that by the Power of God Christ rose from the tomb, but it will not admit that the Power of the Risen Christ continues beyond the tomb. It sees the Church on its human side, made up of weak, frail creatures and, therefore, things it something to be ignored. It makes the same mistake Mary Magdalene made the first Easter morning. She mistook the Risen Savior for the gardener; that is, for but a human thing.

The Solution is Divine

The world too sees the Risen Christ in His Mystical Body the Church, and takes it to be the gardener—something human and not divine. The Divinity is there as it was in the Garden the First Easter and only that same Divinity can give hope to a hopeless world. We may yet attain our peace if we but seek not the political and economic, but the new Life of the Kingdom of God. For such is the message of Easter Day—The Resurrection of the Dead, and the Triumph of the Defeated, the Finding of the Lost; the springtime of the earth, the waking of life, the trumpet of the Resurrection blowing over the land of the living.

But to all souls the Easter message rings out that there is no reason for despair. The Resurrection was announced to Magdalene—a soul once like our own. Peace awaits you in the service of the God Who made you. No matter how hopless things seem to be, there is still hope, for Christ is the Resurrection and the Life. He who can make snowflakes out of dirty drops of water, diamonds out of charcoal, and saints out of Magdalenes, can also make us victorious if we but confess Him in His earthly and mystical life as Christ the Son of the Living God.

Ottawa Citizen, April 4, 1950

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at The Catholic Gentleman.

The Benedict Option in Practice: Living the Rural Life is Surprisingly Normal

Fri, 03/03/2017 - 03:20

Some tend to treat a move to the country as if it is a move to something wildly different from “normal” life.  As someone who lives in the country, I have an opinion there, but first – a lot of people are talking about rural life these days, so where did all this talk come from?

A lot of the conversations seem to stem from Rod Dreher’s idea that Christians take a “Benedict Option”, which as I understand it seems like the simple proposal that we continue to engage the world for Christ, yet ensure that we have enough space, especially for our families, that allows for a Christian culture to really exist and grow, instead of living in constant reaction to the increasingly hostile world around us.  Or something like that.

The whole idea seems to have struck a nerve since so many people have weighed in on it.  And despite the fact that Mr. Dreher has repeatedly insisted it is not a retreat from the world, people cannot help but think it means (a) retreat in defeat and (b) you should probably retreat to the countryside and be a farmer.  He has a book coming out on it soon – perhaps the critics will read it?

Benedictine Renewal

Dreher was responding to hostile and ugly secularism, and blogging Christians have responded to the response, offering alternative “options” to help persuade all those poor saps that are running to the hills and “hunkering down” in the Benedict Option.  I’ve heard of the Francis option, the Jeremiah option, and the St. Josemaria option.  All of them basically saying don’t retreat – engage!  Perhaps the authors hope their “option” will get as much play as Mr. Deher’s, but all of them, Benedict Option included, are simply Christians doing the necessary discernment of “how much am I in the world but not of it?”

I’d point out that the reason the “Benedict Option” resonates more than others is because of the fact of Benedictine renewal.  It was the Benedictines that had so much to do with preserving civilization and renewing culture in the midst of darkness after the collapse of the Roman Empire and the birth of Christendom.  It’s a historical reality recognized and written about by, among others, Alasdair MacIntyre (where Dreher got the idea), Christopher Dawson, Bl. John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, Dorothy Day (an oblate) and her coreligionist Peter Maurin, John Senior (an oblate), and not to mention Pope Benedict XVI, who I think is pretty clear-sighted on problems and solutions.

What’s So Special About St. Benedict?

I once asked an abbot of a monastery why it was that the Benedictines have been so central to renewal – the rule they live by, after all, says nothing about keeping the outside world afloat.  “It is a practical and doable rule centered completely on God,” he said.  “We orient all of life and work in that direction and it seems the world around us follows.”  Sounds good enough to me.

Perhaps Carrie Gress, a philosophy professor at Pontifex University, has put the whole “option” thing to rest by proposing the “Marian Option”.  I mean, c’mon, can any other option be as good as Mary’s?  Dr. Gress explains:

The Marian Option, unlike the Benedict Option, doesn’t generally require anything drastic, like significant changes in one’s community, occupation, or location (although she may inspire you to do these later). What it does require is simply the full and active recognition that she is our mother and, therefore, a tremendous advocate of grace, protection, conversions, and victories through the rosary.

In my experience men who give themselves over to Marian devotions wholeheartedly actually tend to have significant changes in community, occupation, and location.  In fact, only weeks after I made a Monfort style Marian Consecration, all of those things changed for me.  But, my point again here is this – going to the country is not necessarily “drastic”,  and moving to the countryside is perhaps a decidedly tame option.

As someone who is “out there”, I’d like to offer a few observations – dispatches from the Benedictine Option if you will.  Again, it seems that Dreher is trying to tamp down the “run to the hills” mentality, and I do live in the hills, but perhaps the vantage point from the hills – the cliché depiction – can help us to see the issue a bit clearer.

What Being a Country Catholic is Really Like

First, people live out here too.  And they have souls.  I have near daily contact with people, but it is deeper and more meaningful contact that my experience in a city.  We are conscious of being neighbors, unlike the stacks of people in apartments that don’t move past polite smiles (if that).   (Really, I’m not attacking apartment dwellers – this is an observation from my experience.)  Friends I’ve made out here are coming into the Church, especially because we have a parish of beauty and solid preaching.  Evangelization does not require a consolidated population.

Second, nature is great.  Humanity is a part of nature, we are nature’s stewards, and living in close proximity is living in the most “normal” of settings.   As G.K. Chesterton once noted, the city is the only habitat where people have to leave (i.e. visit the countryside) to have a retreat.  Living close to it helps us to see and feel our relation to it, which helps to temper the extreme and anti-life sentiments that view humanity as a total drain on nature’s goodness and therefore it would not be all that bad if we self-exterminated, perhaps starting before birth even.

Third, homesteading is a great reward, but it also draws you to your neighbor.  Nearly everyone has some kind of contact with land in the country, whether a cousin cuts hay from the land, most keep a small garden, and a few keep a pig to eat scraps.  There’s a lot of overlap, but the different things people “specialize” in draw them together for bartering and the pure gift of sweet corn.

Let me just correct too that “we can’t all be farmers” comment.  Removed from land and season and weather for a generation or more leaves people removed from the tradition of farming, the culture of agriculture.  In other words, you can’t be a farmer not because it’s not a good option or its reactionary, but because you don’t know how, and you likely cannot get it halfway figured for years.  People dismiss “running away to be farmers” as if farming were just one more complex system they could arrange into success like strategically choosing stocks.  This shows how little they know of it, and how little they think of farmers.

So, maybe we can’t all be farmers, but for those of you that want to venture toward land and neighbor, come on.

This article is reprinted with permission from our friends at The Catholic Gentleman.

Love Is Not Loved

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 23:07

I am not like a pebble on the beach — a grain of sand on the seashore or just one of millions of human beings past, present, and future. No, I am a unique human being loved by God as if I were an only child — the only fruit of His creative powers.

He loves me.

He created me out of nothing — breathed a soul into my body, endowed me with a personality destined to give Him a unique kind of glory for all eternity because He loves me.

Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. When I look at Jesus, I see the Father — I see Love — I see the Spirit and the Spirit loves me.

If I were to put all the love in the world into one heart it would be merely as a spark in comparison with the love the Heart of Jesus has for me.

I cannot fathom this kind of love because I have never seen a love so great. But is this true? Can I say I have never seen this degree of love? The Eternal Word left His Glory and came down to live among a people indifferent to His love. From the first moment of His entry into this world He felt the coldness in men’s hearts and yet, His tiny Heart, beating in the crib — beat out of love. “He came unto His own and His own did not receive Him” (Jn. 1:11).

At the Last Supper, “The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus . . . so leaning back on Jesus’ breast he said, ‘Who is it Lord?’ ” (Jn. 13:23, 25). John asked Jesus for the name of His betrayer. To deny Jesus the love He deserves and the gratitude His graces demand is a betrayal also on my part. I wonder if His Heart beat faster under the strain of disappoint­ment? Did John hear the Divine Heart skip a beat as the cold betraying heart of Judas turned more and more to hatred? The heart feels and reacts to human emotions and who can fathom the emotions of One who loved with the Heart of God? Who can understand the deep hurt in the Heart of Jesus as the one He loved turned away?

This article is from “Mother Angelica on Christ and Our Lady.” Click image to preview or order.

As John leaned upon the breast of Jesus, did his own heart react in fear — fear of the unknown tragedy about to occur? Did Jesus look at John with a heart full of love — full of sorrow in the realization that He could not lift a finger to alleviate the pain in the heart of John as he was about to see His Master suffer so terribly?

The Heart of Jesus — Seat of Love — was torn by love — love for Judas, who rejected His love — love for John, who was soon to endure great sorrow — love for His Apostles, who would not understand His death and so would lose sight of His resur­rection — love for His Mother, who would have to stand by, helpless, and see Him treated like a fool — “a worm and no man” (Ps. 22:6).

Mary gave Him birth and now she shares the longing of His broken Heart to suffer for mankind and for me.

I do not understand a love that is fed and set aflame for one as ungrateful as I. My love grows cold when pain and sacrifice make themselves felt. Love seems to be squeezed out of my heart by the weight of the cross. But He is so different. His Heart yearns to prove Itself — yearns to show me the extent of its depth — yearns to manifest its intensity by the lengths it goes to sacrifice.

My love manifests itself when receiving, His by giving. My love diminishes in pain, His has no limits. My love expands when He says “yes” to all my requests — His love was joyful to do the Father’s Will even when His request was not granted.

My love vacillates — it is on fire today and cold tomorrow — His love for me is constant and faithful, forever the same. His unlimited and changeless love is like a crown of thorns around His Heart and my sins of ingratitude and lukewarmness are the cruel points on every thorn. When I am hurt by someone, my love grows cold and this coldness hardens my heart. It acts like an anesthetic — it deadens the pain. This is not so with His Heart. His love for me flows from a never ending fountain of love — totally unselfish — burning brightly. It continues to burn for me and because it does not diminish when I offend Him — His Love — His limitless Love causes His Heart a pain unknown to man.

Surely, the Heart that Jesus showed to St. Margaret Mary — the burning Heart surrounded with thorns — was encircled by a combination of its own intensity and my offenses — my selfish demands and preferences. When limitless Love meets selfish pettiness, the force of constrained Love, unrequited, turns around itself in pain. It cannot diminish and yet there is no return of love on the part of the creature so beloved by Jesus. This is truly a crown of thorns around a Heart forever faithful but rejected and put aside for less worthy loves.

The Heart of Jesus longs for my love because He is so good. He longs to fill me with His own peace — a peace the world and all the things I run after cannot give. He stands at the door of my heart, waiting to be invited in. How often he stands outside in the cold, as He once did in a cave of Bethlehem, waiting for me to acknowledge His presence — to respond to His Love, to tell Him I love Him.

A Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Compassionate Heart of Jesus have mercy on me!

The Heart of Jesus is compassionate and understanding. It has felt the sting of ingratitude and when my heart suffers from that same offense, I can turn to Him and He understands my feelings. There is a great difference, however, in our reactions to ingratitude. His loving Heart forgives so easily — mine be­comes resentful. How can I obtain that kind of unselfish heart? There is only one way — I need to look at that Heart that is so compassionate towards sinners and make it my own. I must meditate on His love and mercy towards me and then my heart will soften at the next blow — the next pain — it will not harden itself against suffering. My heart is cold, selfish, and indifferent, but the light radiating from His Heart will touch mine and change it like the sun peeking through the dark clouds.

Gentle Heart of Jesus make me meek and humble.

One day Jesus was talking to His Apostles and He said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in Heart and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).

Jesus asks me to go to Him when I am overburdened. He did not promise to take away those burdens, for I must carry mine as He carried His. But I can make them lighter by going to Jesus — by placing them in His Heart. When I do that He promised to make those burdens His own for He asked me to shoulder His yoke. My crosses become His Crosses because His Sacred Heart takes whatever pain I suffer and feels it with me. His love for me reaches into my heart, takes the pain and makes it His own. Love shares not only joy, but suffering. Love feels the agonies of the beloved more keenly for the force of love intensifies every pain and every trial.

Jesus feels my sorrow greater than I for His love is infi­nite and he suffers in an infinite way. He has done something greater than take away my sufferings — He has made them His very own. He wants me to bear those sufferings in the same way He bore His in His life — meekly and with a humble heart.

He does not want the bitterness of what I may consider undeserved suffering to harden my heart and make it a vessel of resentment.

He does not want the fire of anger to consume and destroy the very tissues of my heart. The injustices He suffered never lessened His love or His desire to do the Father’s Will. He kept His eyes on the Father for He placed His burden in the Father’s Heart.

He told His Apostles, “No one has ever seen God: it is only the Son who is nearest to the Father’s heart who has made Him known” (Jn. 1:18). Jesus, who was so close to the Father’s Heart, manifested the perfections of the Father. I can see the Father in Jesus for they are one. So it must be with me. I must stay close to the fire of love in the Heart of Jesus. I must see how that Heart reacted to life’s sufferings and then react to those trials with the same love and humility as Jesus.

As Jesus showed the whole world the Father — “He who sees me sees the Father,” so I must show the world the loving Heart of Jesus by possessing that Heart as my own (Jn. 14:9). Dare I aspire to that degree of holiness that could say, “He who sees me, sees Jesus?” Yes, I may so desire for that is the “rest” He promised if I learned from His Heart the secrets of peaceful living.

Merciful Heart of Jesus teach me to forgive.

Shortly after they crucified Jesus He said, “Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Surely, this beautiful mercy shows me the intensity of His Love! He cannot stop loving — He cannot condemn even in the midst of monstrous injustice! He leaves judgment to the Father. His Heart is meek and humble to the last and He seeks clemency on the very ones who caused His agony. The mercy of God was there — ready to forgive the very men who hated Him. The question is whether their hearts ever became repentant in order to receive the mercy offered to them. The Heart of Jesus always extends mercy to me. It is my heart that finds repentance difficult.

I need never worry about His merciful Heart — it is my pride and unrepentant heart that can cause me to fail Him and reject Him. In order to keep from falling into that pit of never ending darkness, I must be always merciful and forgiving. I cannot look at the injustice or offense done to me. Like Jesus I must possess a Heart ever ready to intercede for the very ones who offend me. My heart should radiate the love of Jesus to the extent of never being lessened by injury — never diminishing because of rejection, never changed by coldness. Love was nailed to a tree by hateful men, but It never ceased to be Love. Jesus, the perfect image of the Father, would mani­fest the Father’s love and mercy to the very last. I need never question His mercy but only fear an unrepentant heart that will not accept that mercy.

Pierced Heart of Jesus, hide me within You.

The disciple whom Jesus loved tells us that “One of the soldiers pierced His side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water” (Jn. 19:34). Love goes to extremes. Infinite love had to give every last drop of life-giving blood. We know that there is no pain like the pain of a great loss of blood — no thirst so great as the parched lips of one so weakened by a loss of fluids. And yet, St. Mark tells us that Jesus “gave a loud cry and breathed his last” (Mk. 15:37). The Love in the Heart of Jesus felt the pain of every drop of blood He shed for my redemption. Every pain was voluntarily accepted and endured for love of me. Every drop of blood was shed and cried out, “I love you.”

When the soldier pierced His Heart, that last drop was shed and with it — water. It was Divinity giving Itself to human­ity — giving birth to a people freed from the tyranny of the Enemy. From the side of Adam came Eve, created without pain in a deep, peaceful sleep. From the pierced side of Jesus came forgiveness — a redeemed people redeemed through the pain and death of their God — redeemed by the love enclosed in a Divine Heart — purchased by sorrow and now forever opened and flowing with a never ending love — a fountain of living water and He did all this for me.

Risen and Glorious Heart of Jesus give me joy.

“Then He spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are My hands. Give Me your hand; put it into My side. Doubt no longer but believe” (Jn. 20:27). Jesus asks me to “look.” He wants me to look at His Hands and pierced Heart. They are proofs of His Love and Mercy. They shout out in one long “I love you.” They are to be my source of joy, for joy is mine when I realize how much He loves me. Joy increases and abounds when His love for me becomes a reality. I was born into this world by the pain of my mother and I was born into eternal life by the pain of my God. Both pains were borne with love — one finite to give me life — one infinite to give me eternity. Is it not a joy to know I was created by Love, born with love, and redeemed through Love? Yes, St. John tells us clearly, “This is the Love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when He sent His Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away” (1 Jn. 4:10).

Joy and peace do not come from anything outside of me, but only in the depths of my heart where Jesus and I are alone. It is the joy of His Resurrected Heart that must radiate to my neighbor. It was purchased at a great price, it is a treasure above all treasures — the pearl of great price — I am loved by God — the Heart of Jesus was pierced so the blood of His Di­vinity and the water of my humanity might flow together and manifest the love of the Father for mankind.

Sacred Heart of Jesus make my heart like unto Thine — meek, humble, and forever loving.

My Jesus, You are Love that is not loved. You are ignored by those You died for and hated by Your Enemies. Your children have become lukewarm and lost their zeal for Your honor and glory. We think more of ourselves and our crosses than Your sorrow over our sins. As You cry — we laugh, for our minds and hearts have become insensitive to the dangers around us.

We seem to be buried deep in the ice of our indifference, but we cry out to Your sorrowful Heart and beg You to let Your Merciful Love shine upon us and melt the coldness within. We have been deceived by the lure of riches and the spirit of the world. We have become an affluent, technological society, advanced beyond all the ages of the past. But, my Lord, we are still the most deprived, the most poor, and the most hungry people ever to inhabit Your earth. It is sad to realize that in the age when man has spoken to man from the moon, he has not reached or spoken to the God in his heart.

In using the mind You have given us to plumb the secrets of creation — we ignore the God of creation residing in our hearts. We are like children absorbed in building castles in the sand and forgetting the security of living in a house built on rock.

Let us contemplate Your Heart, Lord Jesus, a heart that is loving each one of us with a personal love. We desire to make reparation to Your Sacred Heart by dedicating our lives to following the gospel, to loving as You love, to doing the Father’s Will, and to radiating the joy that comes from loving hearts. Our sins are beyond comprehension, our weaknesses like the grains of sand on the shore, but Your love encompasses all things and makes all things new. Let our lives be a witness to the power of Your Sacred Heart as it fills our souls with the fire of its Love. Let all of heaven sing out in a loud voice, “Love is loved by those whose tiny spark has become one flame with the unlimited fire of His Sacred Heart.”

Editor’s note: This article is from a chapter in Mother Angelica on Christ and Our Ladywhich is available through Sophia Institute Press

What’s So Great about Being Poor in Spirit?

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 23:05

Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” is probably the most famous sermon of all time.  And the opening lines of that sermon are equally famous — for 2,000 years they’ve been known as “the Beatitudes.”

In nine short verses, Jesus lays out the character sketch of the spiritually successful person who is truly blest, fortunate, positioned to experience perfect happiness and the fullness of joy.  This is what “beatitude” means.

Now the very first qualification takes us back a bit.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”  Is Jesus endorsing indigence?  Is he a Marxist who champions the proletariat and vilifies the bourgeoisie?

Not at all.  Note that he is talking about the “poor in spirit” here.  In other words, those who are aware of their own smallness and emptiness.  The poor in spirit are not those who beat themselves up, but those who frankly recognize how puny they are before the mysteries of the Universe and the Creator of that Universe.  They don’t let their own accomplishments and abilities blind them to their mortality and vulnerability.  They don’t fool themselves.

Jesus mentions elsewhere how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom because it is very easy for the successful to lose touch with their neediness and to actually believe the flattery of their fan clubs.  Those who are not influential, educated or wealthy have an easier time recognizing their need since it stares them in the face every place they turn.  For this reason, the Church was full of such people in the New Testament era (1 Cor 1:26-31) just as it is today.

The poor of spirit are empty and so long to be filled.  They hunger and thirst for the wholeness that is called holiness, for the food that truly satisfies.

The rich in spirit don’t hunger for anything.  They are “full of themselves,” self-satisfied.  When offered an opportunity to grow spiritually, they protest “But I’m a good person and worship God in my own way” or “I go to Church every Sunday, isn’t that enough?”  They are too busy for prayer and yawn when exposed to a spiritual discussion.  They are too absorbed with themselves to be interested in God.  They may get excited about the Superbowl, but never about heaven.

This lack of spiritual hunger, this utter apathy in the face of the things of God, is actually one of the Seven Deadly Sins.  It is called Sloth or spiritual laziness, and it is one of the most striking characteristics of American society.  It is a sneaky sin that quietly creeps into the lives of even religious people and gradually chokes out true spirituality.  It diverts our attention from the things of heaven to a myriad of other things until we find ourselves bored with God, making only routine and mechanical efforts to “fulfill our Sunday obligation.”  There is no passion, no zeal, no desire — just lots of excuses.

“Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall see God.”  The hearts of the blessed, the truly happy, are not divided among God and football and career and money.  Those truly happy have only one God, and look to Him alone to be filled.  If they play sports, they do it for His honor and glory, not theirs.  If they marry, they love Christ and are loved by Christ through their spouses.  If they pursue a career or build a business, they do it according to His will to advance His kingdom.

Reading the Sermon on the Mount, and especially the Beatitudes, is a gut check for us all.  It’s one of the best examination of consciences that there is, perfect to read before every confession and every Lent.  Incidentally, that’s what the penitential season of Lent is about.  The fasting is meant to re-stimulate our spiritual appetite.  The spiritual exercises are designed to shrug off the laziness of sloth.  Christianity is not just a matter of believing in God, but avidly pursuing Him.

Scripture Speaks: Christ in the Desert

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 23:02

Jesus faces God’s enemy and ours, the one who has hated us from the beginning

Gospel (Read Mt 4:1-11)

The Gospel reading begins with the phrase, “At that time,” to describe this scene of Jesus’ temptation by the devil. At what time? In the previous chapter, Jesus had just been baptized in the Jordan River, even though John protested. Jesus insisted that He be treated like all the others there seeking a renewal in their relationships with God. When He came up out of the water, a Voice from heaven spoke, saying, “This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well-pleased” (Mt. 3:17). It was on the heels of His public solidarity with sinners and His Father’s expressed pleasure in Him that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

This would be a strange order of events if we didn’t understand that just as Jesus identified Himself with His brothers in baptism, He was also identifying with them in facing the test of His love for the Father.

Our First Reading (Read Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7) recounts the original test of man in the Garden of Eden. There a “cunning” serpent questioned the authority of God’s Word. “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees of the Garden?” We are surprised that God allowed His enemy into the Garden in the first place. Clearly the serpent wanted the humans dead. Through lies (“You will certainly not die”) and distortions of the truth, he seduced them into sin. Why would God give His enemy this opportunity?

We can’t fully answer that question, but we do know that God made man in His own image and likeness, so man would be free and would have to choose to love and obey His Creator or not. The serpent’s temptation forced that choice, but the need for the choice was always God’s plan. Making a free decision to love God is part of what it means to be fully human.

The man and woman chose badly, but the serpent’s choice to tempt them ended even more badly for him. In the next few verses of Genesis (not in today’s reading), we find that God’s punishment of His enemy would come from the very kind of flesh and blood upon whom he had preyed. “A woman and her seed” would someday appear on the horizon of human history. “He will bruise your head [a fatal wound for a serpent], and you shall bruise his heel [painful but not mortal for a man].” There would be another time of testing of man by God’s enemy, but this time, the enemy would be defeated.

Thus, our Gospel passage begins, “At this time.” The time for the showdown has arrived. This was God’s timing, not the devil’s. It was the Spirit who led Jesus out for this battle. See how the devil is unable to lie and distort God’s Word in this temptation, although not for lack of trying. Jesus faced every attack by reciting Scripture, cleaving wholeheartedly to God’s precise words (as Adam and Eve had not done). The forty days of fasting prepared Jesus to be entirely focused on being God’s Son in God’s way, through the appearance of human weakness and complete dependence on His Father. In the end, He was able to say to the devil, “Get away, Satan!” All the bluff and cunning of the tempter fell to dust as Jesus resolutely refused to turn away from serving God, no matter what the cost. He had taken His first, irreversible step towards the Cross.

Possible response: Jesus, lead me in the way of obedience, which always disrupts and defeats the devil.

Psalm (Read Ps. 51:3-6, 12-14, 17)

The psalm is a plaintive cry for God’s mercy—a recognition of the devastating effect of the fall in the Garden. King David wrote this psalm after his sins of murder and adultery. David was Israel’s brightest star, “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:13-14), yet even he fell victim to the rebellion that lurks in our hearts and makes us so vulnerable to the Tempter. Jesus, the new and eternal King of Israel, makes God’s mercy abundantly available to us. He is the answer to David’s prayer and ours: “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”

Possible response: The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings. Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.

Second Reading (Read Rom 5:12-19)

St. Paul explains what the two accounts of temptation mean for us. Adam’s transgression meant death for us all. The choice he made was for himself and all his children. Are we tempted to think that isn’t fair? If so, we need to read on, because St. Paul shows us that just as Adam’s disobedience, in which we had no personal part, was counted for us, so Jesus’ obedience, in which we likewise had no personal part, also counts for us. Sometimes we’re tempted to think we should each be given our own shot at obedience, that we could perhaps have done a better job than Adam. That could be dangerous, however. If we refuse to let another’s behavior count for us, what happens if, in our one moment of glory, when we must choose for or against God, we botch it like Adam did? If he could fail, so could we. If we refuse to let another’s behavior count for us, then Jesus’ obedience won’t help us at all. We are left with our own choices and no chance for redemption. God’s way is much better!

Possible response: Thank You, Lord, that Jesus undid for me the damage done by Adam. Help me remember that Your grace is more abundant than sin.

“We could not go to Calvary to

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 23:00

“We could not go to Calvary to offer ourselves with Him and thus share in the fruits of His Sacrifice; so Jesus brought Calvary to us.”

-Fr. Lawrence G. Lovasik, The Basic Book of the Eucharist

Both readings today for the Friday

Thu, 03/02/2017 - 23:00

Both readings today for the Friday after Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent speak of fasting. On Ash Wednesday the Gospel reading reminded us of three traditional practices for Lent: fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah the Lord castigates the people of Israel for their wickedness and unfaithfulness to their covenant with God. They were a sinful people. Though they fasted, they remained unjust to others and quarreled with others.

The Lord reminds them of the fast acceptable before God: “breaking the fetters of injustice and unfastening the thongs of the yoke, setting the oppressed free and breaking every yoke. Fast by sharing your food with the hungry, bring to your house the homeless, clothe the man you see naked and do not turn away from your own kin.” In the Lord’s eyes, “fasting” was not only eating less but also doing good and even suffering for the sake of others.

In the Gospel reading Jesus explains to the disciples of John why his disciples do not fast as often as John’s: “How can you expect wedding guests to mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? Time will come when the bridgefroom will be taken away from them, then they will fast.”

Indeed, true disciples of Jesus, following the Twelve, all of whom except for the beloved disciple John gave their lives in witness to Christ and his Gospel, should be ready to fast and to give of themselves, even their lives, in their own witness to and service of the Lord.

Let us pray for the grace of strong faith in the Lord and perseverance in living out his faith.

The mission of St. Mary’s Parish is to proclaim and celebrate our salvation through Jesus Christ,our pilgrimage to the Father’s Kingdom enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Our Catholic faith community is nourished by our sacramental life, especially the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist. With Mother Mary as our model, we demonstrate our faith through worship, education, vocations and service.