What can I do to accomplish the works of God? This is a question every Christian must ask. Ultimately, we are asked to be the light of Christ for others. This calls us to be compassionate, forgiving, nonviolent, generous, concerned for the poor, and welcoming to strangers. These are often contrary to what the world values. We are asked to simplify our lives and become less self-focused so that others can share in God’s creation. We need help in order to fulfill this tall order. The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, which we celebrate today, is the way we are nourished so that we can fulfill this mission.
Was Jesus so deeply moved with emotion and engulfed with pity for us? We often are sheep without a shepherd who are lured by the emptiness of worldly attractions and superficial desires. We become lost. God, in the depth of His being, is deeply moved by our pain, loneliness, and heartache. God does not judge or condemn. He loves and is mercy itself. He knows firsthand the pain that comes with being lost and alone and desires to teach us about His merciful love. Do we want to be taught? Listen to God’s word and be open to God’s presence in the Eucharist.fr,
What does it take to believe that something is real? We live in an age of computer technology complete with things like Photoshop and other programs that can enhance photographs, create realistic images, and mimic artistic renderings. When looking at a picture of something, we find ourselves wondering if what we are seeing is real or just the result of technological creativity. Early believers came to believe because of what they witnessed in these new communities of faith. They saw people authentically living out Jesus’ command to love and to show mercy. What do people witness when they see us in action?
Christ is risen indeed! We have arrived at the penultimate feast on the Church’s calendar, the cause of our joy and our hope. Life has defeated death. Sorrow and suffering do not have the last say. In the resurrection of Jesus we see many reasons to rejoice. Not only has Jesus conquered the specter of visible death, but he restores to us graced life. On Holy Saturday, Jesus descended to the dead and delivered the just souls into heavenly paradise. What are our own Saturday tombs? Jesus has the power to open them all. That is our invitation, this day most of all. May resurrection joy fill your heart, your family, your workplace, and your community. Happy Easter!
Did you ever wonder why Catholics do these things? Now you know.
- We make the Sign of the Cross because it is the sign of our salvation. While we make it, we pray as we should always pray “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and to remind ourselves that we live in and with the Trinity.
- We use a crucifix (and not just a cross) to remind us visibly of the sacrifice of Jesus. He offered his flesh and blood for us – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
- We pray the rosary to meditate on the lives of Jesus and Mary and to ask them to help us to imitate them in the scenes in our lives.
- We use statues of saints in much the same way that our country uses monuments of our forefathers – to have visible reminders of the heroes of our faith in Christ.
- We receive ashes at the start of Lent to proclaim a fast (as the Israelites proclaimed a fast through sackcloth and ashes) and to remind us that we are dust (and to dust we shall return).
Prayer | Fasting | Almsgiving | Everyday Stewardship
Can you recite the Ten Commandments by heart? Several years ago, a national US survey found more people could identify the ingredients in a Big Mac and name the children in the Brady Bunch television show than recite the Ten Commandments. Of course, being able to recite them is not nearly as important as living a life in harmony with them. However, if we simply live to not break them then we are only living out half of our discipleship.
Every commandment calls us to action beyond the simplicity of its words. We are not to kill, but we are also called to support life. We are not to steal, but we are also to share what we have freely. We are to have no other Gods before our God, but we also need to actively praise and glorify Him.
To live a moral life is to do more than follow rules and laws. It is to actively live in a way that gives witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ. This way of living is stewardship. As we focus more on the penitential message of Lent, we need to not just reflect on what we have done wrong, but equally what we have failed to do. To be given so much by a loving God and not share those things with God and His people is wrong as well. Perhaps as we reflect on these things we might find ourselves adding something to our lives that will last for many Lenten seasons to come.
The hope of being transformed or transfigured into the image of God awaits all of God’s children. We walk through this life knowing that our eternal destiny is to be like God and live eternally in his presence. How does this truth about who we can become change the way we live today? Does it even matter to us that we are called to a higher purpose that is often quite different than the one we fabricate for ourselves here on earth? A transformed, eternal life is God’s desire for all of his daughters and sons. Knowing this helps us put suffering in perspective and walk peacefully with hope in our hearts.
When I was first in parish work, I remember the parish priest talking with the schoolchildren about the topic of Lent and prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. He asked them if any of them knew what fasting was. After a very long wait, one student raised his hand and said, “It is what I do when my Mom is mad at me. I run really fast!” The adults in the assembly burst into laughter.
Laughter is good. However, the Lenten devotions of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are very serious practices for us as we prepare to celebrate the Easter mysteries.
As our catechumens prepare for the Easter sacraments, we are called by the Church to model what it means to be a Catholic Christians. We are called, especially during this Lenten season, to pray, fast, and give from the wealth we have to those who need our assistance.
This season is not merely a season of obligation to act more intently as God calls us to act; it is a season of opportunity to practice the foundation of our faith more attentively: prayer, fasting, almsgiving.
Prayer | Fasting | Almsgiving
Prayer: Throughout Scripture, Jesus goes to pray in deserted place. Lent is our “deserted place.” We draw near to God through Mass, confession, and spiritual practices like the Stations of the Cross, but we are also invited to spend time in prayer alone with the Father like Jesus did.
Fasting: Fasting is not a diet! With a diet, we try to achieve a physical goal in this world. In fasting, we try to achieve a spiritual goal in the next. Fasting helps us to sacrifice our preferences and less-than-healthy impulses to build discipline to choose the good in all areas of life.
Almsgiving: Time and time again, the Bible tells us that to love God we must love others. Our “neighbor” is someone we might not expect. Giving alms is an opportunity to support and care for our neighbor in need.
Repent and believe in the gospel! This is the message that is found on Jesus’ lips after forty days in the desert. As the forty days of Lent come before us, we are asked to create a desert experience in our lives so that we can learn anew the ways of God. Our daily cares and concerns can distract us from truth and cause us to become absorbed with the world and secular priorities. Lent is an opportunity to free ourselves from illusion and focus us on what really matters. In doing so, we open up new possibilities for our relationship with God, others, our world, and ourselves.
Fr. Greg Shaffer
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