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Enter the Lenten season with resolve

Lent is just about here! (Gulp). While we might dread the idea of penance or sacrifice, we know that it’s all about (or should be about) love. Love means sacrifice, and over the next forty days we try to unite in small ways to the loving sacrifice Jesus made for us. Here is a beautiful reflection on the season of Lent from Bishop Robert Barron (wordonfire.org) and points of focus for the first few days. May this season be one of holiness and love for you and your family.

May you know the peace of Christ,

Fr Greg

“As we begin this Lenten season tomorrow (Ash Wednesday), let’s enter the desert the way a marathoner enters into his training, or a professor into her research, or a businessperson into a challenging project: with a joyful and excited resolve. In the desert, we’ll meet a God who is love, through and through. Let us spend these holy days responding to the delights and demands of that love.

Day One

Over the next forty-seven days, resolve to perform a particular and sustained act of love.

Make several visits to your relative in the nursing home. Converse regularly with a lonely person on your block. Tutor and befriend a kid who might be in danger of losing his way. Repair a broken friendship. Bring together bickering factions at your place of work. Make a number of financial contributions to a worthy organization that needs help.

Numerous spiritual masters have witnessed to something odd: belief in God is confirmed and strengthened not so much from intellectual effort as from moral action.

The Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross said that in the evening of life we shall be judged according to our love. In Matthew 25, the nature of love is specified. It is not primarily a feeling, an attitude, or a conviction but rather a concrete act on behalf of those in need—the hungry, the homeless, the lonely, the imprisoned, the forgotten. It is the bearing of another’s burden.

When a man asked the English Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins what he must do in order to believe, Hopkins replied, ―Give alms.

As you love through tangible acts, you will come to believe more deeply and to enter more fully into friendship with God.

Day Two

Something I have noticed over the years is that the holiest people in our tradition are those who are most aware of their sinfulness. Whether it is Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, or Mother Teresa, the saints are those who are convinced of their inadequacy.

When Isaiah encounters the Lord he says, ―I am a man of unclean lips!‖ When Peter is in the presence of the Messiah he says, ―Lord, leave me, for I am a sinful man.‖ G.K. Chesterton once said, ―A saint only means a man who really knows that he is a sinner.‖ …

At least part of being a saint is knowing you’re a sinner.

Day Three

There is a regrettable interpretation of the cross that has, unfortunately, infected the minds of many Christians. This is the view that the bloody sacrifice of the Son on the cross was ―satisfying‖ to the Father, and was given for the appeasement of a God infinitely angry at sinful humanity. In this reading, the crucified Jesus is like a child hurled into the fiery mouth of a pagan divinity in order to assuage its wrath.

But what ultimately refutes this twisted theology is the well-known passage from John’s Gospel: ―God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that all who believe in him might have eternal life.‖ John reveals that it is not out of anger or vengeance or in a desire for retribution that the Father sends the Son, but precisely out of love. God the Father is not some pathetic divinity whose bruised personal honor needs to be restored; rather God is a parent who burns with compassion for his children who have wandered into danger.

Does the Father hate sinners? No, but he hates sin. Does God harbor indignation at the unjust? No, but God despises injustice. Thus God sends his Son, not gleefully to see him suffer, but compassionately to set things right…

Jesus said that any disciple of his must be willing to take up his cross and follow the master. If God is self-forgetting love even to the point of death, then we must be such love. If God is willing to break open his own heart, then we must be willing to break open our hearts for others. The cross, in short, must become the very structure of the Christian life.

God Will Provide

8th Sunday
Ash Wednesday
“Seek first the kingdom of God”
    God and Kingdom first
    “And all these will be given you besides”
God will provide for all that we need
    He knows what we need more than we do
    Every good desire comes from God
    God gives us desires
Then fulfills them

Eucharist

Create a clean heart in me, O Lord

Ash Wednesday 2016

Uh-oh, Lent is Coming

The following is an excellent and timely reflection from my spiritual father, Msgr. Thomas Wells. After he was murdered in 2000, parishioners from one of his parishes assembled all of his weekly bulletin columns into a book, “From the Pastor’s Desk”. Great stuff! – Fr Greg

“Uh Oh, Lent is Coming” February 25, 1996

When trivia games were so popular a few years ago, there were, inevitably, several Catholic Trivia Pursuit spin-offs. I wonder if they included questions about the three Sundays before Ash Wednesday. These Sundays, each given a long Latin name denoting the number of days before Easter, were warning signals to Catholics that Lent is on its way. The priest wore purple vestments at Mass, but no Lenten practice was observed. The person in the pew saw the purple and said, “Uh oh, Lent is coming. What am I going to do this year?”

Now, of course, the season is suddenly upon us. Every year, we receive phone calls on Ash Wednesday from people asking for Mass times because they have seen people with ashes on the street and realized what day it was. It is a shame that Lent does now kind of sneak up on us because there is great wisdom in preparing for this spiritually and psychologically important time of year.

In some ways, the Church year mirrors life. There are times of celebration (Christmas and Easter), but most of life is living from day to day, something like the Church calls ordinary time of the year.

Inevitably, though, in differing ways throughout our lives, we are forced to step back and look at where we are, where we are going and what is really important to us. In the Church year, of course, Lent invites us to that same kind of self-examination.

The three traditional practices of Lent (prayer, fasting, and almsgiving) challenge us to remember our place in the world and how easily we lose focus. The added prayer of Lent, and especially the struggle to focus on God and to give Him time that He deserves, reminds us that while we are commanded to love God with our whole being, we fall incredibly short. Likewise the challenge of fasting and, by extension, all our Lenten self-denial, give witness to the self-gratification that we so take for granted.

Whether it is time before the TV or eating between meals that we “give up”, we recognize, especially as we fail after the enthusiasm of the first few Lenten days that, talk aside, our love for God must not be so strong if we have such a hard time giving up such trivial things for love of Him.

Finally, Lent invites us to give to the poor, traditionally called almsgiving. As we consider our gift to the Cardinal’s Appeal, for example, we can examine whether we really do consider the poor, the dirty, the homeless, the mentally ill – all of the weak ones of the earth – to be our brothers and sisters. St. Paul says, “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be”.

Lent is that time of year where, especially, the Church asks us to see if our hearts recognize a brother or sister in that wretched person who seems so different from me.