If any man be devout and loveth God, Let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast!
If any man be a wise servant, Let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.
If any have laboured long in fasting, Let him how receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour, Let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour, Let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour, Let him have no misgivings; Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour, Let him draw near, fearing nothing.
And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, Let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.
For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour, Will accept the last even as the first.
He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour, Even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.
And He showeth mercy upon the last, And careth for the first; And to the one He giveth, And upon the other He bestoweth gifts.
And He both accepteth the deeds, And welcometh the intention, And honoureth the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord; Receive your reward,
Both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival! You sober and you heedless, honour the day! Rejoice today, both you who have fasted And you who have disregarded the fast.
The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. Let no one bewail his poverty,
For the universal Kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities, For pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, For the Saviour's death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered When it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
Is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and dominion
Unto ages of ages.
oday, Good Friday, might be the second most important day within Salvation History. For by His holy cross, He has redeemed the world. Today marks the completion of our Lord’s Passion and His death. We are called to reflect especially over Christ’s death and His cross. It is for this reason that the Church prescribes the Veneration of the Cross in today’s liturgy. We are allowed the honor to kiss the wood of the cross, on which hung our salvation. We must remember, though, that we must do more than just love and carry our cross. We must learn to embrace it, even joyfully. This is exactly what true joy is. Joy, not from human accomplishment, but from pain and struggle for nothing but the greater glory of God.This is how we truly unite ourselves to Christ, fulfilling what God desires with us, perfect loving unity.
For this, we can look to Christ as our example. The joy He felt in laying down His life out of love for us out-weighed the pain He experienced in His Passion. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews has us identify Jesus through His sacrificial love of the day of His Crucifixion. “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead, He endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken His seat at the right of God's throne,” (Hebrews 12:5). How beautiful is it that our King loves us so much that he puts aside the shame, agony, and pain of torture, beatings, crucifixion, and death, just to save us from death. Christ, the one man who had no need to die, died so we no longer have to.
Let us pray now from the Vexilla Regis, the hymn sung while processing to the Altar of Repose during the Good Friday Liturgy before the reforms of Pope Pius XII.
Jesus Christ, the unblemished lamb of the New Passover, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, gives us today
the divine example of love by which He who is perfect in humility leads us to His very self.
Jesus is Lord, God almighty, the Second Divine Person of the Holy Trinity, the Beloved Son sent by the
Father to save us from our sins by way of the cross. This evening begins the Paschal Mystery- the Passion,
Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord, the night on which He instituted the Holy Eucharist and the
Priesthood. The readings from Exodus and 1 Corinthians paint a very clear picture of who exactly Jesus is
and what He is doing: Jesus is the Lamb of God, just as John the Baptist proclaimed. He is the Passover
sacrifice who pours out His blood upon the wood of the cross, the blood which cleanses us from our sins,
delivering us from the bondage of death and marking us as His own. It is in Jesus’ blood that the new,
eternal covenant is established, the covenant that fulfills all others. The institution of the Eucharist is the
perfection of the institution of the Passover in Egypt, the perpetual institution which re-presents the events
of the Paschal Mystery and is the very Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus.
This is why the Mass is called a Holy Sacrifice- Jesus offers Himself by Himself to the Father out of infinite
love for us, the sheep of His flock. No words can do justice to the great mystery we are presented with
In the Gospel we see yet again an expression of the infinite love of God. Jesus, King of the Universe,
humbles Himself and takes the form of a servant, stooping down to wash the feet of the Apostles. Peter’s
feet are washed first, which is fitting to his primacy as the rock. Peter, the most relatable Apostle, does not
understand why Jesus is acting in this way. He does not yet understand why he must be cleansed by Jesus,
cleansed by the blood which will soon pour forth from his side. But God’s ways are not our ways; we do
not have to understand, we just have to follow Christ.
In addition to showing the servant nature of the Priesthood established in Himself, Jesus’ act of service
shows how we are to live in relation to each other. We are to love one another without seeking our own
praise. We are servants in this world, not obedient to ourselves but to God. We must not be scrupulous
with God’s grace, and not keep ourselves from Him despite our infinite unworthiness. Jesus does not leave
us directionless, as He gives us both an example of love and also tangible, substantial love: His presence in
the Holy Eucharist. Let us now enter into the mystery of these next few days, emptying ourselves and
allowing Jesus to wash our feet, to fill us with the sacrificial love which He so deeply longs to give us.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
Palm Sunday is always ushered in by the procession of palms, recalling to our minds how the people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus the Christ. The people are shouting "Hosanna! Glory to God! Hosanna!", these are nothing but shouts of glory towards Jesus. However, as the Sacred Liturgy proceeds, the Passion of Our Lord is recounted according to Saint Matthew. We quickly transition from shouting "Hosanna!" to "Crucify Him!".
For the majority of the world there will be no public celebrations of Holy Mass for Holy Week. For many, this will be the first time they have never attended Holy Mass on Easter Sunday. As Catholics we know that we do not just recall the holiest days of the year, but rather we enter into them. We actively participate as a member in the Holy Eucharist, in Our Lords Passion, and in His Glorious Resurrection. Today, Palm Sunday, we need to both encounter Our Lord in his triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, but we also need to recognize our part in His Passion.
In a very real way we enter into both Palm Sunday and Good Friday quite frequently. For much of the world, we encounter Christ in the Eucharist on Sunday, however, we let the world work on us. By Friday we have become a part of the secular culture, a sinful culture. We begin to crucify Our Lord with our actions and thoughts, think of those seven most deadly sins, when broken down, we can find ourselves guilty, even in the smallest degree, of offending Our Lord. As we now are being deprived of the Eucharist, it can be easy to allow ourselves to be "in the world" 24/7, must not let that be the case. If anything, this is the time to grow closer to the Lord and His Holy Catholic Church.
We know, that a "TV Mass or service" is not the exact same as being physically present at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Many of our Protestant brethren can be satisfied with a televised service, as there is no Eucharistic Sacrifice. Our Eucharistic Lord is not present in their churches or in their services. However, as Catholics we have Jesus Christ, most importantly in the Holy Eucharist, but also as the creator of our Church - the Holy Roman Catholic Church, as established by Jesus some 2000 years ago. The point is that we should be yearning for our Eucharistic Lord, as Christ chose us to be the unworthy receivers of His flesh.
When observing this Palm Sunday at home, truly recall the triumphant entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, wave the Palm branches, shout Hosanna! And in right succession, acknowledge our sins which have screamed "Crucify Him, crucify Him!", as this is done, rightly so, in every sin we commit. Allow yourself to yearn for our Eucharistic Lord today and everyday, until on that glorious day we are able to receive Him once again.
For a full list of ways to observe Holy Week at home, read my article here.
Written by Seth Ball
Today on the traditional calendar marks Passion Sunday and the beginning of Passiontide. Many Churches will veil statues and images with violet cloth beginning today. In a time where we are drastically turning our focus toward the Passion of Our Lord and His crucifixion, many wonder why we would then cover the crucifix and hide it from our viewing. The reason we veil statues on this day are not to “hide” the saints from us, but rather to hide their shame, disbelief, and tears as they witness the horrific crime of the passion. Their shame reflects the horrible sins committed by creation against its own Creator.
This Sunday moves our focus away from self-preparation for Easter Sunday and to meditative preparation. We must meditate on the soul mystery of our faith. The Paschal season is the summit of the Christian year. It is here that we encounter the mystery of Our Lord’s willingness to be attacked, mocked, and killed by His own creation, simply to gift himself fully to us. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us there are two reasons for this self-gift. First that God allows this treatment to His Son to show us just how grave sin is, but also to win our hearts through our own witnessing of the death of the Son of God.
John’s Gospel tells us that "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). How great is the love of God then, to allow His only Divine Son to be killed. This act is God’s perfect revelation of His absolute love for His creation. This truly is something we do not think about enough. We all know that God’s love is mysterious and we cannot fully comprehend its extent, but when was the last time we tried? When was the last time we pondered just how much God loves us? God gives us outpourings of grace is our lives that we fail to recognize due to our ignorance of the greatness of His love.
We cannot fail to recognize what Christ calls us to do with His love. In Second Vespers for Passion Sunday, we read from Paul’s Epistle to the Phillipians. “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). Paul tells us we must give the same act of complete self-denial as Christ in our own relationships. We are called to give up everything we have for others, in the same way Christ gave His life for us.
Lætáre, Jerusalem! “Rejoice, O Jerusalem…rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow” (Isaiah 66:10-11). Here we are, in the heart of Lent, rejoicing. We can experience a breath of fresh air as we make our way past the halfway point of this solemn season. “Laetare” Sunday from the word “rejoice” in the Introit today reminds us that God is the source of our joy, even amidst our sufferings of meatless Fridays, empty candy jars, and the like. This strikes more acutely during what has become a global pandemic. Society as a whole is being turned upside down with the extinction of restaurant dining, sporting events, and regular schooling. More disheartening is that many faithful around the world will go without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the days to come. While this is all rather ominous, we are to rejoice today.
Joy is a common theme throughout today’s liturgy. In the Epistle Paul reminds us of our intimate relationship with God as his sons and daughters. We are heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, made free from the bounds of other powers by way of Christ (Gal 4:22-31). Remembering this as our true identity and our true aim, we do not need to be afraid of suffering from a virus or any other looming threat. We are not bound to this world for the rest of eternity. We are bound to our identity as children of God. During this time, we can choose to live in fear of suffering and death, or we can rejoice in the everlasting life that awaits us in Christ.
This day is also known as “Refreshment Sunday” in reference to the Gospel reading for today. The Gospel writer John recounts the events in which Jesus multiplied five loaves of bread and two fishes for 5,000 people to eat (John 6:1-15). Like the crowds on the mountain, Jesus gives us food for the journey as we continue our penances in this latter half of Lent. We can be refreshed even in the spiritual communion that many of us will be making today.
Today’s rejoicing should fortify us in our resolutions and sufferings, that we may unite them to Christ’s forthcoming Passion. We must remember that God is in complete control as the source of all being, goodness, truth, and beauty. Even when we are entrenched in the struggles of this world, God is the source of all our joy. With knowledge of the Easter that awaits us, we will rejoice.
“My son, when you come to serve God, prepare your soul for temptation.” – Ecclus. (Sirach) 2:1
This is an admonition of the Sage: “My son, if you intend to serve God, prepare your soul for temptation,” for it is an infallible truth that no one is exempt from temptation when he has truly resolved to serve God. This being the case, Our Lord Himself chose to be subjected to temptation in order to show us how we ought to resist it. Thus the Evangelists tell us: He was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted. [Matt. 4:1; Mk. 1:12; Lk. 4:1]. I shall draw lessons from this mystery for our particular instruction, in as familiar a manner as I am able.
In the first place, I note that although no one can be exempt from temptation, still no one should seek it or go of his own accord to the place where it may be found, for undoubtedly he who loves it will perish in it. [Ecclus. 3:27]. That is why the Evangelist says that Our Lord was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted; it was not then by His choice (I am speaking with regard to His human nature) that He went to the place of temptation, but He was led by the obedience He owed to His heavenly Father.
I find in Holy Scripture two young princes who furnish us with examples on this subject. One sought temptation and perished in it. The other, without seeking it, encountered it but left the combat victorious.
At the time when kings should go to war, as his own army faced the enemy, David strolled about on the roof of the king’s house, idling his time away as though he had nothing to do. Being idle in this way, he was overcome by temptation. Bethsabee, that inconsiderate lady, went to bathe in a place where she could be seen from the roof of the king’s house. Certainly, this was an act of unparalleled imprudence which I cannot excuse, even though several modern writers wish to render it excusable by saying that she did not think of that. To bathe in a place where she exposed herself to view from the roof of the royal palace was a very great indiscretion. Whether she thought of it or not, young Prince David began by allowing himself to gaze on her, and then perished in the temptation which he had sought by his idleness and sloth [2 Kgs. 11:1-4]. You see, idleness is a great help to temptation. Never say: “I do not seek it; I am not doing anything.” That is enough in order to be tempted, for temptation has a tremendous power over us when it finds us idle. Oh, if David had gone out on campaign at the time that he should have gone, the temptation would not have had the power of attacking him, or at least of overcoming and vanquishing him.
In contrast, young Prince Joseph, who was later viceroy of Egypt, did not seek temptation at all, and so upon meeting it he did not perish in it. He had been sold by his brothers [Gen. 37:28], and his master’s wife exposed him to danger. But he had never indulged or heeded the amorous glances of his mistress; rather, he nobly resisted her advances and was victorious, thus triumphing not only over the temptation but also over her who had been the cause of it [Gen. 39:7-12].
If we are led by the Spirit of God to the place of temptation, we should not fear, but should be assured that He will render us victorious [1 Cor. 10:13]. But we must not seek temptation nor go out to allure it, however holy and generous we may think ourselves to be, for we are not more valiant than David, nor than our Divine Master Himself, who did not choose to seek it. Our enemy is like a chained dog; if we do not approach, it will do us no harm, even though it tries to frighten us by barking at us.
But wait a little, I pray you, and see how certain it is that no one who comes to serve God can avoid temptations. We could give many examples of this but one or two will suffice. Ananias and Saphira made a vow to dedicate themselves and their possessions to the perfection which all the first Christians professed, submitting themselves to obedience to the Apostles. They had no sooner made their resolution than temptation attacked them, as St. Peter said: Who has tempted you to lie to the Holy Spirit? [Acts. 5:1-3]. The great Apostle St. Paul, as soon as he had given himself to the divine service and ranged himself on the side of Christianity, was immediately tempted for the rest of his life [2 Cor. 12:7]. While he was an enemy of God and persecuted the Christians he did not feel the attack of any temptation, or at least he has given us no testimony of it in his writings. But he did when he was converted by Our Lord.
Thus, it is a very necessary practice to prepare our soul for temptation. That is, wherever we may be and however perfect we may be, we must rest assured that temptation will attack us. Hence, we ought to be so disposed and to provide ourselves with the weapons I to fight valiantly in order to carry off the victory, since the crown is only for the combatants and conquerors [2 Tim. 2:5, Jas. 1:12]. We ought never to trust in our own strength or in our courage and go out to seek temptation, thinking to confound it; but if in that place where the Spirit of God has led us we encounter it, we must remain firm in the confidence which we ought to have that He will strengthen us against the attacks of our enemy, however furious they may be.
Let us proceed and consider a little the weapons which Our Lord made use of to repulse the devil that came to tempt Him in the desert. They were none other, my dear friends, than those the Psalmist speaks of in the Psalm we recite every day at Compline: “Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi” “Who dwells in the aid of the Most High” [Ps. 90]. From this Psalm we learn an admirable doctrine. He speaks in this manner as though addressing Christians or someone in particular: “Oh how happy you are, you who are armed with the truth of God, for it will serve you as a shield against the arrows of your enemies and will make you victorious. Therefore, do not fear, O blessed souls, you who are armed with this armor of truth. Fear neither the terrors of the night, for you will not stumble into them; nor the arrows that fly in the air by day, for arrows will not be able to injure you; nor the business that roams in the night; much less the devil that advances and reveals himself at noon.”
O how divinely well armed with truth was Our Lord and Master, for He was truth itself [Jn. 14:6]. This truth of which the Psalmist speaks is nothing other than faith [1 Thess. 5:8]. Whoever is armed with faith need fear nothing; this is the only armor necessary to repel and confound our enemy; for what can harm him who says Credo, “I believe” in God, who is our Father, and our Father Almighty? In saying these words we show that we do not trust in our own strength and that it is only in the strength of God, “the Father Almighty,” that we undertake the combat, that we hope for victory [Ps. 17:30, 43:6-7, Heb. 11:33-34; 1 Jn. 5:4]. No, let us not go on our own to meet temptation by any presumption of spirit, but only rebuff it when God permits it to attack us and seek us out where we are, as it did Our Lord in the desert. By using the words of Holy Scripture our dear Master overcame all the temptations the enemy presented to Him.
But I want it to be understood that the Saviour was not tempted as we are and that temptation could not be in Him as it is in us, for He was an impregnable stronghold to which it did not have access. Just as a man who is vested from head to foot in fine steel could not be injured in any way by the blows of a weapon, since it would glance off on either side, not even scratching the armor; so temptation could indeed encompass Our Lord but never enter into Him, nor do any injury to His integrity and perfect purity. But we are different. If, by the grace of God, we do not consent to temptations, and avoid the fault and the sin in them, ordinarily we are nevertheless wounded a little by some importunity, trouble, or emotion that they produce in our heart.
Our Divine Master could not have faith, since He possessed in the superior part of His soul, from the moment that He began to be, a perfect knowledge of the truths which faith teaches us; however, He wished to make use of this virtue in order to repel the enemy, for no other reason, my dear friends, than to teach all that we have to do. Do not then seek for other arms nor other weapons in order to refuse consent to a temptation except to say, “I believe.” And what do you believe? “In God” my “Father Almighty.”
St. Bernard, referring to these words of the Psalm which we have cited, said that the terrors of the night of which the Psalmist speaks are of three kinds. From this I will draw my third lesson. The first fear is that of cowards and slothful souls; the second, that of children; and the third, that of the weak. Fear is the first temptation which the enemy presents to those who have resolved to serve God, for as soon as they are shown what perfection requires of them they think, “Alas, I shall never be able to do it.” It seems to them that it is almost an impossibility to attain to that height, and they readily say, “O God, what perfection is needed to live in this house, or in this way of life and in my vocation! It is too high for me: I cannot attain it!” Do not trouble yourself and do not frame these idle fears that you are not able to accomplish that to which you have bound yourself, since you are armed and encompassed with the truth of God and with His word. Having called you to this manner of life and to this house, He will strengthen you and will give you the grace to persevere [1 Cor. 1:7-8; 1 Thess. 5:24] and to do what is required for His greater glory and for your greater welfare and happiness, provided you walk simply in faithful observance.
Do not be astonished, therefore, and do not do as the slothful, who are troubled when they wake at night by the fear that daylight will come very soon when they will have to work. The slothful and cowardly fear everything and find everything difficult and trying because they amuse themselves in thinking, with the foolish and slothful imagination which they have created for themselves, more about future difficulties than what they have to do at present. “Oh,” they say, “if I devote myself to the service of God, it will be necessary for me to work so much in order to resist the temptations which will attack me.” You are quite right, for you will not be exempt from them, since it is a general rule that all the servants of God are tempted, as St. Jerome wrote in that beautiful epistle which he addressed to his dear daughter, Eustochium.
To whom do you wish, I pray, that the devil should present his temptations if not to those who despise them? Sinners tempt themselves; the devil already regards them as his own; they are his confederates because they do not reject his suggestions. On the contrary, they seek them and temptation resides in them. The devil does not work much to set his snares in the secular world, but rather in retired places where he expects a great gain in bringing about the downfall of souls who are secluded there serving the Divine Majesty more perfectly. St. Thomas used to marvel greatly at how the greatest sinners went out into the streets, laughing and joyful, as though their sins did not weigh on their consciences. And who would not be astonished at seeing a soul not in God’s grace making merry? Oh, how vain are their joys, and how false their gaiety, for they have gone after anguish and eternal regrets! Let us leave them, I pray you, and return to the fear of the slothful.
They are always lamenting – and why? Why, you ask? “Alas, we must work, and yet I thought that it would be enough to embark on God’s way and in His service to find rest.” But do you not know that sloth and idleness made poor David perish in temptation? You perhaps would wish to be among those garrison soldiers who have everything they wish in a good town; they are merry, they are masters of their host’s home, they sleep in his bed and live well; nevertheless, they are called “soldiers,” feigning to be valiant and courageous while they go neither to battle nor to war. But Our Lord does not want this kind of warrior in His army; He wants combatants and conquerors, not sluggards and cowards. He chose to be tempted, and Himself attacked in order to give us an example.
The second terror of the night, according to St. Bernard, is that experienced by children. As you are aware, children are very much afraid when they are out of their mother’s arms. If they see a barking dog they suddenly begin to cry, and will not stop until they are again with their mamma. In her arms they feel secure. They feel that nothing can harm them provided they are holding her hand. Ah, then, the Psalmist says, why do you fear, you who are encompassed with truth and armed with the strong shield of faith which teaches you that God is your “Father Almighty”? Hold His hand and do not be frightened, for He will save you and protect you against all your enemies. Consider how St. Peter, after he made that generous act of throwing himself into the sea and began walking on the water in order more quickly to reach our Divine Saviour who had called to him, suddenly began to fear and at the same time to sink down, and cried out, “Lord, save me!” And at once his good Master stretched out His hand and took hold of him, thus saving him from drowning [Matt. 14:29-31]. Let us do the same, my dear friends. If we feel that we lack courage let us cry out in a loud voice full of confidence, “Lord, save me!” Let us not doubt that God will strengthen us and prevent us from perishing.
-Sermon by Saint Francis de Sales
The purpose of the season of Lent is for us disciples of the Lord to become holy. We are to willingly put ourselves into the crucible to be purified of all our sins and disordered habits; it is a time to grow in self-mastery and detach ourselves from the world. It is a time to cast ourselves into the deep, to trust in God’s great mercy, and to give ourselves completely to Jesus Christ, the God-man.
Jesus is Lord, the only begotten Son of God the Father, true God and true man. He is the light of the world, the life, the Truth. From the second reading we learn that in order to live wholly for Jesus, we must submit ourselves completely to the will of the Father. Abram does this when called out of his hometown in Genesis; he gives it all to God, listening to His voice. If we would but open ourselves to His voice and invite the Holy Spirit to increase within us and develop a better relationship with the Blessed Virgin, we would be rewarded greatly. God reveals Himself to those who desire to know Him. Jesus revealed himself in the Transfiguration, showing his heavenly glory to Peter, James, and John, as the Spirit came in the form of a cloud and the Father spoke His love unto Jesus, commanding the Apostles to listen to him.
In this week’s Gospel we get a glimpse of the glory of God. When reflecting on the readings, we see that the Holy Trinity is so deep, so mysterious, yet so full of love, for God is love. God loves us, and He desires us to know Him. But in order to know God, we must accept His offer of love and mercy by letting ourselves be touched by Jesus. This is no small task- it takes great humility, true repentance, and a contrite heart. But through Jesus and in Jesus, we are strengthened and encouraged to bear the burden of truth, leaving comfort behind, for it is only by sacrifice that greatness is achieved. God calls us to greatness, to be transfigured like His Son, not by our own power but by His. This life is not given to us so that we may live it for ourselves; we are to use the gifts we have been given to glorify God, to model Jesus as a living sacrifice.
This Lent let us remember that we exist to glorify God. Let us take time to contemplate the supreme mystery of the Holy Trinity in silent prayer. May we find peace while dwelling in this silence where God speaks, emptying ourselves of our own unholy attachments to this world. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “The world offers you comfort. But you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”
Based on Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 17:1-9
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
On this First Sunday of Lent, we hear of Jesus’ time spent being tempted by the Devil. Here we must note that after being led into the desert, Jesus fasts for 40 days. This one short passage alone is Christ’s direct example for how we are to pray during Lent. He leaves his home, enters the hot, dry desert, lives in discomfort, and fasts for 40 days. If this alone is not hard enough, Our Lord is then tempted directly by the Father of Lies. Satan tempts Christ to use his power to end the suffering being caused by His fast. Many of us would jump at the idea of being able to break fasts when we have an opportunity, but Christ knows the power and healing that comes with the extreme form of prayer. In the Collect for today according to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the priest prays that the Church is purified through our 40 day’s observance, our self-denial, and our good works. This is how we must follow God’s example. We follow in Christ’s footsteps in observing 40 days of fasting.
Many of us have the custom of “giving something up” for Lent. This is a small act of self-denial. Sometimes it is something as small as sweets for those who struggle with self-discipline, or as big as cutting to a single meal a day. No matter where your personal penances fall between these, we act in self-denial because of the immediate effect it has on our spiritual lives. The extra time or mental freedom we receive from these self-denials should be immediately returned to God. This can be through attendance of daily Mass, increased prayer time, or even just beginning a basic prayer routine if you don’t have one already. Either way, our Lenten self-denial is the removal of a temporal want to give to God what is rightfully His.
The final part of our Lent is our good works. This comes in many forms. For all, we can give a monetary donation to the Church. The immediate value of this may depend on the particular situation of a person, but all can give something of what they have back to God. Our good works can also come in forms of donation of volunteer time. For those of us who are experiencing extreme low temperatures right now, I would push you to help at homeless shelters and food banks. Both of these places need extra help during the coldest months of the year to keep everyone safe from the weather.
Some of us may have fallen from our Lenten promises already. We must remember that although we are not perfect, we must strive to be. Luckily for us, we have that example. Our Lord, who is perfect, never fell to Satan’s temptations. We must imitate Our Lord and hold strong against the Devil’s tricks and lies.