February 13, 2013
Today is the last major public event of Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate. How fitting that we are told, “Remember man that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return” on this day when we are reminded of the temporariness of this world and that stability of the papacy is not the same as permanency in office.
This particular Lent is a time when the Body of Christ needs to come together and pray, sacrifice, and do penance for the Church. Many Catholics have known for a long time that the wolves have invaded the sheep’s pen, and that the pen itself is being pounded against by wolves from outside. In places the walls have been breached.
Soon the Cardinals will gather to select another Pope to lead the Church through the ferocious war with the zeitgeist of the 21st century. It will not be an easy job. They will need to make a selfless choice, not considering politics but rather the salvation of souls. They will need to select a holy man of wisdom, prudence, decisiveness, courage, and healthy enough to face what’s coming.
“Be not afraid… I am with you always, even unto the consummation of the world” (Matt. 28: 10,20) are words we must not forget. He is with us and we must be with Him. How we fulfill our Lenten obligations, both under law and by our voluntary discipline will obtain the graces necessary for the conclave to do its work in docility to the Holy Spirit.
To encourage us in our Lenten devotions the Holy Father said these words today:
…The readings that have just been proclaimed offer us ideas which, by the grace of God, we are called to transform into a concrete attitude and behavior during Lent. First of all the Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (2:12). Please note the phrase “with all your heart,” which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom.
But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God and the power of His mercy. The prophet says: “return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment” (v. 13).
It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a “grace”, because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that “rends the heart”. Once again the prophet proclaims these words from God: “Rend your hearts and not your garments” (v. 13).
Today, in fact, many are ready to “rend their garments” over scandals and injustices – which are of course caused by others – but few seem willing to act according to their own “heart”, their own conscience and their own intentions, by allowing the Lord transform, renew and convert them.
This “return to me with all your heart,” then, is a reminder that not only involves the individual but the entire community. Again we heard in the first reading: “Blow the horn in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly! Gather the people, sanctify the congregation; Assemble the elderly; gather the children, even infants nursing at the breast; Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her bridal tent (vv. 15-16).
The community dimension is an essential element in faith and Christian life. Christ came “to gather the children of God who are scattered into one” (Jn. 11:52). The “we” of the Church is the community in which Jesus brings us together (cf. Jn. 12:32), faith is necessarily ecclesial. And it is important to remember and to live this during Lent: each person must be aware that the penitential journey cannot be faced alone, but together with many brothers and sisters in the Church…
Some Lenten resources
I came across two posts at Father Byers’ Holy Souls Hermitage that really moved me as I consider my Lenten discipline: Lent and Friendship with Jesus, and his video of the Way of the Cross which he filmed on Mount Carmel, Israel. I am a big fan of the fearless Father, and maybe you might become one, too. The spiritual food he offers is excellent for the sustenance of the soul.
If you want to read The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ from the private revelations of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich online, click on the link. I’ve never read it myself, but I thought it might help me visualize the Passion better as I pray during Lent.
A final thing for all of us to remember is that in our penance, we must be joyful and not go around grumpy and with long faces (Matt. 6:16), but rather remember that in disciplining ourselves we are preparing for our own resurrection from the dead and the life of the world to come. Suffering with joy, with Jesus. For the Church and the world this Lent.
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R. Now and forever!
(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)
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