Category Archives: Lent

Lenten Readings ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM ON TRUE FASTING. Beautiful and must read!

Lenten Readings
ON TRUE FASTING (ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM)

7. Let us not then despair of our safety, but let us pray; let us make invocation; let us supplicate; let us go on embassy to the King that is above with many tears! We have this fast too as an ally, and as an assistant in this good intercession.

Therefore, as when the winter is over and the summer is appearing, the sailor draws his vessel to the deep; and the soldier burnishes his arms, and makes ready his steed for the battle; and the husbandman sharpens his sickle; and the traveler boldly undertakes a long journey, and the wrestler strips and bares himself for the contest.

So too, when the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual summer, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons; and as husbandmen let us sharpen our sickle; and as sailors let us order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires; and as travelers let us set out on the journey towards heaven; and as wrestlers let us strip for the contest. For the believer is at once a husbandman, and a sailor, and a soldier, a wrestler, and a traveler.

Hence St. Paul says, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers. Put on therefore the whole armor of God.” Eph. 6:12.

Have you observed the wrestler? Have you observed the soldier? If you are a wrestler, it is necessary for you to engage in the conflict naked. If a soldier, it behooves you to stand in the battle line armed at all points. How then are both these things possible, to be naked, and yet not naked; to be clothed, and yet not clothed! How? I will tell yo . Divest yourself of worldly business, and you have become a wrestler. Put on the spiritual amour, and you have become a soldier. Strip yourself of worldly cares, for the season is one of wrestling. Clothe yourself with the spiritual amour, for we have a heavy warfare to wage with demons. Therefore also it is needful we should be naked, so as to offer nothing that the devil may take hold of, while he is wrestling with us; and to be fully armed at all points, so as on no side to receive a deadly blow.

Cultivate your soul.
Cut away the thorns.
Sow the word of godliness.

Propagate and nurse with much care the fair plants of divine wisdom, and you have become a husbandman.

And Paul will say to you, “The husbandman that labours must be first partaker of the fruits.” (2 Tim. 2: 6). He too himself practiced this art. Therefore writing to the Corinthians, he said, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” (1 Cor. 3: 6).

Sharpen your sickle, which you have blunted through gluttony—sharpen it by fasting. Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven; rugged and narrow as it is, lay hold of it, and journey on.

And how may you be able to do these things? By subduing your body, and bringing it into subjection. For when the way grows narrow, the corpulence that comes of gluttony is a great hindrance.

Keep down the waves of inordinate desires.
Repel the tempest of evil thoughts.
Preserve the boat; display much skill, and you have become a pilot.

But we shall have the fast for a groundwork and instructor in all these things.

  1. I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not merely an abstinence from meats; but from sins too. For the nature of a fast is such, that it does not suffice to deliver those who practice it, unless it be done according to a suitable law. “For the wrestler,” it is said, “is not crowned unless he strive lawfully.” 2 Tim. ii. 5.

To the end then, that when we have gone through the labor of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, we should understand how, and after what manner, it is necessary to conduct this business; since that Pharisee also fasted,  (Luke 18:12), but afterwards went down empty, and destitute of the fruit of fasting. The Publican fasted not; and yet he was accepted in preference to him who had fasted; in order that you mayest learn that fasting is unprofitable, except all other duties follow with it.

The Ninevites fasted, and won the favor of God. (Jonah 3: 10). The Jews, fasted too, and profited nothing, nay, they departed with blame. Isa. lviii. 3, 7; 1 Cor. ix. 26.

Since then the danger in fasting is so great to those who do not know how they ought to fast, we should learn the laws of this exercise, in order that we may not “run uncertainly,” nor “beat the air,” nor while we are fighting contend with a shadow.

Fasting is a medicine; but a medicine, though it be never so profitable, becomes frequently useless owing to the unskillfulness of him who employs it. For it is necessary to know, moreover, the time when it should be applied, and the requisite quantity of it; and the temperament of body that admits it; and the nature of the country, and the season of the year; and the corresponding diet; as well as various other particulars; any of which, if one overlooks, he will mar all the rest that have been named. Now if, when the body needs healing, such exactness is required on our part, much more ought we, when our care is about the soul, and we seek to heal the distempers of the mind, to look, and to search into every particular with the utmost accuracy.

11. I have said these things, not that we may disparage fasting, but that we may honor fasting; for the honor of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it.

Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works!
Is it said by what kind of works?
If you see a poor man, take pity on him!
If you see an enemy, be reconciled to him!
If you see a friend gaining honor, envy him not!
If you see a handsome woman, pass her by!

For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice.
Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles.
Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves with strange beauties.

For looking is the food of the eyes, but if this be such as is unlawful or forbidden, it mars the fast; and upsets the whole safety of the soul; but if it be lawful and safe, it adorns fasting. For it would be among things the most absurd to abstain from lawful food because of the fast, but with the eyes to touch even what is forbidden. Do you not eat flesh? Feed not upon lasciviousness by means of the eyes.

Let the ear fast also. The fasting of the ear consists in refusing to receive evil speakings and calumnies. “You shalt not receive a false report,” it says.

12. Let the mouth too fastfrom disgraceful speeches and railing. For what doth it profit if we abstain from birds and fishes; and yet bite and devour our brethren? The evil speaker eats the flesh of his brother, and bites the body of his neighbor.

Because of this Paul utters the fearful saying, “If you bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” (Gal. 5: 15). You have not fixed your teeth in the flesh, but you have fixed the slander in the soul, and inflicted the wound of evil suspicion; you have harmed, in a thousand ways, yourself and him, and many others, for in slandering a neighbor you Have  made him who listens to the slander worse…

 

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Lenten Readings: IN CHRIST WE SUFFERED TEMPTATION, AND IN HIM WE OVERCAME THE DEVIL (St. Augustine)

Lenten Readings:
IN CHRIST WE SUFFERED TEMPTATION, AND IN HIM WE OVERCAME THE DEVIL
(St. Augustine)

Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer. Who is speaking? An individual, it seems. See if it is an individual: I cried out to you from the ends of the earth while my heart was in anguish. Now it is no longer one person; rather, it is one in the sense that Christ is one, and we are all his members. What single individual can cry from the ends of the earth? The one who cries from the ends of the earth is none other than the Son’s inheritance. It was said to him: Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession. This possession of Christ, this inheritance of Christ, this body of Christ, this one Church of Christ, this unity that we are, cries from the ends of the earth. What does it cry? What I said before: Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer; I cried out to you from the ends of the earth.’ That is, I made this cry to you from the ends of the earth; that is, on all sides.

Why did I make this cry? While my heart was in anguish. The speaker shows that he is present among all the nations of the earth in a condition, not of exalted glory but of severe trial.

Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.

The one who cries from the ends of the earth is in anguish, but is not left on his own. Christ chose to foreshadow us, who are his body, by means of his body, in which he has died, risen and ascended into heaven, so that the members of his body may hope to follow where their head has gone before.

He made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan. We have heard in the gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his own power gained salvation for you; he suffered death in your nature, but by his own power gained glory for you; therefore, he suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you.

If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of his victory? See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him. He could have kept the devil from himself; but if he were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.

Responsory      

℟. They will fight against you but shall not overcome you,* for I am with you to deliver you – it is the Lord who speaks.

℣. You shall not fall a victim to the sword: your life shall be safe,* for I am with you to deliver you – it is the Lord who speaks.

Let us pray.
Through our annual Lenten observance, Lord,
deepen our understanding of the mystery of Christ
and make it a reality in the conduct of our lives.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

LENTEN READINGS: SPIRITUAL PURIFICATION THROUGH FASTING AND ALMSGIVING (St. Leo the Great)

LENTEN READINGS
SPIRITUAL PURIFICATION THROUGH FASTING AND ALMSGIVING (St. Leo the Great)

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope
PURIFICATION OF SPIRIT THROUGH FASTING AND ALMSGIVING

Dear friends, at every moment the earth is full of the mercy of God, and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea and all that is in them bear witness to the goodness and omnipotence of their Creator, and the marvellous beauty of the elements as they obey him demands from the intelligent creation a fitting expression of its gratitude.

But with the return of that season marked out in a special way by the mystery of our redemption, and of the days that lead up to the paschal feast, we are summoned more urgently to prepare ourselves by a purification of spirit.

The special note of the paschal feast is this: the whole Church rejoices in the forgiveness of sins. It rejoices in the forgiveness not only of those who are then reborn in holy baptism but also of those who are already numbered among God’s adopted children.

  Initially, men are made new by the rebirth of baptism. Yet there still is required a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature, and whatever degree of progress has been made there is no one who should not be more advanced. All must therefore strive to ensure that on the day of redemption no one may be found in the sins of his former life.

Dear friends, what the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast enjoined by the apostles may be fulfilled, not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin.

There is no more profitable practice as a companion to holy and spiritual fasting than that of almsgiving. This embraces under the single name of mercy many excellent works of devotion, so that the good intentions of all the faithful may be of equal value, even where their means are not. The love that we owe both God and man is always free from any obstacle that would prevent us from having a good intention. The angels sang: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. The person who shows love and compassion to those in any kind of affliction is blessed, not only with the virtue of good will but also with the gift of peace.

The works of mercy are innumerable. Their very variety brings this advantage to those who are true Christians, that in the matter of almsgiving not only the rich and affluent but also those of average means and the poor are able to play their part. Those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in the love within their hearts.

Responsory      

. The time of fasting opens the gates of heaven to us: let us give ourselves to penance and prayer,* so that we may rejoice with the Lord on the day of his resurrection.

. In all things let us prove that we are servants of God,* so that we may rejoice with the Lord on the day of his resurrection.

Let us pray.

Lord, be the beginning and end
of everything we do and say.
Prompt our actions with your grace,
and complete them with your all-powerful help.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

Lenten readings: REPENT (BY ST. CLEMENT)

 

LENTEN READINGS
THE NEED FOR REPENTANCE.

It is our loving and merciful God who seeks us out during this time of Lent. If we are to take advantage of this season of Lent as a time of favorable grace, conversión and growth in our love for God, it is indispensable that we must first acknowledge that we are sinners, feel sorry for having offended God, and ask His forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession. For who is in need of forgiveness if not the one who humbly admits that he has wronged God and others? Only then shall we feel the joy and warmth of God’s grace and embrace.

REPENT
From a letter to the Corinthians by Saint Clement, pope

Let us fix our attention on the blood of Christ and recognise how precious it is to God his Father, since it was shed for our salvation and brought the grace of repentance to all the world.

  If we review the various ages of history, we will see that in every generation the Lord has offered the opportunity of repentance to any who were willing to turn to him. When Noah preached God’s message of repentance, all who listened to him were saved. Jonah told the Ninevites they were going to be destroyed, but when they repented, their prayers gained God’s forgiveness for their sins, and they were saved, even though they were not of God’s people.

  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the ministers of God’s grace have spoken of repentance; indeed, the Master of the whole universe himself spoke of repentance with an oath: As I live, says the Lord, I do not wish the death of the sinner but his repentance. He added this evidence of his goodness: House of Israel, repent of your wickedness. Tell the sons of my people: If their sins should reach from earth to heaven, if they are brighter than scarlet and blacker than sackcloth, you need only turn to me with your whole heart and say, “Father,” and I will listen to you as a holy people.

In other words, God wanted all his beloved ones to have the opportunity to repent and he confirmed this desire by his own almighty will. That is why we should obey his sovereign and glorious will and prayerfully entreat his mercy and kindness. We should be suppliant before him and turn to his compassion, rejecting empty works and quarrelling and jealousy which only lead to death.

  Brothers, we should be humble in mind, putting aside all arrogance, pride and foolish anger. Rather, we should act in accordance with the Scriptures, as the Holy Spirit says: The wise man must not glory in his wisdom nor the strong man in his strength nor the rich man in his riches. Rather, let him who glories glory in the Lord by seeking him and doing what is right and just. Recall especially what the Lord Jesus said when he taught gentleness and forbearance. Be merciful, he said, so that you may have mercy shown to you. Forgive, so that you may be forgiven. As you treat others, so you will be treated. As you give, so you will receive. As you judge, so you will be judged. As you are kind to others, so you will be treated kindly. The measure of your giving will be the measure of your receiving.

Let these commandments and precepts strengthen us to live in humble obedience to his sacred words. As Scripture asks: Whom shall I look upon with favour except the humble, peaceful man who trembles at my words?

Sharing then in the heritage of so many vast and glorious achievements, let us hasten toward the goal of peace, set before us from the beginning. Let us keep our eyes firmly fixed on the Father and Creator of the whole universe, and hold fast to his splendid and transcendent gifts of peace and all his blessings.

Responsory      

. Let the wicked man abandon his way, the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn back to the Lord: he will take pity on him,* for the Lord our God is all tenderness and compassion and ready to relent.

. The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but desires that he turn from his way and live;* for the Lord our God is all tenderness and compassion and ready to relent.

Let us pray.
Support us, Lord, as with this Lenten fast
we begin our Christian warfare,
so that in doing battle against the spirit of evil
we may be armed with the weapon of self-denial.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

1ST SUNDAY OF LENT (B). JESUS PREVAILED OVER THE TEMPTATIONS.

1ST SUNDAY OF LENT (B).
JESUS PREVAILED OVER THE TEMPTATIONS.

OUTLINE

  1. MAIN IDEAS OF TODAY’S SUNDAY LITURGY
  2. GOSPEL REFLECTION (Mk 1:12-15)

 

1. MAIN IDEAS OF TODAY’S SUNDAY LITURGY

Through baptism we were saved as Noah and his own in the ark (1st and 2nd readings). In this time of Lent, we need to rekindle our baptismal grace.

  • Lent should not be considered as a sad and obscure season, nor should it be reduced to superficial and trivial acts of penance.
  • Rather, Lent is a gift from God who in His great Mercy, offers us this wonderful time to rekindle our baptismal grace through profound conversion, which involves a radical change of attitude and of heart to acknowledge God in all his majesty, goodness, kindness, mercy, and love. As St. Paul said in the 2nd reading: “It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.”

For this we have to be truly contrite and be sorry in our hearts for our sins so as to pave the way to believe in the Gospel.

  • Thus we see in the Gospel Jesus in the desert for forty days, allowing himself be tempted by Satan, living among the wild beasts and served by the angels. With His example, He inaugurated the practice of our Lenten penance and taught us to overcome the force of sin, rejecting the temptations of the enemy (Preface).

2. GOSPEL REFLECTION (Mk 1:12-15)

St. Mark briefly narrates to us the tempting of Jesus. St Matthew (4: 1-11) and St Luke (4: 1-13) relate the temptations of Jesus in more detail.

  • By submitting to temptation, Jesus wanted to show us that we should not be afraid of temptations: on the contrary, they give us an opportunity to progress in the interior life. With the help of His grace and following His example of prayer and of sacrifice, we shall prevail over evil and grow in our love for God.
  • As St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori wrote: “Yet the Lord sometimes permits that souls, which are dear to him, should be tempted with some violence in order that they may better understand their own weakness, and the necessity of grace to prevent them from falling …; God permits us to be tempted, that we may be more detached from the things of earth, and conceive a more ardent desire to behold him in heaven …; God also permits us to be tempted, in order to increase our merits … When it is disturbed by temptation, and sees itself in danger of committing sin, the soul has recourse to the Lord and to his divine Mother; it renews its determination to die rather than offend God; it humbles itself and takes refuge in the arms of divine mercy. By this means, as is proved by experience, it acquires more strength and is united more closely to God” (The love of our Lord Jesus Christ reduced to practice, chap. 17).

Furthermore, as in our Lord’s own case, we should be convinced that we will always have God’s help to overcome temptation:

  • Jesus has stood up to the test. And it was a real test … The devil, with twisted intention, quoted the Old Testament: ‘God will send his angels to protect the just man wherever he goes’ (Ps 91:11). But Jesus refuses to tempt his Father; he restores true meaning to this passage from the Bible. And, as a reward for his fidelity, when the time comes, ministers of God the Father appear and wait upon him …We have to fill ourselves with courage, for the grace of God will not fail us. God will be at our side and will send his angels to be our travelling companions, our prudent advisers along the way, our cooperators in all that we take on” (St. Josemaria, Christ is passing by, 63).

The 1st Sunday of Lent is an invitation for us to rejoice for with Jesus who overcame the temptations of the devil, we begin our journey towards Easter. He gave us an example to overcome our enemies and assures us of His divine help.

If we do as Jesus did, Lent for us will surely be a time of abundant divine grace, consequence of letting ourselves be reconciled with God, repenting and asking God’s forgiveness for our sins to experience His love and mercy through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us also ask the Father: “Renewed now with heavenly bread that nourishes faith, inspires hope, and deepens charity, we pray, O Lord, that we may learn to hunger for Christ, the true and living Bread and strive to live by every word which comes to us from your mouth. ” (Prayer after Communion).

Fr. Rolly Arjonillo.

POPE FRANCIS’ 2018 LENTEN ADVICE TO THE YOUNG, SICK AND NEWLYWEDS.

Today, Ash Wednesday, the Lenten journey begins.
Dear young people, I hope you will live this time of grace as a return to the Love of the Father, who waits for all with open arms.
Dear sick, I encourage you to offer your sufferings for the conversion of those that live far from the faith;
and I invite you, dear newlyweds, to build your new family on the rock of the love of God.

1st Sunday of Lent (B). Mass readings.

1st Sunday of Lent (B).
Mass readings.

First reading: Genesis 9:8–15

God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark. I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.” God added: “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

R/. Responsorial Psalm
R.
Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.

Your ways, O Lord, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R.
Remember that your compassion, O Lord,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O Lord.
R.
Good and upright is the Lord,
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and he teaches the humble his way.
R.

Second reading: 1st Letter of St. Peter 3:18–22

Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

The word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

GOSPEL ACCLAMATION

Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

GOSPEL

The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit..

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark 1:12–15
Glory to you, Lord.

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

POPE FRANCIS’ MESSAGE FOR LENT 2018

POPE FRANCIS’
MESSAGE FOR LENT 2018 (Feb. 14, 2018)

 “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24: 12)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once again, the Pasch of the Lord draws near! In our preparation for Easter, God in His providence offers us each year the season of Lent as a “sacramental sign of our conversion”.[1] Lent summons us, and enables us, to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.

With this message, I would like again this year to help the entire Church experience this time of grace anew, with joy and in truth. I will take my cue from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).

These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.

False prophets

Let us listen to the Gospel passage and try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.

They can appear as “snake charmers”, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!

False prophets can also be “charlatans”, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly “virtual” existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is “a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.

A cold heart

In his description of hell, Dante Alighieri pictures the devil seated on a throne of ice,[2] in frozen and loveless isolation. We might well ask ourselves how it happens that charity can turn cold within us. What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?

More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, “the root of all evil” (1 Tim 6:10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; we prefer our own desolation rather than the comfort found in his word and the sacraments.[3] All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own “certainties”: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.

Creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity. The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. The seas, themselves polluted, engulf the remains of countless shipwrecked victims of forced migration. The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing His praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.

Love can also grow cold in our own communities. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I sought to describe the most evident signs of this lack of love: selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal.[4]

What are we to do?

Perhaps we see, deep within ourselves and all about us, the signs I have just described. But the Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception,[5] and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.

Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbour as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church! For this reason, I echo Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to take up a collection for the community of Jerusalem as something from which they themselves would benefit (cf. 2 Cor 8:10). This is all the more fitting during the Lenten season, when many groups take up collections to assist Churches and peoples in need. Yet I would also hope that, even in our daily encounters with those who beg for our assistance, we would see such requests as coming from God Himself. When we give alms, we share in God’s providential care for each of His children. If through me God helps someone today, will He not tomorrow provide for my own needs? For no one is more generous than God.[6]

Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.

I would also like my invitation to extend beyond the bounds of the Catholic Church, and to reach all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!

The fire of Easter

Above all, I urge the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.

One such moment of grace will be, again this year, the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration. In 2018, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness”, this will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March. In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession.

During the Easter Vigil, we will celebrate once more the moving rite of the lighting of the Easter candle. Drawn from the “new fire”, this light will slowly overcome the darkness and illuminate the liturgical assembly. “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”,[7] and enable all of us to relive the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. By listening to God’s word and drawing nourishment from the table of the Eucharist, may our hearts be ever more ardent in faith, hope and love.

With affection and the promise of my prayers for all of you, I send you my blessing. Please do not forget to pray for me.

From the Vatican, 1 November 2017

Solemnity of All Saints

[1] Roman Missal, Collect for the First Sunday of Lent (Italian).

[2] Inferno XXXIV, 28-29.

[3] “It is curious, but many times we are afraid of consolation, of being comforted. Or rather, we feel more secure in sorrow and desolation. Do you know why?  Because in sorrow we feel almost as protagonists. However, in consolation the Holy Spirit is the protagonist!” (Angelus, 7 December 2014).

[4] Evangelii Gaudium, 76-109.

[5] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, 33.

[6] Cf. PIUS XII, Encyclical Letter Fidei Donum, III.

[7] Roman Missal (Third Edition), Easter Vigil, Lucernarium.

DO WE TELL JESUS THAT WE LOVE HIM?

DO WE TELL JESUS THAT WE LOVE HIM?

As people who are in love want to be reassured that they are loved, and want to hear over and over again the same words, let us do the same to Jesus.

“Don’t be afraid to call our Lord by his name — Jesus — and to tell him that you love him. St. Josemaria, The Way, n. 303.”

And let us say these words with all sincerity many times during the day.

Cordially inviting you to like and follow http://www.facebook.com/catholicsstrivingforholiness and share our posts to help more people in their Christian faith and life. Thanks and God bless! Fr. Rolly Arjonillo.