Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for Lent 2007

Pope Benedict's Lenten Message

I had to throw in this extra post! Read the message at the Vatican website here. As to be expected, it's incredible in five succinct paragraphs! Thank you, Pope Benedict XVI! Thank you, Holy Spirit!

Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion

1. When is the last time I spent time in quiet meditation in front of a crucifix? How did this prayer affect me?

2. Do I recognize God's eros, His burning passion, for me His bride? How do I return this type of love to God?

3. How does Christ's dramatic action of unitive love of us by dying on the cross illustrate "that force 'that does not allow the lover to remain in himself but moves him to become one with the beloved'?" Is this force alive in my soul?

4. Does my marital love mirror "the love that unites the free gift of oneself with the impassioned desire for recipriocity?"

5. Through the Eucharist, we are in union with Christ physically and spiritually. Do we walk away changed?

6. How am I currently being called "to fight every form of contempt for life and human exploitation and to alleviate hte tragedies of loneliness and abandonment of" others?

So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. We love, because he first loved us. ~ 1 John 4: 16, 19

Sunday, Feburary 21 ~ First Sunday of Lent

Luke 4: 1-13

1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit 2 for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread." 4 And Jesus answered him, "It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone.'" 5 And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, "To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours." 8 And Jesus answered him, "It is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'" 9 And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; 10 for it is written, `He will give his angels charge of you, to guard you,' 11 and `On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" 12 And Jesus answered him, "It is said, `You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion

Thank God for the Church and her wisdom in the liturgical year!!! Jesus prepares to resist the temptation of the devil, which He knew was coming, by spending forty days praying and fasting in the desert. We are at the beginning of Lent, forty days of prayer and fasting. Do I expect to be transformed by the end of Lent from the person I am today to a person who can resist every temptation? We should expect this. What are my greatest temptations and how can I prepare to resist them? By Easter, will I be ready?

The human nature of Jesus is illustrated here, as well. I often excuse my own actions that are NOT Christ-like by saying, “But, He was divine; I am human.” Yes, He was both divine and human and truly felt “hungry” after eating “nothing” for forty days. He has the power to turn a simple stone to bread and appease His hunger, but He resists this temptation coming from the devil. Do I make excuses for my behavior based on my human nature? Do I rely on God for my strength in times of temptation? I am reminded of several saints and blessed who lived for years with the Eucharist as their only food, such as St. Catherine of Siena. Would I have the faith if called to such drastic measures that God would sustain me?

Scripture is quoted in this Scripture passage five times, once even by the devil himself. Jesus responds to each temptation with Scripture. How well do I rely on Scripture to help me overcome temptations? Do I know Scripture well enough to rely on it? How can I increase my knowledge of Scripture? Even Satan believes in Scripture, or he wouldn’t quote it. If we use it to resist the devil, he will flee from us.

Most importantly, I am awestruck by Jesus’ response to the second temptation. He knew His passion was coming, but He didn’t acquiesce to save only a small part of humanity, the part the devil was offering to Him. He wanted to save the whole world, each one of us, and was willing to suffer and die a horrible death to conquer Satan and do it. God loves each of us that much. Today, offer Him praise for His sacrifice and His love and leave some petitions unspoken, focusing on thanksgiving for our salvation!

In serenity, look forward to the joy that follows sadness. Hope leads you to that joy and love enkindles your zeal. ~ St. Peter Damien

Monday, February 19, 2007

Wednesday, February 21 ~ Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18

1 "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. 2 "Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 16 "And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion

Lent is upon us! Once again, as every year, I must determine what sacrifices and prayer to observe as a family and personally. The most compelling question that arises from this Gospel reading is in the first verse: What are my motives for my Lenten practices? A friend and I were discussing last week that we feel called to do more than just give up chocolate for another year. It is a sacrifice, but it is something we know we can do. Therefore, it becomes a petty thing, merely checking it off of our Lenten list. We are called to grow during Lent, to deepen our relationship with Christ. Do my Lenten practices truly have that motive?

One of my greatest challenges is keeping to a set time of daily personal prayer. Even writing this, I am realizing that this is the time I had planned to do that today, since I did not get it done this morning. So, I will stop writing now and be back soon… If you have children, going into your room and shutting the door is very difficult to do except when they are asleep, and if you are like me, that is the time you are racing to get done all the things you “cannot” do when they are awake. Nevertheless, this is exactly what our Lord calls us to do. He wants us to pray in secret. Yes, it is good for our children to see us pray. We teach through example, but it is also important to have time reserved specifically for only me and my Savior. How during this Lent will I preserve this type of time with God? A military chaplain who visited our old church just one time will always remain in my thoughts; he taught that God expects us to always choose what is “best,” not merely what is “good.” Jesus admonished Martha for not choosing “the better part.” How can I remind myself of this call to secret prayer amidst my busy life? It can actually be a sin to choose to do my duties as a wife and mother when I should be taking the time to pray.

When Catholics discuss Lent, it is usually asking what you will give up this year. Our fasting is important during Lent, because it trains our hearts in the way of the Lord, who Himself spent forty days fasting in the desert before beginning His ministry. The call to fast is a call to holiness. This small penance enables us to conquer greater vices in our lives and resist bigger temptations when we face them. Is my Lenten sacrifice petty, or does it truly remind me of Christ’s sacrifice? Am I only choosing a small thing that I will go back to after Easter, or am I also choosing to use this time to break a bad habit and establish a new positive habit? Our pastor has called us to do three things to grow in holiness this Lent: (1) make a voluntary amendment of life by working to break a bad habit forever, (2) perform acts of penance by fasting from some small thing for Lent, and (3) perform some work(s) of charity through prayer and/or service throughout Lent that may continue after Lent is over. What could you do in each of these areas?

In a new way this Lent, I am being challenged to not merely give up some indulgence but to truly train my soul in holiness. My sacrifices might include small mortifications in addition to typical fasts, because I feel my motives are more pure this way. What have you planned? What are your motives? Are you making plans to literally change your life in the next forty days and be reborn as a whole new person on Easter morning? I hope so!

With a more fervent participation let us direct our gaze, therefore, in this time of penance and prayer, at Christ crucified who, dying on Calvary, revealed fully for us the love of God. ~ from The Message of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for Lent 2007