Tag Archives: lent

Pope urges concern for others, reciprocity and personal holiness for lenten lessons

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The Pope’s lenten message for the Church is rooted in the Letter to the Hebrews by which he develops three aspects of Christian life: concern for others, reciprocity and one’s holiness. As he says at the start, Hebrews tells us to have confidence in, trust in, Jesus who is our high priest. The presentation of the message is made by Cardinal Robert Sarah.

Lent begins February 22 with the imposition of ashes beginning a 40 day season of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. In some segments of the Church, spiritual preparations have begun with observing the preparatory Sundays –the pre-Lent– whereby Christians begin engaging more and more in acts of penance. The Church recommends a gradual acceptance of penance rather than a full scale plunge. One of my favorite narratives in the Gospel is the Transfiguration of Christ. Here Giovanni Bellini does a terrific job in developing my Catholic imagination in helping me to focus on Christ rather than myself. With the assistance of Pope Benedict’s lenten message we can help grace become more and more part of our own humanity whereby we are transfigured from doing sinful things to doing things of true Charity.


“Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works”

(Hebrews 10:24)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Lenten season offers us once again an opportunity to reflect upon the very heart of Christian life: charity. This is a favourable time to renew our journey of faith, both as individuals and as a community, with the help of the word of God and the sacraments. This journey is one marked by prayer and sharing, silence and fasting, in anticipation of the joy of Easter.

This year I would like to propose a few thoughts in the light of a brief biblical passage drawn from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works”. These words are part of a passage in which the sacred author exhorts us to trust in Jesus Christ as the High Priest who has won us forgiveness and opened up a pathway to God. Embracing Christ bears fruit in a life structured by the three theological virtues: it means approaching the Lord “sincere in heart and filled with faith” (v. 22), keeping firm “in the hope we profess” (v. 23) and ever mindful of living a life of “love and good works” (v. 24) together with our brothers and sisters. The author states that to sustain this life shaped by the Gospel it is important to participate in the liturgy and community prayer, mindful of the eschatological goal of full communion in God (v. 25). Here I would like to reflect on verse 24, which offers a succinct, valuable and ever timely teaching on the three aspects of Christian life: concern for others, reciprocity and personal holiness.

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Christ’s love is both horizontal and vertical

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Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said to fulfill the Scripture: “I thirst.” A bowl full of vinegar stood there; so they put a sponge full of the vinegar on hyssop and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, “It is finished”; and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

“I thirst.” “It is finished.” With these two phrases Jesus, looking first to humanity and then to the Father, bequeaths to us the burning passion at the heart of his person and mission: love for man and obedience to the Father. His is a love both horizontal and vertical: in the shape of the cross! And at the intersection of this twofold love, at the place where Jesus bows his head, the Holy Spirit wells up, the first fruits of his return to the Father.

This final breath which brings Jesus’ life to completion evokes the work of creation, which now is redeemed. But it is also a summons to all of us who believe in him to “bring to completion in our own flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions”. That all may be complete!

Lord Jesus, who died for our sake!
You ask, that you may give,
you die, that you may leave a legacy,
and thus you make us see that the gift of self
opens a space for unity.
Pardon the gall of our rejection and unbelief,
pardon the deafness of our hearts
to your cry of thirst
which echoes in the suffering of our many brothers and sisters.

Come, Holy Spirit,
parting gift of the Son who dies for us:
may you be the guide who “leads us into all the truth”
and “the root which sustains us in unity”!

Spy Wednesday: dancing with the devil?

Last supper detail Duccio.jpgHere we are: Spy Wednesday, the eve of the sacred Triduum. Lent is about to end and we’re entering into a liturgical period and facing the Paschal Mystery of Christ. The term “Spy Wednesday” is not heard often these but we get the point: the struggle between life and death, sin and grace, friendship and betrayal, good and evil.

Jesus shares the Passover meal his closest collaborators, he was having “Communio” with his friends and not strangers and one among them has already set in motion the process of betrayal. The intimacy once shared vigorously is now betrayed; it is one of the most terrible experiences any person can live through.
Spy Wednesday is not a day to point the finger at someone else’s problem. It’s a day to examine the soul to understand the ways we’ve betrayed Christ in simple and also likely profound ways. There is portion of Judas in all of us. While we may not have used 30 pieces of silver but perhaps we’ve opened the door to evil.
How different are you going to live today?

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion

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The marvelous glory and power of the cross, St Leo says

All week many of us who work in a parish have kept the events of Holy Week in front of us. Mostly because of the work that needs to be done in preparing the sacred Liturgy. Sadly, not enough time for prayer. Reminder: Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion is this weekend, it is not only the liturgical memorial of the Lord’s move to Jerusalem, it is also our hour of judgment. Jesus is not one among many saviors. Jesus is THE Messiah, the Son of Man, the Son of God who opens the door to God the Father and redeems us. No one, absolutely no one, can avoid the Lord’s hour of supreme love and self-giving in dying on the cross. It is, for us Christians, the tree of life.

Too many people these days have difficulty in accepting a positive view of Christ dying on the cross. Far from their hearts are Pope Leo’s words: “How marvelous the power of the cross; how great beyond all telling the glory of the passion.” Here’s Pope Saint Leo the Great’s
Sermon on the Passion:

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Our understanding, which is enlightened by the Spirit of
truth, should receive with purity and freedom of heart the glory of the cross
as it shines in heaven and on earth. It should see with inner vision the
meaning of the Lord’s words when he spoke of the imminence of his passion: The
hour has come
for the Son of Man to be glorified.

Afterward he said: Now my
soul is troubled, and what am I to say? Father, save me from this hour. But it
was for this that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your Son. When the voice
of the Father
came from heaven, saying, I have glorified him, and will glorify
him again
, Jesus said in reply to those around him: It was not for me that this
voice spoke, but for you. Now is the judgment of the world, now will the prince
of this world be cast out
. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw
all things to myself.

How marvelous the power of the cross; how great beyond
all telling the glory of the passion: here is the judgment-seat of the Lord,
the condemnation of the world, the supremacy of Christ crucified.

Lord, you
drew all things to yourself so that the devotion of all peoples everywhere
might celebrate, in a sacrament made perfect and visible, what was carried out
in the one temple of Judea under obscure foreshadowings.

Now there is a more
distinguished order of Levites, a greater dignity for the rank of elders, a
more sacred anointing for the priesthood, because your
cross is the source of all blessings, the cause of all graces. Through the
cross the faithful receive strength from weakness, glory from dishonour, life
from death.

The different sacrifices of animals are no more: the one offering of
your body and blood is the fulfillment of all the different sacrificial
offerings, for you are the true Lamb of God: you take away the sins of the
world
. In yourself you bring to perfection all mysteries, so that, as there is
one sacrifice in place of all other sacrificial offerings, there is also one
kingdom gathered from all peoples.

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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