Tag Archives: lent

Don’t dialogue with Satan, Pope exhorts

Today’s Angelus Address of the Pope gave a wonderful reminder of how you live your spiritual life –or not. This Pope is good for telling us that the devil is lurking, tempting humanity and trying to compromise our faithfulness to God. In my experience I am happy that Francis is pointing out that we need to be careful not try to overpower the enticements of the Evil One. He’s not to be fooled with; pay attention to the Holy Father.

The Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent each year presents the story of Jesus’ temptations, when the Holy Spirit, having descended upon Him after His baptism in the Jordan, urged Him to openly confront Satan in the wilderness for forty days, before beginning His public mission.

The tempter tries to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan, that is, from the path of sacrifice, of love that offers itself in expiation; to make Him take an easy road, [a road] of success and power. The duel between Jesus and Satan is takes place with quotations from the Holy Scriptures. The devil, in fact, to divert Jesus from the way of the Cross, makes present to him the false messianic hopes: economic well-being, indicated by the ability to turn stones into bread; a spectacular and miraculous style, with the idea of casting Himself down from the highest point of the Temple of Jerusalem and being saved by angels; and finally the shortcut of power and domination, in exchange for an act of worship to Satan. There are three groups of temptations. We also know them well.

Jesus decisively rejects all these temptations and reaffirms [His] firm intention to follow the path established by the Father, without any compromise with sin or with the logic of the world. Note well how Jesus responds: He doesn’t dialogue with Satan, as Eve did in the terrestrial Paradise. Jesus knows well that one can’t dialogue with Satan, because he is so cunning. For this reason, instead of dialoguing, as Eve did, Jesus chooses to take refuge in the Word of God and to respond with the power of this Word. Let us remind ourselves of this in the moment of temptation, of our temptation: not arguing with Satan, but defending ourselves with the Word of God. And this will save us. In His responses to Satan, the Lord — using the Word of God — reminds us, first, that “one does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3), and this gives us strength, sustains us in the fight against the worldly mentality that lowers human beings to the level of their basic needs, causing them to lose the hunger for what is true, good, and beautiful, the hunger for God and His love. He also recalls, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” ( v. 7) , because the road of faith also passes through darkness, doubt, and is nourished by patience and persevering expectation. Jesus notes, finally, that “it is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve,’” that is, we must get rid of idols, of vanities, and build our lives on the essentials.

These words of Jesus will then find concrete responses in His actions. His absolute fidelity to the Father’s plan of love will lead Him, after about three years, to the final confrontation with the “prince of this world” (Jn 16:11), in the hour of the Passion and of the Cross, and there Jesus will achieve His final victory, the victory of love!

Dear brothers and sisters, Lent is a favorable opportunity for all of us to make a journey of conversion, sincerely confronting ourselves with this page of the Gospel. We renew the promises of our Baptism: we renounce Satan and all his works and seductions — because he is a seducer, right? — in order to walk the paths of God and “to arrive at Easter in the joy of the Holy Spirit” (cf. Collect of the First Sunday of Lent, Year A).

Temptation of the Lord, and ours

Francis baptizing 2014Today in the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary Form of the Mass we hear the gospel narrative of Jesus being tempted by Satan. Even Satan tries to lure the Son of God away from the center. The fact that Satan attempts to make another offer to the Lord whom he knows of his origin ought to indicate to us that we are also under attack. The preparation of Lent for Easter exactly poses for us a renewal of faith in the One to whom we owe everything. At the Easter Vigil we will renew our baptismal vows rejecting sin and the temptations of Satan.

The First Sunday of Lent poses for us the same question Jesus was confronted: to whom do you belong? Obviously, Jesus knew to whom He belonged, but do we?

When faced with personal temptation can we say with Jesus, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”

A reflection by Saint Gregory Nazianzen reminds us of a central aspect of our baptism:

We must not expect baptism to free us from the temptations of our persecutor. The body that concealed him made even the Word of God a target for the enemy; his assumption of a visible form made even the invisible light an object of attack. Nevertheless, since we have at hand the means of overcoming our enemy, we must have no fear of the struggle. Flaunt in his face the water and the Spirit… Strong in our baptism each of us can say ‘I too am made in the image of God, but unlike you, I have not yet become an outcast from heaven through my pride. I have put on Christ; by my baptism I have become one with him. It is you that should fall prostrate before me!’

Fasting was instituted by Our Lord

Yesterday for Ash Wednesday, I proposed that we listen to the words of Saint John Chrysostom on the subject of fasting. Perhaps a more modern person, Saint Francis de Sales, is in order for fasting as a key discipline of Lent. De Sales preached the following. Thanks to Dom Hugh for bringing this excerpt to light which bears a little reflection form us all:

To treat of fasting and of what is required to fast well, we must, at the start, understand that of itself fasting is not a virtue. The good and the bad, as well as Christians and pagans, observe it. The ancient philosophers observed it and recommended it. They were not virtuous for that reason, nor did they practice virtue in fasting. Oh, no, fasting is a virtue only when it is accompanied by conditions which render it pleasing to God. Thus it happens that it profits some and not others, because it is not undertaken by all in the same manner… We know very well that it is not enough to fast exteriorly if we do not also fast interiorly and if we do not accompany the fast of the body with that of the spirit

We must fast with our whole heart, that is to say, willingly, wholeheartedly, universally and entirely. If I recount to you St. Bernard’s words regarding fasting, you will know not only why it is instituted but also how it ought to be kept.

He says that fasting was instituted by Our Lord as a remedy for our mouth, for our gourmandizing, and for our gluttony. Since sin entered the world through the mouth, the mouth must do penance by being deprived of foods prohibited and forbidden by the Church, abstaining from them for the space of forty days. But this glorious saint adds that, as it is not our mouth alone which has sinned, but also all our other senses, our fast must be general and entire, that is, all the members of our body must fast. For if we have offended God through the eyes, through the ears, through the tongue, and through our other senses, why should we not make them fast as well? And not only must we make the bodily senses fast, but also the soul’s powers and passions — yes, even the understanding, the memory, and the will, since we have sinned through both body and spirit.

Ash Wednesday, 1622

One Human Family, Food for All

One familyAn international —and personal, because it touches the conscience— issue which plagues all people no matter of faith is that of hunger. It is a wretched thing to be without food even for a night. Some 800 million do not have sufficient food. How can I share, live in justice and care for the other person?

As President of Caritas Internationalis Oscar Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga SDB, wrote a letter recently from which I excerpted the following:

Caritas Internationalis launched the ‘One Human Family, Food for All’ campaign before Christmas. The campaign offers an opportunity to answer Pope Francis’s invitation.

We believe that it is a fundamental injustice that over 800 million people in the world are hungry. These people wouldn’t be hungry if there were greater equality in wealth and resources were shared more fairly. Each of us can live more simply, consume less, waste less and be more conscious of our choices. Sharing – our bread, our resources, ourselves – is the cornerstone of our faith and a solution to global hunger.

In the run up to Lent here in Rome, all the children dress up for the tradition of ‘carnivale’. The face of Jesus Christ is also present in many guises and we may not recognise him at first glance. We may ignore his call if we’re not attentive. “He does not reveal himself cloaked in worldly power and wealth but rather in weakness and poverty,” said Pope Francis.

Lent is a call to taste people’s hunger and touch their poverty with our very fingers. It is a time to join hands with our brothers and sisters who are part of the 3.5 billion poor in the world. As the Americans would say, it’s time to “do the math”.

Please support the Caritas One Human Family, Food for All campaign to eliminate global hunger by 2025. You can act by donating online at www.caritas.org or by doing something large or small in your community to help the poor and vulnerable.

Can we support the Caritas Internationalis campaign ‘One Human Family: Food for All’, working towards ending hunger by 2025?

Ash Wednesday

imposing ashesFor 40 days we enter into a period of fasting and prayer just as the Lord did in the wilderness, facing the Evil One, in preparation for his public ministry. The hallmarks, to be effective, have to sting a little. Prayer, fasting and the act of almsgiving ought to be intensified since these things are done throughout the year. That is, I need to be personally involved in lenten practices and we ought to feel the sacrifice of time, the intellect, and the will. The journey of faith is none other than fighting with sin and accepting the sovereignty of God in and over our life. We call this a journey for a precise reason: we are never finished turning our life with the help of grace to the Author of Life. In time it is hoped, that our measure is replaced by Christ’s, the influence of the powers-that-be is changed to the influence of the Messiah. Lent is the yearly reminder that heaven is our goal, the joy of new life is given to us because this is God’s desire for us. Zero-in on the Lord’s Passion and receive the gift of resurrection. Pope Francis said today in Rome,

Ash Wednesday, begins our Lenten journey of penance, prayer and conversion in preparation for the Church’s annual celebration of the saving mysteries of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. In these days the Church asks us to ponder with joy and gratitude God’s immense love revealed in the paschal mystery and to live ever more fully the new life we have received in Baptism. This journey of spiritual renewal in the footsteps of Christ also calls us to acknowledge and respond to the growing spiritual and material poverty in our midst. Specifically, it means consciously resisting the pressure of a culture which thinks it can do without God, where parents no longer teach their children to pray, where violence, poverty and social decay are taken for granted. May this Lent, then, be a time when, as individuals and communities, we heed the words of the Gospel, reflect on the mysteries of our faith, practice acts of penance and charity, and open our hearts ever more fully to God’s grace and to the needs of our brothers and sisters.

Since I like the Church Fathers, it seems that St. Maximus the Confessor has something to say to us:

God’s will is to save us, and nothing pleases him more than our coming back to him with true repentance. The heralds of truth and the ministers of divine grace have told us this from the beginning, repeating it in every age. Indeed, God’s desire for our salvation is the primary and preeminent sign of his infinite goodness, and it was precisely in order to show that there is nothing closer to God’s heart that the divine Word of God the Father, with untold condescension, lived among us in the flesh, and that he died, suffered, and said all that was necessary to reconcile us to God.

The wisdom of trusted Fathers of the Church s helpful:

The life of a monk [actually, use Christian] ought to be a continuous Lent. Since few, however, have the strength for this, we urge the entire community during these days of Lent to keep its manner of life most pure and to wash away in this holy season the negligences of other times. This we can do in a fitting manner by refusing to indulge evil habits and by devoting ourselves to prayer with tears, to reading, to compunction of heart and self-denial. During these days, therefore, we will add to the usual measure of our service something by way of private prayer and abstinence from food or drink, so that each of us will have something above the assigned measure to offer God of his own will with the joy of the Holy Spirit. In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking and idle jesting, and look forward to holy Easter with joy and spiritual longing. (Rule of St. Benedict)

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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