Tag Archives: lent

Pope Francis: What is your Lenten Gesture of Solidarity?

An English Translation of Cardinal Bergoglio’s Lenten Letter 2013

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And rend your hearts, and not your garments, and turn to the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil. (Joel 2:13)

Little by little we become accustomed to hearing and seeing, through the mass media, the dark chronicle of contemporary society, presented with an almost perverse elation, and also we become [desensitized] to touching it and feeling it all around us [even] in our own flesh. Drama plays out on the streets, in our neighborhoods, in our homes and — why not? — even in our own hearts. We live alongside a violence that kills, that destroys families, that enlivens wars and conflicts in so many countries of the world. We live with envy, hatred, slander, the mundane in our heart.

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Pope Francis: God has the ability to forget

The Pope offered Mass for the Fifth Sunday of Lent today in the parish church of the Vatican, Saint Anne’s. In the picture Francis is seen with Pietro Orlandi, the brother of Emanuela who disappeared in 1983; the Orlandi family were parishioners of Saint Anne’s and she sang in the choir, the father was an employee of the Vatican bank. Emanuela is presumed dead. The homily was unscripted but Vatican Radio offered this summary.

Francis with the brother of  Emanuela Orlandi, Pietro.jpg

Pope Francis said, “If we are like the Pharisee before the altar, [who said], ‘Thank you, Lord, for not making me like all the other men, and especially not like that fellow at the door, like that publican…,’ well, then we do not know the heart of the Lord, and we shall not ever have the joy of feeling this mercy.” Pope Francis went on to say, “It is not easy trust oneself to the mercy of God, because [His mercy] is an unfathomable abyss – but we must do it!” Pope Francis continued, “He has the ability to forget, [which is] special: He forgets [our sins], He kisses you, He embraces you, and He says to you, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now, on, sin no more.’ Only that counsel does He give you.” Pope Francis concluded, saying, “We ask for the grace of never tiring of asking pardon, for He never tires of pardoning.”

Through the Cross, that Wondrous Tree

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On this Fifth Sunday of Lent we approach the Cross of Jesus, the Tree of Life!

Finding Jesus in the temple

Teaching, there the leaders brought

Forth a woman caught in sinning:

Trapping Him was in their thoughts.

Then, instead of giving answers,

Jesus wrote upon the ground.

“Let the sinless start the stoning.”

Looking up, no one was found.

“See,” the prophet said in gladness,

“God is doing something new!

Cleansing, living waters, flowing

For us all with mercy true.”

Each of us has known the wonder

Of forgiveness, full and free

In the mercy we are given

Through the Cross, that wondrous Tree.

Laetare Sunday

Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.

Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis,et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae.

With the Church we pray

O God, who through your Word reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way, grant, we pray, that with prompt devotion and eager faith the Christian people may hasten toward the solemn celebrations to come.

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In the Mass of Paul VI today’s gospel, if you don’t have catechumens at Mass, is the parable of the Prodigal Son. We know both sons have no clue of who they are persons without the father indicating their moral and human reality. The sons clearly miss the point of their familial sonship. This biblical narrative is heard in the Church as one of the many examples of nature of the Church, especially considering the role of the father. Here we understand the father not only be to biological father of children who need teaching but he stands for the Church who teaches but also reconciles, corrects error but rejoices in a return.

 Saint John Chrysostom teaches, 

There were two brothers (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32): they divided their father’s goods between them and one stayed at home, while the other went away to a foreign country, wasted all he’d been given, and then could not bear the shame of his poverty…The reason the father let him go and did not prevent his departure for a foreign land was that he might learn well by experience what good things are enjoyed by the one who stays at home. For when words would not convince us God often leaves us to learn from the things that happen to us. When the profligate returned…,the father did not remember past injuries but welcomed him with open arms…Are you asking: ‘Is this what he gets for his wickedness?’ Not for his wickedness, but for his return home; not for sin, but for repentance; not for evil, but for being converted.

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Jesus and fig tree: God is patient with our procrastination, with our failure to repent, but not indefinitely

Yesterday in Rome some of the seminarians from the USA received the minor ministry of Acolyte from Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia, OP, 68, native of the Bronx, NY, and vice-president of the Pontifical Ecclesia Dei commission. Don’t miss the gardner … he’s important in Jesus’ narrative. Part of DiNoia’s homily is here.

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Our Lord’s examples in today’s Gospel are like this–instances of catastrophes everyone has heard about. He anticipates what his hearers might be thinking: do these events have some religious or moral significance?  Were the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices greater sinners than all other Galileans, or were the eighteen people upon whom the tower in Siloam collapsed greater sinners than all the inhabitants of Jerusalem?

His response to the questions he poses is brief and deceptively simple. The lesson to be drawn from these events is most surely not that those who perished were greater sinners than those who survived or were entirely unaffected. Rather it is this: if we do not repent, all of us will perish. In fuller terms the point is that since all of us are sinners, and the end of life can be so unexpected, then there can be no reason to postpone repentance. Nothing is to be gained by procrastination. If we knew that our lives were going to come to an end on such and such a day in the future–say, ten years from now–then we could delay repentance until a safe interval before that date. But we don’t know this. Death will be as unexpected for us as for those who perished in these catastrophes.

Our Lord underscores precisely this point by means of the parable of the fig tree. Though the fig tree has been barren for three years, the owner of the orchard agrees to give it a reprieve: one more year. Likewise, God is patient with our procrastination, with our failure to bear the fruit of true repentance, but not indefinitely so. “With fear and trembling,” says St. Gregory the Great, “should we hear the words…., ‘cut it down‘…. He who will not by correction grow rich unto fruitfulness, falls to that place from whence he is no longer able to rise by repentance.”(Homily 31 on the Gospel of Luke).

But there is a bright side to today’s sobering Lenten message–as it happens something wonderfully apt on this occasion of the Institution of Acolytes. It is to be found in the humble figure of the gardener in the parable of the fig tree. For it is at his suggestion–we might well say his intercession–that the owner of the orchard gives the barren fig tree yet another year. “Let us not then strike suddenly,” says St. Gregory Nazianzen, “but overcome by gentleness, lest we cut down the fig tree still able to bear fruit, which the care perhaps of a skillful dresser will restore” (Oration 32).  Not only does the gardener put in a good word for the fig tree, but he has a plan for improving its chances of bearing fruit in the coming year: to dig around the tree and fertilize it, to give it special care.

The figure of the gardener is easy to miss, but in the rich tradition of patristic commentary on this parable he gets a lot of attention. A particularly significant reading of the parable sees him as representing Christ who implores the Father to allow him to water the tree with his teaching and his sufferings so that it will yield the fruit of repentance and good works.

Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P. 

Third Sunday of Lent: Institution of Acolytes

3 March 2013

Pontifical North American College, Rome

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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