|“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life.” —Deuteronomy 30:19|
For many years, the Lord has challenged us to choose life in the first Bible reading of the Mass for the second day of Lent. In retrospect, we have reason to think we should have taken the Lord’s command more seriously in past Lents. Considering partial birth abortions, euthanasia, sperm and egg banks, experiments in cloning humans, artificial insemination, sterilizations, chemical and surgical abortions, rampant pornography, gang violence, more wars and rapes, starvation, more refugees, torture, more prisons, capital punishment, addictions, the debt of the third and fourth world, etc. — considering these things and many others, we had better choose life more seriously and zealously than we have in the past and in past Lents.
This Lent, our culture of death may further deteriorate to the point of no return. On the other hand, this Lent could be the beginning of our culture’s resurrection from the dead. Therefore, choose life by denying yourself (Lk 9:23). Choose life by taking up daily the cross Jesus assigns you (Lk 9:23). Choose life by losing your life for love of Jesus and the gospel (Lk 9:24). Choose life by being crucified with Christ (Gal 2:19). We must choose life as we never have before. We can’t go on like this. Choose life!
|Prayer: Father, may I continually carry about in my body the dying of Jesus so that “the life of Jesus may also be revealed” (2 Cor 4:10).|
|Promise: “What profit does he show who gains the whole world and destroys himself in the process?” —Lk 9:25|
|Praise: Carol converted to the Catholic faith and chose Lourdes as her confirmation name. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.|
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.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.
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 peace to his people on earth. 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.
|“Now is the acceptable time!” —2 Corinthians 6:2|
Many of us long for the renewal of the Catholic Church. We hunger for the members of the Church to be set on fire, to abandon themselves to Jesus. We long for Masses to be full of people who are filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:4). The Lord’s answer to your longing is: “Repent and believe in the gospel. Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
I am sitting in a 6:30 AM Mass with several hundred people who have come to receive ashes at the Ash Wednesday morning Mass. Normally there are seventy-five people at this Mass; today there are at least 250 people. The message of Ash Wednesday, that we humans are sinners who need to repent, reform our lives, pray, fast, and give alms is completely opposed to the message of the secular culture. The Catholic Church, in her wisdom and guided by the Holy Spirit, recognizes that people’s hearts are restless until they rest in God (see Catechism, 30, St. Augustine). Knowing that something deep within the heart of men and women longs to be reconciled with God (see 2 Cor 5:20), the Church designed a world-wide program of repentance. It is called the season of Lent, and this program begins with Ash Wednesday. People truly do respond heartily to Ash Wednesday and Lent.
|Prayer: “Have mercy on me, O God, in Your goodness; in the greatness of Your compassion wipe out my offense” (Ps 51:3).|
|Promise: “The Lord was stirred with concern for His land and took pity on His people” —Jl 2:18|
|Praise: Samantha returned to Confession after a twenty-year absence. She now receives Jesus daily in the Eucharist.|