Jesus Conquers Death
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus dies before he dies, and thereby readies himself for what awaits him. The next day, when Pilate threatens him with death, Jesus stands in a freedom and courage that can be understood only if we understand what happened to him in the garden. When Pilate says to him: "Don't you know that I have power over you, power to take your life or to save it?" Jesus answers: "You have no power over me whatsoever. Nobody takes my life; I give it over freely." Pilate is threatening a man who is already dead. No big threat. Jesus had already undergone the agonia. In great anguish, he had given his life over freely the night before, and so he is ready for whatever awaits him.
—from the book The Passion and the Cross by Ronald Rolheiser
"Put aside your hatred and animosity. Take pains to refrain from sharp words. If they escape your lips, do not be ashamed to let your lips produce the remedy, since they have caused the wounds. Pardon one another so that later on you will not remember the injury. The recollection of an injury is itself wrong. It adds to our anger, nurtures our sin and hates what is good. It is a rusty arrow and poison for the soul. It puts all virtue to flight."
— St. Francis of Paola
✞ MEDITATION OF THE DAY
"God's delays are mysterious; sorrow is sometimes prolonged for the same reason for which it is sent. God may abstain for the moment from healing, not because Love does not love, but because Love never stops loving, and a greater good is to come from the woe. Heaven's clock is different from ours."
— Fulton J. Sheen, p. 357
AN EXCERPT FROM
Life of Christ
✞ VERSE OF THE DAY
"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."
1 John 1:5-7
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Saint Peter Damian
(988 – February 22, 1072)
Maybe because he was orphaned and had been treated shabbily by one of his brothers, Peter Damian was very good to the poor. It was the ordinary thing for him to have a poor person or two with him at table and he liked to minister personally to their needs.
Peter escaped poverty and the neglect of his own brother when his other brother, who was archpriest of Ravenna, took him under his wing. His brother sent him to good schools and Peter became a professor.
Already in those days, Peter was very strict with himself. He wore a hair shirt under his clothes, fasted rigorously and spent many hours in prayer. Soon, he decided to leave his teaching and give himself completely to prayer with the Benedictines of the reform of Saint Romuald at Fonte Avellana. They lived two monks to a hermitage. Peter was so eager to pray and slept so little that he soon suffered from severe insomnia. He found he had to use some prudence in taking care of himself. When he was not praying, he studied the Bible.
The abbot commanded that when he died Peter should succeed him. Abbot Peter founded five other hermitages. He encouraged his brothers in a life of prayer and solitude and wanted nothing more for himself. The Holy See periodically called on him, however, to be a peacemaker or troubleshooter, between two abbeys in dispute or a cleric or government official in some disagreement with Rome.
Finally, Pope Stephen IX made Peter the cardinal-bishop of Ostia. He worked hard to wipe out simony–the buying of church offices–and encouraged his priests to observe celibacy and urged even the diocesan clergy to live together and maintain scheduled prayer and religious observance. He wished to restore primitive discipline among religious and priests, warning against needless travel, violations of poverty, and too comfortable living. He even wrote to the bishop of Besancon complaining that the canons there sat down when they were singing the psalms in the Divine Office.
He wrote many letters. Some 170 are extant. We also have 53 of his sermons and seven lives, or biographies, that he wrote. He preferred examples and stories rather than theory in his writings. The liturgical offices he wrote are evidence of his talent as a stylist in Latin.
He asked often to be allowed to retire as cardinal-bishop of Ostia, and finally Pope Alexander II consented. Peter was happy to become once again just a monk, but he was still called to serve as a papal legate. When returning from such an assignment in Ravenna, he was overcome by a fever. With the monks gathered around him saying the Divine Office, he died on February 22, 1072.
In 1828, he was declared a Doctor of the Church.
Peter was a reformer and if he were alive today would no doubt encourage the renewal started by Vatican II. He would also applaud the greater emphasis on prayer that is shown by the growing number of priests, religious, and laypersons who gather regularly for prayer, as well as the special houses of prayer recently established by many religious communities.
Wednesday of the First Week in Lent
Reading 1 JON 3:1-10
The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:
"Set out for the great city of Nineveh,
and announce to it the message that I will tell you."
So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh,
according to the LORD's bidding.
Now Nineveh was an enormously large city;
it took three days to go through it.
Jonah began his journey through the city,
and had gone but a single day's walk announcing,
"Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,"
when the people of Nineveh believed God;
they proclaimed a fast
and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.
When the news reached the king of Nineveh,
he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe,
covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.
Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh,
by decree of the king and his nobles:
"Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep,
shall taste anything;
they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water.
Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God;
every man shall turn from his evil way
and from the violence he has in hand.
Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath,
so that we shall not perish."
When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way,
he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them;
he did not carry it out.
Responsorial Psalm PS 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19
R. (19b) A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
For you are not pleased with sacrifices;
should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
Verse Before The Gospel JL 2:12-13
Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart
for I am gracious and merciful.
Gospel LK 11:29-32
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
"This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here."
Meditation: Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19
Saint Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Optional Memorial)
A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn. (Psalm 51:19)
When was the last time you had to eat humble pie? You know, admitting your own mistakes and shortcomings to someone else. This is one way to understand the setting for today's psalm. It portrays King David's repentance after the prophet Nathaniel confronted him about his sins of adultery and murder. He is caught in his lies and violence, and he has to own up to them.
So how does David respond? With a combination of heartfelt repentance and deep confidence in God's mercy. He trusted that God would not ignore "a heart contrite and humbled" (Psalm 51:19).
How do you react when you are brought face-to-face with your sins or shortcomings? It's tempting to get defensive and to throw that humble pie back in someone's face: It's your fault, not mine! Or maybe you overplay your guilt: How could I have done that—again? Will I ever get past this sin?
God doesn't want us to swing in either direction. Rather, he wants us to turn toward him, as David did. He promises not to turn us away. He won't accuse us or condemn us; instead, he'll welcome us, forgive us, and embrace us. It's like the scene in the parable of the prodigal son: the father is waiting with joyful and eager expectation, filled with longing for his younger son to return home. When he does return, the boy begins, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you," but before he can finish even one sentence, his father throws his arms around him (Luke 15:21).
The next time you find yourself holding a piece of humble pie, put the pie down and run to your Father. Don't let yourself feel overwhelmed by a guilty conscience. But don't try to shift the blame and justify yourself. Simply say, "Father, I know I have sinned. I'm sorry. Please forgive me." Remember, God delights in your repentance, not because he wants to condemn you or drown you in guilt, but because he is eager to forgive you and welcome you back. He will never turn you away.
"Thank you, Father, for your merciful embrace. Help me to run toward you every time I stumble and fall."
"when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast". When they believed. Then " God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out." The threat was taken to heart, the message was believed, the threat then, becomes the message of hope. When nuclear war threatens, we pray for peace right? Our Lady of Fatima prayed for this, for the children to pray the rosary, to learn to read and write and be faithful. And then what happened? Nothing. No more wars. Such power. We are to receive the message always: 40 days more and...
"For you are not pleased with sacrifices; should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn." We are sacrificing in lent...are we not? And it leads to a contrite faith, a real faith, because now it is really costing us something. Now it is worth something. I always tell people "get involved in the church, then it means something, you get more out of it than just coming in as a spectator".
In comes our Lord "This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. " The sign of Jonah. Wow. Wouldn't we like to see a sign? People flocked at Fatima to see a sign, about 90,000 said the newspapers. It would happen on October 13th, people wanted to see "the sign" that Mary had promised they would see. And many saw. Some saw different things. A brother said in our Be My Witness "if you give a recipe to 10 different people, you'll get 10 different cakes". Not everyone sees the same. Some saw a terrifying sight and they pleaded for their lives crying on their knees. Some didn't see much. Some saw swirls of colors, everything changed colors constantly. Some said the world was ending right before their eyes. God spoke only with Moses. Moses would come out from the conversation bright as a light, and God said "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!". We can not stand a sign from God. What if I told you that your heart would seize if you saw Him? Our bodies can not fathom the greatness of God. And so God designs a sign that can begin to understand Him... a cross. What makes the cross beautiful? Jesus. He is draped on there so powerfully and delicately. And so, I propose to you a question that I will ask men in a Good Friday retreat I am called to design with God (pray for us). And the question is this:
How did Jesus our Lord conquer and save the world?
Are you ready for the answer? By dying.
Lent is a dying. Lent is a following of Christ. Lent is a calling. To die is obedience to God. To die for Him then, because Our Father had said "this is the only way". This is your sign. Jonah was dead for 3 days to the world trapped away cast into the sea. He washes up on the Seashore. Jesus is found on the seashore after dying and rising, cooking fish. Jesus asks, "do you love Me?"
The groom asks His Holy Church the Bride, you and me "Do You Love Me?"
Do you take this Man as your lawful wedded husband, to cherish, to love through sickness and in health, all the days of your life?"
And your response my child?
This happens in the Holy Sacraments, repeated vows. All happen before the sign, the crucifix, from beginning to end, alpha and omega, for an infinity.
First Wednesday of Lent
"Greedy people are never truly rich, but poor.
They do not control their money but are controlled by it. They do not possess wealth but are
possessed by it. They may have many things, but
they consider that they have all too little."
The more honestly we live before God, the more
quickly we realize that what prevents us from
being truly happy is never some object that we lack
or some experience that we would like to have.
When we banish "if only" from our vocabulary, we
will realize that we already have the power to be
Praying with Saint Anthony
Gracious God, help us remember that because
you care for the birds of the air and the lilies of the
field, you care even more for the women, men, and
children you have created.