Reflecting on 21 Centuries of Faith

Tag Archives: Lent

Lenten Lessons: Uprooting Sin

Saint_Macarius_the_EgyptianTo uproot sin and the evil that is so imbedded in our sinning can be done only by divine power, for it is impossible and outside man’s competence to uproot sin. To struggle, yes, to continue to fight, to inflict blows, and to receive setbacks is in your power.

To uproot, however, belongs to God alone. If you could have done it on your own, what would have been the need for the coming of the Lord?  For just as an eye cannot see without light, nor can one speak without a tongue, nor hear without ears, nor walk without feet, nor carry on works without hands, so you cannot be saved without Jesus nor enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

St. Macarius, Homily 3.4

Encourage & Teach: Happy Malasada Day!

WHAT!?! You have never heard of malasadas? That is unacceptable! You have been shamefully deprived. Let me explain…

To most of the Catholic world, today is Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday. Both names are used to designate the day prior to Ash Wednesday, and each has its own unique connotation and reason for celebration. Fat Tuesday, for instance, is celebrated by all Catholics and some Protestants. The name predated the Reformation and recalls the tradition of eating special rich foods before the fasting season of Lent. (Read more…)

The Triduum: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told

triduum EasterFamily gatherings are a particularly joy-filled event for me. I get to catch-up on how everyone is doing (sometimes what they are doing) as well as just spending some quality time with family. Inevitably, an aunt or uncle will say, “Remember when……” and all the nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws (and out-laws) will gather around to hear the tale. We laugh, smile, sometimes even cry remembering our loved ones whom we have loss but always, in the end, embrace and give thanks for each other and for…remembering. Holy week is like that for Christians. In fact, we have a special word for it: anamnesis.

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Laetare Sunday: Pink or Rose?

It’s that time again, Sunday of the Rose. Another explanation for the colors Fr. Z explains:

As WDTPRS has explained before, the custom of rose vestments is tied to the Station churches in Rome.  The Station for Laetare Sunday is the Basilica of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem where the relics of Cross and Passion brought from the Holy Land by St. Helena (+c. 329), mother of the Emperor Constantine (+337), were deposited.  It was the custom on this day for Popes to bless roses made of gold, some amazingly elaborate and bejeweled, which were to be sent to Catholic kings, queens and other notables. The biblical reference is Christ as the “flower” sprung forth from the root of Jesse (Is 11:1 – in the Vulgate flos “flower” and RSV “branch”).  Thus Laetare was also called Dominica de rosa…. Sunday of the Rose.  It didn’t take a lot of imagination to develop rose colored vestments from this. Remember, the color of the vestments is called rosacea, not pink.  This Roman custom spread by means of the Roman Missal to the whole of the world.

Oh, by the way, my Pastor’s vestments: Definitely pink. Sorry Father!

Sunday Homily: Fully Revealing Man to Himself

We all remember those famous words of the queen from Disney’s classic, Snow White: Say it with me, “Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” The mirror always told the truth to the queen whether she liked it or not…and, that’s how the saga began. Wouldn’t it be nice this Lent to have a mirror to do the same for us?

We do! Instead of having a genie trapped in a mirror to speak back to us, we have Jesus. Sound a little far-fetched? Blessed John Paul II didn’t think so. He loved to quote, Gaudium et Spes 22:1,

The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. [My emphasis]

Mirrors are meant to reveal ourselves to us. Unfortunately, they only show us what is placed before it; and so, with physical mirrors, only our physical appearance. However, I would suggest that by looking at Jesus, He reveals not only the outer-me but who I am per se. Remember when the prophet Samuel went looking to anoint a new king of Israel and found none until Jesse’s son David stood before him?

…the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

What I am about to suggest is terrifying and takes courage. It is one thing to ask ourselves or our friends, “What do you see,” but to ask the living God…that is quite another!

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

Not fear in the sense of fearing judgment or His wrath but a fear that is awe and wonderment. We should be experiencing that fear or awe and wonderment every time we see the Blessed Sacrament. If we don’t, then our hearts have grown callous and cold and are in need of this Lent. To be that cold means we are almost spiritually dead.

It may be terrifying to consider this and yet, that is what the Lord through His Church asks of us this Lent. And how is this accomplished? We need to steal away to a quiet place and mentally draw into the presence of the Lord; invite the Holy Spirit to teach us to pray and reveal our heart, and then, gaze upon Jesus in Sacred Scripture. Now, this cannot be a drive through prayer. We need to dedicate time daily. At least 15 minutes may be 30 if this is not new to us. It is here, in this time of revelatory prayer that he will reveal our hearts to us through Sacred Scripture. Because it is also written:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

He who is an All-Consuming Fire (Hebrews 12:29) desires to purify us in his crucible of love (Sirach 2:1-10) so that we might be changed from “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18) to resemble the Lord. The devil tried to accuse our Lord in the Gospel today of these sins but discovered that these were the sins of Israel, not of Jesus. To the devil’s dismay, Jesus chose to redeem Israel’s sins.

Let’s be honest, the prospect of our Lord revealing all our attachments, hidden sins and wounds is not comfortable. In fact, St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the introduction of his work, “The Steps of Humility and Pride” states that this is how the Lord imparts to us the gift and virtue of humility: by the bread of sorrow (Psalm 126:2) and the wine of compunction (Psalm 59:5).

It is also true that we have nothing to fear! St. Bernard also gives us a great deal of consolation by saying,

This first food, then is humility: bitter and medicinal; the second is charity: sweet and soothing…[1]

The first is bitter so that he may cleanse the wounds of our sin to make way for His wounds of love. The second is that love poured from the cross which becomes our strength to choose Him over all other things. Why does the Lord do this? That we might experience the profound depths of His mercy and His love and hear His tender voice. As Isaiah said in yesterday’s first reading, He is the “repairer of the breach” (Isaiah 58:12) and wants to heal the breach between us and God the Father.

Join me this Lent. I am committed to make this Lent different from every other. If you usually look back over Lent and realize that you want more, you need more – this is the way for you. I invite you to join me this Lent and take a long deep look at our Catholic mirror, the crucifix and Sacred Scripture in order to let our Lord reveal you to yourself. It is frightening. It is painful. It is even troubling and uncomfortable. But, then again,

The world promises you comfort, but YOU are not made for comfort. YOU are made for GREATNESS. (Pope Benedict XVI)


[1]Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, The Steps of Humility and Pride (Cistercian Fathers Series) (Collegeville: Cistercian Publs, 1989), 31.

Lenten Special: Gator’s on the Menu

I love being Catholic. We have so many big “T” and little “t” traditions that sometimes it is hard to keep track of them. One of our time honored Traditions (big T) is the Lenten fast. Meaning, we abstain (no meat) from meat on Ash Wednesday, all Fridays and of course, fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Related to this subject, sometimes there are questions that make me chuckle. In fact, the Church chooses to answer some of those fun questions which is also hilarious. Take for instance Mr. Piculas, owner of the Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery in Covington, LA. His question asked if gator was acceptable to eat on Fridays during Lent. Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans his local ordinary replied back with a resounding “Yes” (Check out the official letter). Not only yes but also agreed that they are “magnificent creatures.” Who would have thought? Obviously, it is important to Mr. Piculas and so important to his Archbishop. But seriously, it makes you chuckle, right?

That being said, this time of year causes people to ask why we do what we do. Abstinence and fasting have a long history that pre-dates Christianity. If you want to know more, check out the following:

Anyway, I just wanted to pass on this gator-funny to you. Have a great Lent and know that we continue to pray for you and those intentions closest to your heart.

 

History of Abstinence in the US Since Vatican II

Carnivorous Confusion

There has been much discussion and consternation in my parish over the last few days concerning Friday abstinence. I find it most interesting because my homily on, The Catholic Intellect really was not about this subject. So what is all the hullabaloo about? It seems to revolve around the following comments I made in my homily,

Did you know that as Catholics, we have a particular lifestyle or philosophy that we are called to live by? We are not meant to be accidental or incidental Catholics but people who are deliberately Catholic in all areas of our life. Our coworkers, friends and family are supposed to see us make the sign of the cross and offer grace before we eat at work, in school, or even at the pool! We are supposed to look different. That is why we:

  • Receive ashes on Ash Wednesday: You’re not supposed to wipe it off. It is supposed to provide a small humiliation.
  • Eat fish on Friday’s even outside of Lent; or we offer an acceptable and equivalent penance.

Most of the questions that I have received asked when did the Church after the Second Vatican Council reinstated this practice. The short answer, it never changed the practice.

Admittedly, there have been a number of well-meaning people and clergy that in the “spirit of Vatican II” said that the Law of Abstinence on Friday’s outside of Lent no longer applies. Unfortunately, that was a mistake. What would be more accurate is to say that after the Second Vatican Council, the breaking of this law was no longer grave matter i.e., we do not incur the penalty of mortal sin for disregarding this practice. This does not mean though we are free to ignore this ancient and venerable practice.

To make this easier, I have included a history of the Law of Abstinence for the Latin Rite here in the United States.

Days of Abstinence

For 2,000 years, Friday has been reserved as a day of abstinence to memorialize in a tangible way the suffering and death of Christ on Good Friday:

The “Teaching of the Apostles” (viii), Clement of Alexandria (Strom., VI, 75), and Tertullian (De jejun., xiv) make explicit mention of this practice. Pope Nicholas I (858-867) declares that abstinence from flesh meat is enjoined on Fridays. There is every reason to conjecture that Innocent III (1198-1216) had the existence of this law in mind when he said that this obligation is suppressed as often as Christmas Day falls on Friday (De observ. jejunii, lilt. cap. ap. Layman, Theologia Moralis, I, iv, tract. viii, ii).[1]

Traditionally, Wednesdays and Fridays were the fast and abstinence days in the early Church. In some regions, Latin Rite churches opted to hold Saturday instead of Wednesday as a day of abstinence (but that is a different discussion).

Over the past 2,000 years of our Church history, the original requirement to fast twice a week was reduced to once a week. That being said, until 1966, all Fridays throughout the year were obligatory days of abstinence under the pain of mortal sin.

Since 1966, all Fridays during Lent are obligatory under the pain of mortal sin while Friday’s outside of Lent remain days of penance:

The ordinary penance for Friday’s is abstention from meat. However, on non-Lenten Fridays, the faithful may substitute another penance. The substituted penance should involve a level of sacrifice comparable to abstention from meat.[2]

The Apostolic Constitution on Penance that changed this universal practice was entitled, Paenitemini, and promulgated on February 17, 1966 by Pope Paul VI,

It provided for abstinence from meat for all the faithful over 14 years of age. Paenitemini, Chapter III, section C, Norm II, states: “1. The time of Lent preserves its penitential character. The days of penitence to be observed under obligation through-out the Church are all Fridays and Ash Wednesday, that is to say the first days of “Grande Quaresima” (Great Lent), according to the diversity of the rite. Their substantial observance binds gravely. 2. Apart from the faculties referred to in VI and VIII regarding the manner of fulfilling the precept of penitence on such days, abstinence is to be observed on every Friday which does not fall on a day of obligation, while abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday or, according to local practice, on the first day of ’Great Lent’ and on Good Friday.”[3]

With the 1983 revision and promulgation of the Code of Canon Law by Blessed John Paul II, the Law of Fasting and Abstinence set forth by Pope Paul VI were inscribed into paragraphs 1249 – 1253:

Can. 1249 The divine law binds all the Christian faithful to do penance each in his or her own way. In order for all to be united among themselves by some common observance of penance, however, penitential days are prescribed on which the Christian faithful devote themselves in a special way to prayer, perform works of piety and charity, and deny themselves by fulfilling their own obligations more faithfully and especially by observing fast and abstinence, according to the norm of the following canons.

Can. 1250 The penitential days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent.

Can. 1251 Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Can. 1252 The law of abstinence binds those who have completed their fourteenth year. The law of fasting binds those who have attained their majority, until the beginning of their sixtieth year. Pastors of souls and parents are to ensure that even those who by reason of their age are not bound by the law of fasting and abstinence, are taught the true meaning of penance.

Can. 1253 The conference of bishops can determine more precisely the observance of fast and abstinence as well as substitute other forms of penance, especially works of charity and exercises of piety, in whole or in part, for abstinence and fast.

This is the Universal Law of the Church but there is particular law or custom relegated by the Bishops of each country, region or diocese.

Practice in the United States

The National Conference of Catholic Bishops, now known as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence as a clarification of Pope Paul VI’s Paenitemini regarding non-Lenten Fridays (emphasis mine),

 … the Catholic bishops of the United States, far from downgrading the traditional penitential observance of Friday, and motivated precisely by the desire to give the spirit of penance greater vitality, especially on Fridays, the day that Jesus died, urge our Catholic people henceforth to be guided by the following norms:

1. Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified;

2. Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday be freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ;

3. Among the works of voluntary self-denial and personal penance which we especially commend to our people for the future observance of Friday, even though we hereby terminate the traditional law of abstinence as binding under pain of sin, as the sole prescribed means of observing Friday, we give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law. Our expectation is based on the following considerations;

a. We shall thus freely and out of love for Christ Crucified show our solidarity with the generations of believers to whom this practice frequently became, especially in times of persecution and of great poverty, no mean evidence of fidelity in Christ and his Church.

b. We shall thus also remind ourselves that as Christians, although immersed in the world and sharing its life, we must preserve a saving and necessary difference from the spirit of the world. Our deliberate, personal abstinence from meat, more especially because no longer required by law, will be an outward sign of inward spiritual values that we cherish.

We should also recognize that Blessed John Paul II included this venerable practice within the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

1438 The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church’s penitential practice. These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works). [emphasis mine]

2043 The fourth precept (“You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church”) ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.

Appropriate and Equivalent Substitutions

The follow-up question I usually receive after providing the history for Friday abstinence is, “What is an appropriate and equivalent penance instead of abstaining from meat.” I cannot answer that for you. You need to. However, the USCCB has provided a great “starter” list for us to consider in Penitential Practices for Today’s Catholics. I have to be honest though. For me, it’s just easier to abstain from the meat.

Recognizing the Rights of the Bishop

A few years ago, St. Patrick’s day fell on a Friday during Lent. My Bishop, being a good Sicilian, suspended the Law of Abstinence for that Friday…and there was much rejoicing among the (and irish wannabes)! Now, everyone was in an uproar. I do not get it. Complain if we do have to abstain and then complain when we don’t. Ridiculous!

As Catholics, we are supposed to know how to fast and feast. It is perfectly within the right of the bishop to not only suspend and add days of penance but also to change what we are to abstain from. Take for instance what my friend Martha shared concerning the bishops in France,

A number of years ago, in France, the bishops asked the faithful to abstain from meat, tobacco, or alcohol on Fridays.

I wonder what the Diocese of Arlington would do if our Bishop asked us to abstain from Social Media for the day? A beautiful dream and yet, I digress…

Extravagant Fishy Fridays

Lastly, you are right. Many Catholics prior to the Second Vatican Council while living the letter of the law did not live the spirit of the law. Much to the horror and scandle of our non-Catholic Christian brethern – who do not understand these practices anyway, many Catholics ate a whole lot of lobster and other seafood delicacies. Except for the fact that it confused our Christian brethern and is not the way to evangelize, I’m not sure why it matters. Just because Uncle Buck ate extravagantly should not cause your conscience trouble. Why? Well, he doesn’t get the whole penitential thing anyway.

G.K. Chesterton was once asked, “What is the greatest evidence against Christianity.” He replied, “Christians.” We may shoot ourselves in the foot through our public witness from time to time but in the end, I think common sense will illustrate that the Church must be divine with all of our sin, mismanagement and hypocrisy. Besides, I have enough trouble worrying about myself than to spend my time observing everyone else.

Hope this helps…


[1] “Abstinence (Food),” James D. O’Neill, The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914 (San Diego, Catholic Answers, 2007)

[2] Martin Barrack, “Friday Abstinence,” Second Exodus, http://www.secondexodus.com/html/catholicdefinitions/fridayabstinence.htm (accessed July 10, 2012).

[3] Ibid.

Homily: At the Well

She was a woman of no distinction, of little importance, a woman of no reputation save that which was bad. Everyone gossiped about her. When people passed by, they cast that glance which is more painful than if they had cast stones. All she wanted was to be seen. To be known. To be loved. But her reputation, her sins, her lifestyle forced her to go out to draw water at noon. The hottest part of the day. The time of shame – when no one would be out.

Then suddenly, as Scripture tells us, an encounter happened that would change her life. A chance encounter? By no means! The Scripture immediately preceding our Gospel tells us that Jesus,

Had to pass through Samaria. (John 4:4)

Not because that was the route. The Jews and the Samaritans went out of their way to NOT encounter each other. But this day, He had a divine appointment. The Holy Spirit had compelled Him to go through Samaria.

Where does this divine encounter take place, this meeting that had been planned from the beginning of time and eternity? At a well. Well…at this point, we MIGHT think we know what is going on in the Gospel because Scripture says, “Jesus was weary” and obviously thirsty because He would soon say, “Give me a drink” (4:7). Clearly, He was traveling through desert terrain so, of course, He should look and ask for a drink!

Maybe we find the scene familiar because we so often talk around the water cooler at work. Perhaps, because it has become common place to converse over a cup of coffee. But this well, this is no ordinary well. It is Jacob’s well. It is the marriage well.

See, it was at this well that Jacob’s marriage arrangements were made. In fact, the brides of Isaac and Moses were found and arranged at a well. And suddenly Scripture says, the Bridegroom is there looking for His bride. Jesus was looking for love. Some might say with Waylon Jennings, He was,

looking for love in all the wrong places, Looking for love in too many faces

…but even with all our imperfections and lack of graces, He was still “lookin’ for love.”

Despite her past, her hurts, her trampled pride – this Samaritan woman desperately wanted to experience love. To be loved is to be known and to be known is to be loved. If not, what is the point of doing the other in the first place? To be known is to accept me just for who I am with all my loves, hurts, joys and trials. And what did she discover?

He knows me, my thought inside, and all the hairs on top of my head, every hurt stored up and every dread. He knows me…He sees me for who and what I am. But most of all, He sees me and hasn’t run away. He hasn’t condemned me. He instead, speaks with me.

Jesus’ question about her husband wasn’t to embarrass her or to expose her to further ridicule. It was to heal the wounds of her heart. The wound, the sickness, the cancer… the sin MUST be revealed in order for the divine physician to heal it.

By not only the Jews’ standard but even of her own people’s laws, she was a harlot. Not one husband… but five. To make it worse, the word for husband and God in Aramaic is a homonym. The Samaritan had not one God but five….just like her husbands.

We are no better than this Samaritan woman. Whatever we freely choose that impedes us from daily prayer, coming to weekly Mass, regularly participating in all the sacraments, being faithful to our spouses, living out our vocation and/or serving those in need; those objects, people are our husbands. They are our Gods. Our Lord zealously loves us so much He says,

I am the Lord your God and you shall have no other. I am God and there is none like me! (Isaiah 45:5)

Yet, hope remains. Jesus, by asking for a simple cup of water, transforms what little we have, and invites us to drink of His Living Water. This time, not the water of Baptism, which birthed us into life, but we are invited to drink deeply from the water that flows from the side of Christ.

The water of forgiveness found in Confession; the living water that St. Paul tells us is:

the love of God that has been poured out into our hearts (Romans 5:5)

through Confirmation (Acts 7:51) and realized by a life of prayer (Ephesians 3:16). We need to drink that Life-giving water that satisfies through reception of the Eucharist which we call the Communion of love.

Jesus invited the Samaritan woman, He invites us today, to a new love and faith in Him, the Messiah, the Lover to His Beloved, the Only Wise God. May every day of this Lent be for you, a divine encounter. We can count on the fact that He will meet us at the well of our heart and invite us to be loved and to be known.

To Him be the glory forever and forever. Amen!

Lenten Foods: The Pretzel

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” was first coined by Richard Franck’s in ‘Northern Memoirs, calculated for the meridian of Scotland‘ in 1658 (as best as we can tell). It is interesting to observe how many traditions were embraced due to necessity. Foods during Lent are no exception. Take the pretzel for instance.

Many say that the pretzel started out as a Lenten snack because of its original shape that seemed to mimic arms folded in prayer. One etymology of the word pretzel states that it is derived from Latin meaning branched with little arms.[1] Others explain this simple food as the perfect Lenten fast food since no dairy, eggs, or lard is used among the simple ingredients of flour, water and salt.

Another explanation shares that it was a common reward for children when they learned their prayers.[2] Accordingly, this simple bread received the name pretzel which in this interpretation means “little reward.”

Still another account says that a pious monk took the bread dough folded the strands over to make them in the shape of arms and so was born the pretzel. Whatever the explanation, it has taken on the persona of being a Lenten food. Who am I to argue? I just think they are good in season and out!


[1] Peter Klein, ed., The Catholic Source Book, 3rd ed. (Dubuque, Iowa: ACTA Publications, 2000), p. 300

[2] Ibid.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

We all remember those famous words of the queen from Disney’s classic, Snow White. The mirror always told the truth to the queen whether she liked it or not…and, that’s how the saga began. Wouldn’t it be nice this Lent to have a mirror to do the same for us?

We do! Instead of having a genie trapped in a mirror to speak back to us, we have Jesus. Sound a little far-fetched? Blessed John Paul II didn’t think so. He loved to quote, Gaudium et Spes 22:1,

The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him Who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. [My emphasis]

Mirrors are meant to reveal ourselves to us. Unfortunately, they only show us what is placed before it. In this case, only our physical appearance. However, I would suggest that by looking at Jesus, He reveals not only the outer-me but who I am per se. The prophet Samuel discovered this when he went looking to anoint a new king of Israel and found none until Jesse’s son David stood before him,

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

I have to be honest, what I am suggesting it terrifying. It is one thing to ask ourselves or our friends, “What do you see,” but to ask the living God…that is quite another!

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

And yet, that is what we are being asked to do this Lent.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

He who is an All-Consuming Fire (Hebrews 12:29) desires to purify us in his crucible of love (Sirach 2:1-10) so that we might be changed from “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The prospect of our Lord revealing all our hidden sins and wounds is not comfortable. In fact, St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the introduction of his work, “The Steps of Humility and Pride” states that this is how the Lord imparts to us the gift and virtue of humility: by the bread of sorrow (Psalm 126:2) and the wine of compunction (Psalm 59:5).

Not to fear! St. Bernard also gives us a great deal of consolation by saying,

This first food, then is humility: bitter and medicinal; the second is charity: sweet and soothing…[1]

The first is bitter so that he may clean the wounds of our sin to make way for His wounds of love. The second is that love poured from the cross and the strength to choose Him over all other things (res).

I would invite you to join me this Lent and take a deep look at our Catholic mirror, the crucifix and let our Lord reveal you to yourself. It is frightening. It is painful. It is also the first step to take the Theology of the Body from our head to our heart.


[1] Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, The Steps of Humility and Pride (Cistercian Fathers Series) (Collegeville: Cistercian Pubns, 1989), 31.