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Nothing Up My Sleeve… But a Cross!

March 9, 2014

Thursday, March 6, 2014: Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Deuteronomy 30:15-20. Behold, I set before you the blessing and the curse.
Luke 9:22-25. Whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

Gospel Reflection:

For weeks it seems, people have been talking about Lent. Go around the corner and you were liable to hear, “What are you giving up for Lent?” Even at church, we have been getting those reminders: fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; abstain from meat on the Fridays during Lent. And, we as a parish start off with a crucial Rite – the Rite of Sending. Saturday evening we will send our Catechumen (my wife included) – ripe with teaching – to the Cathedral to become Elect, and continue down their paschal pathway. They are to be concentrating these next forty days, not on the what, but rather the why. It also prepares the faithful, us, to recall our own baptism and the call to do penance in preparation for Easter. We must die to self to rise to new life. We must take up our crosses, daily, and follow.

So the day after Ashes, we are all shiny clean again, but we are reminded just what is expected; take up our crosses. To forfeit, our old lives, in order to save it. Moses tells us this clearly in the first reading: If however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen,… I tell you now that you will certainly perish (Dt 30:17, 18). This taking up of the cross, outside of which salvation is not found, is not a lowering of yourself to the level of the disadvantaged, but raising everyone up for the glory of and the access to God.

So we reach ‘down’ to the disadvantaged insofar that we are well intentioned, not “holier-than-thou”. The point is to be humble of oneself and circumstance – and not false humility. False humility is just disguised pride. We should not consider ourselves better or worse in comparison to others; we should only compare ourselves in God’s light to God himself. There, we will find ourselves coming up noticeably short! Jesuit Father Robert Barron, reflects this for Lent this morning:

[T]he holiest people in our tradition are those who are most aware of their sinfulness. … [T]he saints are those who are convinced of their own inadequacy. When Isaiah encounters the Lord he says, “I am a man of unclean lips!” When Peter is in the presence of the Messiah he says, “Lord, leave me, for I am a sinful man.” G.K. Chesterton once said, “A saint is someone who knows he’s a sinner.” The holy person has no illusions about himself. The holy person has no illusions about himself. It is an extraordinary and surprising phenomenon that the saints seem to be those who are most conscious of their sinfulness. (Lent Reflections, Word on Fire, Barron, 2014)

This Lent, do not let the world dictate your spirituality. Use the cross as a shield to protect you from those who would wear you down and destroy you. Use the cross as a badge of your intent to the world, that it is the Lord of Light that you follow. Giving up something so crucial to our well-being as Xbox is utterly vapid and without merit, if you do not draw closer to the Lord Jesus in a strong and loving relationship. It is meaningless. This badge and shield is crucial, as it is also an example to those who are new to faith. Persevere in spite of our crosses, for not only is God watching, but those learning how to enter into relationship with him by your example. Take heed!

Pope Saint Leo the Great, wrote, “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” (Sermon 6 of Quadragesima). In other words, this Lent, it doesn’t matter what level you give at, but how you love. It means love your friends, strangers, love your enemies. It doesn’t matter the inconvenience, but how we bear our crosses, our own suffering. And pray. It doesn’t matter the eloquence of your prayer, just as long as it is the eloquence of your heart.

And we all will observe the fast ourselves, and convert our hearts. And we will lead. Jesus is preparing us all for a time of reunion, when the time for fasting and penance will be over, when we can rejoice in the grace of God.

Praise be to Jesus Christ! For evermore!  Amen.

Blessed Lent,
Papa

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