Sabbath Dispute

moses

Moses by Michelangelo

At Holy Mass this coming Sunday, we will read St. John’s account of the Lord Jesus giving sight to a man born blind. Jesus worked the miracle on the Sabbath day. So a dispute ensued, regarding the Law of Moses.

Some of the Pharisees concluded that obeying Moses and following Christ were incompatible pursuits. They reasoned thus: Jesus, breaking the Sabbath to heal the blind man, while at the same time professing to do God’s work, either…

a. rendered the Law of Moses null and void, or

b. disqualified Himself as a prophet by unrepentantly violating a valid divine law.

Now, we could reject this reasoning as prissy, pointless pharisaism—if Lord Jesus Himself had not so punctiliously insisted that the Law of Moses does indeed remain altogether valid. Every jot and tittle remains in force, “until all things have taken place” (Matthew 5:18), as we read at Holy Mass today.

In fact, rejecting the Old Testament is a heresy that has a name: Marcionism. An orthodox Christian, on the other hand, believes that Christ Himself, the eternal Word, gave Moses the Law. The Law of Moses is Christ’s Law.

crispy_bacon_1But: We can eat bacon-wrapped shrimp. And we regard circumcision as a medical matter, not a religious one. And we don’t have to wail at the Wailing Wall. And we’re not still waiting for the Messiah to make Himself known.

What we cannot do, however, is: Imagine that we are any other people than the children of Abraham. Who are we? We are the same people that Moses led out of slavery in Egypt. Our forefathers and mothers prayed and waited for the Messiah to come, listening carefully to the words of the prophets. But then, when He came, we rejected and killed Him. Then, when He rose from the dead, we began to repent and believe in Him. He grafted our Jewish and Gentile forefathers together into His chosen people.

The Law began in the very beginning. Christ hallowed the Sabbath with His own rest on the seventh day of the world. Since, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He is the Creator. The one God made human life what it is: namely, an existence that only makes sense when we worship, love, and obediently serve the Almighty.

Sabbath-breaking remains a grave sin, graver than ever. Christ has enlightened the eyes of our minds: We know who we are. We are freeborn children of God’s household. We are no man’s slaves, because we serve the divine Master. The Pharisees who objected to Jesus had it right—except that they were too blind to see that the one and only place where mankind can actually keep the Sabbath is in the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Nazareth.

Hamlet and the 77 Pardons

Shawn Lauvao Redskins 77

Lord, how often must I forgive my brother? Answer: No less than 77 times.

Now, the Lord didn’t use the number 77 because Washington Redskins starting guard Shawn Lauvao wears jersey #77. Christ used 77 as shorthand for: always forgive the penitent brother.

Anyone ever seen Hamlet? That play would seem to have the opposite moral. Instead of “always forgive,” Hamlet focuses on revenge.

The evil uncle killed the good father, secretly, in cold blood, to steal the throne and the queen. The dead king’s ghost visits young Prince Hamlet, demanding revenge. Young Hamlet devises a stratagem by which to test the ghost’s story. Turns out the ghost speaks truth. So here comes revenge. At the end of the play, everyone winds up dead. No forgiveness; just brutal revenge.

Except: Young Hamlet and his nemesis Laertes forgive each other before they die. And the evil uncle Claudius tries to beg God for mercy. And the queen admits to Hamlet that she has done wrong in marrying her dead husband’s brother. And Ophelia begs mercy from God for everyone…

ASC HamletChrist told the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant to illustrate his 77-pardons theme. In the parable, the king intended to settle accounts. When he did so, no one quibbled with the accuracy of his records. His accounts showed his servant in debt to him. The servant did not deny it. To the contrary, the servant, presented with the truth, humbled himself before its very accuracy.

‘Yes, yes! I owe you big time! Just give me another chance.’

And the king took a haircut, as they say in the banking world—he faced the fact that he wasn’t getting the money the servant owed him. Then the king gave the servant a fresh start.

Thus do we see mercy and righteousness kiss: Everyone faces the full, ugly truth. Then everyone starts fresh. Mercy does not mean: no reckoning. It doesn’t mean running away from the truth; skip the facts; just pretend everything’s fine and nice!

No. Forgiving happens when the parties agree on the painful, evil, unpleasant facts. And then start over.

Prince Hamlet did not exactly proceed down the path of Christian mercy. He did a fair amount of stabbing with his rapier. On the other hand, there was something rotten in the state of Denmark. It would hardly have been merciful for the prince to pretend otherwise.

In fact, the greater the evil, the more merciless the truth feels to the conscience that, deep down, knows it’s guilty. Mercy does not come in the form of a goose feather pillow. It comes as a bracing, cold bath. But nothing can refresh the soul more. Facing the truth. And getting a fresh start. With all the dials set back to zero.

Spring Training for Heaven

spring training

[Click AQUI para leer en Spanish]

We do not know yet what heaven is like. But we know that it involves being personally united with God forever. If we hope to have this personal communion with God in the end, then we probably need to have some kind of communion with Him now, right? Some kind of practice or spring training, so to speak.

So here’s an easy question:  How do we develop a friendship with the Lord, now, while we are still here on earth?  Easy…by praying.

Anyone ever heard of the Catechism of the Catholic Church?  Everybody know that the Catechism is divided into four parts, for the four pillars of the Catholic faith? Part IV of the Catechism concerns prayer.  This part of the Catechism begins with the gospel reading for Holy Mass on Sunday, about the Samaritan woman at the well. Makes sense because:  To pray is like going to a well.  Someone who prays opens up his soul to God like a thirsty person opening his or her throat for cool, refreshing water.

When we open up like this, when we go to the well of prayer, we find Christ waiting for us there, like the Samaritan woman found Him. Upon meeting Christ, we discover three things…

Catechism-of-the-Catholic-CHurch1. While of course we come thirsty to the well of prayer, we discover that the Lord also thirsts. “Give me a drink,” He says.

What do we possess that we can give God to drink? Can we give water to the One Who measures out the depth of the oceans and holds the rain clouds in His hands?

No. The Lord thirsts for one thing and one thing only. He thirsts for our devoted love. On the Cross He opened His arms to us. His throat was parched. He said to each of us, “I thirst. I thirst for you.”

2. The well of Christian prayer is the well of our father Jacob, dug in ancient times for the Israelites. So we have to be willing to imitate Jacob. As we read in Genesis, Jacob struggled all night in the darkness. Some unknown foe wrestled with him, but Jacob refused to give in. Then, in the morning, Jacob received the blessing he sought, and a new name. The Lord called him Israel, because he persevered in his struggle through the dark night.

At this very well, the Lord Jesus pours out the living water of the Holy Spirit. But to pray in the Holy Spirit, we have to be willing to persevere through a dark struggle, too. The Holy Spirit is infinite divine love, but love can be rough. The Holy Spirit doesn’t send Hallmark cards. He lifts us up to dizzying, frightening, unfamiliar heights.

3. The third thing that we discover when we meet Christ at the well of prayer is this: The Lord Jesus is the Messiah Who makes it possible for us to worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

Now, human beings are naturally inclined to pray.  But a lot of things can get in the way.  Spiritual laziness.  Self-centeredness.  Attachments to material things.  False ideas about God.  Distractions.  Distractions.  Distractions.

In Christ, we find humble and true prayer. In Christ, man prays for everything that is truly good. The Catechism has a beautiful one-sentence explanation of what Christian prayer is:  “Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation.” The response of faith to the free promise of salvation.

What did the Lord say to the woman at the well?  “If you knew the gift of God!”

The woman had rebuffed the Messiah at first, because He made a request she didn’t think she could deal with.  She couldn’t fully grasp what He was asking her.  She had her ideas about how she fit into the world.  And this interaction with Christ fell outside those ideas. If only we knew the gift of God!

Instead, we waste our time thinking thoughts like:  I’m a loser, because I don’t have very many facebook friends.  Or:  I’m not worth anything, because I’m fat.  I’m not cool, because I only have an iPhone 4.  I suck, because I can’t cook, I can’t jump, I can’t attract attention at parties.

No!  If we only knew the gift of God, the promise of salvation.  He is saying to us:  I died for you, at the exact weight you are now, with the exact number of facebook friends you have right now!  You don’t need to be any thinner, or have any more facebook friends, for me to love you.  I suffered agony and died for you exactly as you are—I suffered that much, and died that miserably, precisely to show you how much I want you with me in heaven.

So, please, for a minute, says the Lord, just forget your diet and your job and your husband and your wife and your children and your parents and your neighbor and your car and your business and your dog and your cat and your homework and your resume and your money and your apps and your DVR—forget it all for a minute. And believe that your Maker has suffered and died on the cross out of love for you.

StA St Patrick window

St. Patrick window in St. Andrew’s transcept

The Kingdom of God will be given to a people that will produce its fruit. (Matthew 21:43)

A people that will produce the fruit of the Kingdom of God. Maybe the Lord referred here to the sons and daughters of Ireland.  Who have peopled the ends of the earth with Guiness-drinking U2 fans.

St. Patrick’s Day is not a bad day to spend watching four or five college basketball games in a row.  But, of course, the best thing is: to consecrate ourselves anew in our alliance with God–which is what we do when we celebrate Holy Mass.

newly renovated St. Patrick’s in New York

The triune God made an irrevocable covenant with the sons and daughters of Abraham, based on one simple thing:  Abraham’s pure faith.

Before Moses–and way before they renovated St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York–God established this covenant of faith.  Abraham, full of faith, awaited the Messiah.  And he rejoiced when the Christ finally came.

St. Patrick expressed the pure faith of Abraham and the mystery of Christ with an eloquence that made Ireland a fertile ground for Christianity.

And the faith has spread from Ireland to the four corners of the earth. It’s no fluke that we have a large stained-glass window of St. Patrick in our church. If Irish men and women hadn’t come to Roanoke in the late nineteenth century, we wouldn’t have a St. Andrew’s.

We can rest assured that St. Patrick takes a great interest in helping us get to heaven, one day at a time. Today he himself died, 1,524 years ago. St. Patrick is more interested in helping us get to heaven than he is in turning anyone’s beer green. I guess he is mildly interested in helping the Notre Dame basketball team. His help got them past Princeton yesterday. We’ll see how interested St. Patrick is tomorrow, against West Virginia.

Anyway: faith. St. Patrick lived and died for the Christian faith. Let’s live that faith patiently and lovingly, in his honor. We never got a dispensation from Bishop DiLorenzo, so we have to live our faith today by abstaining from corned beef, and sticking to tomato soup with soda bread instead. Praised be the Lord!

More on the Essential Fact

At daily Mass on Saturday, the day before the third Sunday of Lent, we will read the Parable of the Prodigal Son. After that: only three weeks till Palm Sunday!

Let’s focus on this: Christ came to conquer death. To die as a man and rise again as a man. CNN can come and go; brackets can get filled out and busted. But this is the essential fact. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house, there are many dwelling places.” We live a mortal life in a sinful world, to be sure. But, fundamentally, we live in the Father’s house. And each of us has his or her own place in that house, no matter what—because of Christ’s conquest of death.

resurrectionWe read in the gospel at today’s Mass that Lazarus would gladly have eaten the scraps that fell from Dives’ table. Lazarus did not demand a widescreen hd smart tv. Lazarus did not style himself as some kind of high-rolling tycoon. He simply wanted his just portion of food.

But he did not get it. Because Dives did style himself a high-rolling tycoon and did demand a widescreen hd smart tv and did not concern himself with his fellowman.

Then death came for them both. And with death came justice.

Tomorrow at Holy Mass we will read a parable about how the Father built a fruitful vineyard with plenty of dwelling places, for his grapes to grow and for His children to reap the fruits. He sent His Son to collect His just portion. ( I guess the just portion of the Creator can only be our peaceful, worshipful love, right?) But they killed the Son and heir.

See the picture here? The Father wills peace, harmony, human co-operation. The Father wills the fruitfulness of His children. The Father reigns over a kingdom not of scarcity, nor of selfish luxury—but of tranquil, beautiful sufficiency for everyone. The Son fulfills the will of the Father perfectly. And, in this fallen world, it leads to His death.

When rich Dives cried out from hell, begging Abraham to send someone back from the dead to teach the world a lesson, Abraham demurred. ‘God already tried to teach the world a lesson! Didn’t He form a covenant and seal it with His life-giving love? How hard is it to obey the Ten Commandments? No more warnings.’

But, as we will read Saturday: Even without the warning that Dives begged Abraham to send, something managed to get through to the prodigal son. Something penetrated his soul, as he gazed upon the pig-slop that he wished he could feed himself upon. He languished in the muck, in this fallen world. But, somehow, he found a way to stand on the stone which the builders rejected. The stone which the builders rejected is Christ, the Prince of Peace, Who came seated on a donkey into Jerusalem, prepared to reign with love. But they rejected Him and killed Him.

The prodigal son managed to stand on that stone somehow, and he thought to himself, “In my father’s house, there are many dwelling places! There’s one for me.” And the father said, “This son of mine was dead, but now he lives!”

Christ conquered death. He conquered death with something. It’s the same mysterious something that somehow moved the heart of the prodigal son towards the truth of God.

Christ conquered death with the very life that the Father freely wills to give us. Christ conquered death with the Father’s gift of life. Abraham would not send a warning back from beyond the grave. But Christ did not hesitate to return from the grave with a gift. The gift of the fruitful life of the eternal springtime of God.

First and Second Regeneration

full_moon_2

Purim moon tonight. One more cycle to the holy Pasch.

On two occasions during Lord Jesus’ earthly life, the Father spoke out from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son!” At Christ’s Baptism. And at His Transfiguration.

Holy Baptism. One of the seven… sacraments. The sacrament of regeneration. God generated us in the first place, in the Garden of Eden. When Satan tempted us, we fell, and we became the sinful, mortal human race that we are. Then God sent His beloved Son to re-generate us.

We enter into the re-generation process through Holy Baptism. When we get baptized into Christ, everything starts fresh–human purity restored, an open-ended friendship with God begins.

Gerard David TransfigurationYou know that Lent exists primarily as the final period of preparation for adults who will be baptized during the night before Easter. Lent primarily means the final stage of study and purification for non-Christians about to become Christians. The ancient People of God passed dry-shod through the Red Sea and marched on, toward the Promised Land; Lent exists primarily for us to integrate the stranger and the sojourner among us into our nation, the pilgrim Church.

Lent also exists to remind us already-baptized Christians about what happened to us at the font. God regenerated us there, to live as His friends, as the children of His household. We need to reach into the depths of our souls to rediscover the always-new, always-fresh presence of Christ’s truth and life. When we were baptized into Him, Jesus claimed us as His forever.

We already-baptized people, as we reach into these lovely interior depths during Lent, usually find that we need to be re-cleansed by the baptismal water. And that’s as easy as… going to confession! One ancient name for the sacrament of Confession is… second Baptism.

But, speaking of second things—what about the second time the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son!” The gospel we read at Holy Mass every second Sunday of Lent. When the Lord’s body shone with brilliant divine light, transfigured. At that moment, the human regeneration accomplished by Christ, usually invisible to our eyes, was revealed.

St. Thomas Aquinas says that Christ’s Baptism in the Jordan River was the sacrament of our first regeneration. And Christ’s Transfiguration is the sacrament of our second regeneration. Our bodily resurrection. When Christ comes again, in the glory He revealed at the Transfiguration, sin and Satan and death will no longer have any power over us. According to God’s own design, we will shine then like the stars in the sky.

Solidarity

Gospel reading at today’s Holy Mass seems eerily familiar.  We just heard it a Sunday Mass 3 ½ weeks ago. Lord Jesus explaining the Ten Commandments.

Christian morality all begins with the fundamental truth: “I am the Lord, your God.”  That sentence is enough, really, to indicate all the demands of Christian morality.  The Sermon on the Mount just spells things out.

piusxii

Do not murder, do not despise, do not yell at people. Do not nurse so much as the smallest grudge.

Why?  Because God will judge justly. He is the Lord our God. He is everybody’s God.  Judging other people’s souls is above our pay-grade.  We are much better suited to kneeling down and begging God for mercy, for me personally and for the whole human race.

Also: the Lord, our God, will provide. He provides what we need.   So we don’t have to fight amongst ourselves.  We don’t have to contend for what we think we ought to have, to wrench it out of the hands of someone else.  God will give us our sufficient portion.  Our job is to be friends, as best we can.

The Catholic buzzword is “solidarity.” Might be a buzzword, but it’s also a real thing. Pope Pius XII put it like this:

The law of human solidarity and charity, dictated and imposed both by our common origin and by the equality in rational nature of all men, whatever nation they belong to. This law is sealed by the sacrifice of redemption offered by Jesus Christ on the altar of the Cross to his heavenly Father, on behalf of sinful humanity.

We are in this together. We are sinners together. We need Christ together. And we can and do successfully work together and accomplish great things together! When we have the humility to listen respectfully to each other, think of each other’s well-being, and learn to love each other. All of us have this in common: we are perfectly lovable shambling messes.

May we never think of another person as if he or she were a member of a different species. May we never give up hope on communication and concord. May I never forget that one thing, and one thing only, keeps me from going to hell like I deserve: God’s mercy.

And God’s extends that same exquisite mercy to even the smelliest, shrillest, nastiest, most altogether insufferable people in the world. So I had better do the same thing. Since I am one of the smelly, shrill, nasty, insufferable people.

Ask and You Shall Receive the good Holy Spirit

cropped-me-with-pope-jp-ii.jpg

on my way down to kiss the ring of the fisherman, 3/9/00

Seventeen years ago today, I assisted at Mass with Pope St. John Paul II. He welcomed seminarians into his little chapel in the papal apartment every morning. Room enough for about 30 people, with half of them standing along the back wall. I’ll never forget how we got ushered in there at 7am, hushed, after passing through a chintzy metal detector and going up an old elevator—and there he was, kneeling in front of the altar, preparing to vest for Mass. Afterwards, we got to meet him in the library outside the chapel, and he encouraged us in our service to Christ.

On that day–March 9, 2000–the sun shone through the crisp Roman air. Spring was springing–just like it is here, in what I like to think of as the second-most-beautiful city in the world, Roanoke, Va.

This weather reminds us of the ancient origins of our English word for the 40 days before Easter. The word comes from “lengthen,” because the days get longer. “Lent” literally means “springtime.”

Which is why, when the Lord tells us, “Ask, and you shall receive,” we immediately blurt out: “Please! No snow this weekend!” He promised that He would lavish “good things” on those who pray. Snow ain’t no good thing.

st john paul iiBut, speaking of those “good things:” again we must briefly contend with a slight discrepancy in what our Lord said on two different occasions.

As we read at today’s Holy Mass, St. Matthew recorded the Lord, during the Sermon on the Mount, promising “good things” to those who pray. But when St. Luke recorded Christ’s teachings on prayer, He quoted Him as promising the Holy Spirit to those who ask.

So is it “good things” or “the Holy Spirit?”

Come on, people. This apparent discrepancy hardly poses the kind of tricky challenge we faced yesterday, when we had to clear up what the “sign of Jonah” was. This one is easy by comparison. After all, what thing could be as good as the Holy Spirit? The original Goodness from which all things flow?

So, if it be His will that snow fall this weekend, on the very night when we lose an hour’s sleep, then so be it. We can take it. God’s will be done.

By the day seventeen years ago when I had the privilege of kissing the fisherman’s ring on his finger, St. John Paul II had grown old and thoroughly enfeebled. His vigorous youth–when he hiked, and camped out, and said Mass on the back of a kayak for his college students–had vanished.

But he rejoiced in the Lord nonetheless. He rejoiced in the divine will. He rejoiced in the great mystery of Christ crucified, in the springtime–the mystery by which a spring will come that will never fade.

 

What Exactly is the Sign of Jonah?

jonah sistine chapel

Jonah by Michelangelo

 

We might ask for a sign from God. But no sign will be given to this generation, except the sign of Jonah.

Okay. But what exactly is “the sign of Jonah?” There seems to be a slight discrepancy. After all…

a. We read in Luke that the Lord says that “Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites.” As we read in the book of Jonah, the prophet went to the huge city and preached repentance for their sins.

But:

b. we read in Matthew that the Lord says that “Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.”

So is the “sign of Jonah” his preaching repentance in Nineveh? Or is it his little sojourn in his buddy the whale’s belly? Which is the sign, Lord?

Yes. The answer, as usual, is Yes. I think we touch the heart of the matter here—the matter of Lent, the matter of Christianity. The answer is Yes, when we re-phrase the question about the sign of Jonah. Namely, like this:

How are we supposed to repent? What stimulates repentance? Sometimes we repent because sin has unpleasant effects right now. For instance, dude repents of drinking too much last night, solely because he has a hangover. Or wife repents of being mean to her husband, because he won’t talk to her now.

But relying completely on this kind of stimulus for repentance exposes a soul to the gravest danger. Because the worst sins may not have unpleasant consequences in this pilgrim life. People might grow tired of Father’s tediousness during his sermons and decide to spend Sunday mornings somewhere other than church. Does this cause cold sores, or stiff knees? Does the house get struck by lightning? No, the tv works just fine. No immediate unpleasant consequences.

Charles Bosseron Chambers Sacred Heart of JesusWhat, then, can stimulate me truly to repent?

The one absolutely effective stimulus is: Contemplating Christ crucified and Christ risen.

Christ crucified and risen reveals:

  1. The extent and gravity of my sins and God’s divine love and mercy.
  2. The demands that God’s law makes on me and my ability to achieve a peaceful conscience when I put my faith in Him.

He would have had to suffer this much just for me, if I were the only sinner. And He would willingly have done so, because that’s how much He loves me. God’s justice demands nothing less than the sacrifice of the perfectly innocent Lamb. And He freely offers that sacrifice Himself, so that, when I put myself at His feet, I can rest my soul there, like a child.

First Sunday of Lent Homily, Lectionary Year A

the-fall

Once every three years, we read the account of the Fall of Man at Sunday Mass.  To begin Lent.  We remember that somewhere in the murky past, we human beings had at least one moment of purity, when we enjoyed a better life–a life without all the struggles we now have.

We weren’t always this way.  We did not always lurch through our experiences in such a Homer-Simpson-like manner.  Our hearts did not always start fluttering whenever we see a frozen yogurt machine or a chocolate-chip cookie.  We did not always have such a hard time concentrating on God’s Word, while meanwhile having such an easy time concentrating on why so-and-so should have spoken to me before speaking to that other person—how dare she snub me!

We would still live in that paradise, in that peaceful Garden of a bigger life—if only we human beings did not have such a hopeless penchant for false pride.

“Oh, okay, Mr. Serpent!  You’re saying we human beings actually know better than God?  Really?  Well, we wouldn’t necessarily have thought that…  But if you say so.”

False pride.  True pride would have said to the serpent:  “Wait a minute.  God made us.  He loves us.  He has the best plan.  Maybe we don’t understand His rules perfectly.  But we will understand, in the end.  All will come clear in God’s time.  Meanwhile, we trust our heavenly Father!”

But:  We human beings tend to confuse ourselves with God.  Satan preyed on this.  He tricked us into doubting the heavenly Father’s Providence.  And we fell.

televisionA question:  We know from experience what it’s like to live now after the Fall of Man.  But how could we possibly know anything about what human life would have been like before the Fall?  How can we say what kind of life Adam and Eve had, before they ate the fateful apple?

Anybody know the answer?  In the fullness of time, the un-fallen Eve and the un-fallen Adam gave us a window into what our life was originally meant to be like.  Who brought the Garden of Eden back to the earth?  The Blessed Mother and her Son. Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin enjoyed perfect intimacy with the Creator. That intimacy teaches us about what life was like in the Garden of Eden. And, of course, it teaches us about heaven, too.

Question 2Death.  We fell from grace in the garden, and our mortal nature kicked-in. We are dust, and unto dust we shall return.  Did God punish us by allowing this?

Well, our First Parents succumbed to false pride.  Therefore, all their children inherit human flesh bearing the humiliating mark of inevitable death.  Sounds like punishment.

But maybe death came as a remedy for the Fall?  We lost the peace of perfect friendship with the Creator, and so this pilgrimage comes with daily doubts and struggles.  Death means the end of all this confusion and strife, the human agony that the Fall has caused.  Death means that our “fallen-ness” doesn’t last forever.  Death means the Lord has opened up a doorway that leads to something else, something other than just a life of tv, and failed diets, and paying bills, and never quite getting everything right.

The intimacy of Jesus with the Father.  The hungry man Who feeds on God’s truth says to the tempting devil, “Man lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  The perfectly free, perfectly self-possessed man, united with the Creator, says to the tempter, “We owe our service to God alone, and we must not put His Providence to the test.”

christ-fastingNow, God may test us.  He may give us an unusually hard Lent.  A terribly frustrating Lent.  A Lent of good intentions that limp along lamely, well short of the mark.  If such be the Lent that the Lord has a mind to give us, so be it.  We will trust in His love and His mercy.  We will try to die to our own false pride.

If the Lord uses this Lent to draw us into a dark night of the soul, and we don’t feel His presence, and any good and hopeful future seems a long way off—we will praise and bless Him for it.  Nothing draws us closer to God than when He demands that we live by pure faith, without any consolations in this world.

Each of us has his or her own particular problems.  But we all have one problem in common:  We are members of the fallen human race.  And the Lord offers us all a common solution to our problem:  Faith.  Faith in Jesus Christ and faith in the heavenly Father Who, out of pure love, sent His eternally begotten Son to live a human life, so that we sinful human beings could get to heaven.

We want the intimacy with our Creator that we lost when our First Parents fell, the intimacy that we hope to have in the heaven that Jesus won for us. Indeed, we do have that intimacy even now—when the Spirit leads us stumblingly out into the desert, into the dark cloud of pure Christian faith.