So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The 'Amen' of Lent

Duc in altum | CS 2016

During Advent we are reminded that Mary's 'Amen' led to the Incarnation and birth of the Saviour. Eve, you may recall, was taken from the side of Adam. Jesus, the new Adam, received His human flesh from His Mother, Mary, the new Eve. Christ took upon Himself the sin of the old Adam and destroyed sin and death.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.—2 Corinthians 5:21
God did not impose Himself on Mary. He required her free 'yes', her consent, so that Christ would be born, having received from Mary His human flesh. Likewise, God does not impose Himself upon us; He loves our consent into being. He receives our love, works through our love and multiplies its effects or influence. Wonder at the love God has for us! He invites our free choice to respond to His gift of eternal life. Those who respond to His call with fidelity He gives the grace to grow in holiness, the grace to participate in the very divine life of the One God in Three Persons, the communion of the Most Holy Trinity.

Are we willing to give God our hearts and flesh, our very lives, so that Christ can be born in us so that we may bear Him to a broken world that so desperately needs His mercy and love?

This Lent, perhaps we can find additional moments when we can offer a 'yes' to God's invitation to love our neighbour and to offer corporal and spiritual works of mercy to our brothers and sisters to involve them in the love of God.

God through twelve weak apostles changed the world. Those same Apostles, save two—St. John who lived to a ripe old age and who left us his sublime account of the Holy Gospel; and Judas, who ended his life in despair—all died a martyr's death for love of God and man. The apostles followed in the footsteps of their Master. Through their faithful witness and the faithful witness of all the saints, God offers the saving news of His Gospel.

How do we multiply our 'yeses' to God? By acknowledging dependence upon God for all things good, true and beautiful, and giving thanks for the same blessings. With every acknowledgement of the blessing of God in our lives, God improves and refines the disposal of our hearts and minds to His will. God seeks our cooperation. With the help of God, we become more transparent to His light.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.—St. Matthew 5:14
Now, if we have lots of pain and misery in our lives, there might be a lot of distractions that can inhibit our ability to find the good and give thanks for it. We need God's grace to live lives of heroic virtue. Another way, then, that we can multiply our acts of surrender to God's will is to place our lives in God's hands, so-to-speak, to ask for the graces we need—and which are proper to our station in life—to live lives that are pleasing to God. A married couple may ask for wisdom to raise their children as disciples of Jesus Christ; a single person may ask for the grace to give his or her time in service to others. A priest may ask for the grace to pray with greater fervour; a nun the grace to pray unceasingly. A teacher may consider asking for the grace of patience; a person who is ill the grace of healing or the grace to endure whatever trials may come with unfailing hope and joy.
You don’t ask too much from God, you ask too little.—Dr. Margarett Schlientz
If we are to give up anything this Lent, may it be some thing or some behaviour which, set aside, both symbolizes our intention to remove obstacles to God's grace and enables docility to the Holy Spirit to help us to say 'yes' to God with greater depth and breadth. We can, for example, offer our weaknesses to God Who, we are assured, is strong in us when we are weak. As Saint Paul reminds:
(T)o keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.—2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Never underestimate God's ability and willingness to answer prayers. He answers prayers in a manner that is best for us and according to a schedule that brings about His Kingdom of love so that as many souls as possible who freely embrace His invitation will be saved. We may not fully understand God's ways, but we can savour the fact that God loves us so much that He involves us in His plan of love—the love which brings many souls to eternal joy.
Take this, all of you, and drink from it,
for this is the chalice of my Blood,
the Blood of the new and eternal covenant,
which will be poured out for you and for many
for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this in memory of me.
—Roman Missal
Eucharist and Penance

Christians stay close to Jesus Who is sublimely present in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life. The Holy Eucharist is the bread of life that sustains the life of God in us. How appropriate, then, that we should want to be purified by God through the Sacrament of Penance so that we may stand in His presence and kneel in adoration to receive His sacred Body and Blood. Lent, then, is the perfect time to intensify our surrender to Jesus and to walk the path of humility.

To enjoy the eternal life that God offers we must trust Him and know that, when we love God and neighbour in the way Jesus shows us, we are near to Him. We need but ask for the grace to be faithful and God will send us His Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth and love. If we take up our cross, God will make His home in us. If we fall, we can reach out to God through the Sacrament of Penance (Confession). He is there waiting to embrace us and restore us to His friendship.

So then, if you find it difficult to take up your cross, ask for God's help to do so, and let that cross be your 'yes' to His love and grace and mercy.

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