The Prophetic Voice of the Lord

Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent
Lectionary: 238

Reading 1 Daniel  3:25, 34-43

Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud:

“For your name’s sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever,
or make void your covenant.
Do not take away your mercy from us,
for the sake of Abraham, your beloved,
Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one,
To whom you promised to multiply their offspring
like the stars of heaven,
or the sand on the shore of the sea.
For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation,
brought low everywhere in the world this day
because of our sins.
We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader,
no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense,
no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.
But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;
As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks,
or thousands of fat lambs,
So let our sacrifice be in your presence today
as we follow you unreservedly;
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we pray to you.
Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.
Deliver us by your wonders,
and bring glory to your name, O Lord.”

For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. As we sit in our living room watching the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on t.v., listening to the readings from the daily Missal, I am struck once again at the truly prophetic nature of God and His Holy Mother Church. With the fast pace in which this ‘virus’ seems to be traveling over all of the continents of our world, our president has once again imposed new guidelines for the citizens of the United States. Today, many of the bishops have made the difficult decision to close the doors to all the Catholic Masses as well, and we the faithful are left to watch the Mass on television and pray at home. Thankfully, we have EWTN, where the daily Mass is being shown several times a day, so we are still able to follow the daily readings and make a ‘Spiritual Communion’ in which to offer to the Lord.

But it just feels so different... everything about this is causing my gut to turn and topple. Last night, I was watching the news late into the evening, that coupled with a glass of iced tea, propelled me late into the wee hours of the morning, going over everything in my head.  One of the most damaging things I did during this time, was to goggle Wuhan China. Now, I am not even sure if what I viewed was the real deal or not, but it was eerie. There are street cameras all over the city, and nobody is seen in the streets. Wuhan China looks like a ghost town. It is very unsettling, to say the least.

Every time I was roused from sleep, I sat in the living room and prayed. There is such an unsettling feeling to those long hours of night when fear is attempting to gnaw at your soul… So there I sat, clinging to my rosary beads. I offered the Blessed Mother my simple prayers asking her to intercede and ask the Lord to comfort me in this time of distress. The hours dragged on. The pit of my stomach felt like a hollow void filling with anguish and (gasp!) fear, as the hours drug on, I could feel it spreading to my chest. I could actually feel my heart thumping in my chest. I prayed harder. One prayer in particular that I prayed was the final prayer from the Divine Mercy Chaplet…

Eternal God, in Whom Mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us, and increase Your Mercy in us, so that in difficult moments, we might not despair, nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your Holy Will, Which is Love and Mercy Itself … Amen

It wasn’t until sometime just after 4 a.m. that I was able to fall asleep. It had been a difficult night. But, God gave my tired body, and my weary soul comfort. And yet, there are still so many unanswered questions about this whole thing. And if for but a moment, I begin to take my eyes off of God,  I will wish that I hadn’t… for it is a frightful picture they are painting. The future of returning to a normal life seems to vanish the longer I listen to the news media peddle their fear. I know better. But lack of sleep makes me weak. ‘Uncharted territories’… make me uneasy… I know all of this… I have been here before… this vacuum of fear that threatens everything I have ever held close and dear. But that is why, this reading, this Word of God is so prophetic… If we calm those voices inside our heads, and place our  trust in the Lord, He will calm our hearts, and His Mercy will wash over us. Trust no man… Trust only in the Lord… God bless you my friends, stay strong.

“So let our sacrifice be in your presence today
as we follow you unreservedly;
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we pray to you.
Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.
Deliver us by your wonders,
and bring glory to your name, O Lord.”

 Oh Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place my Trust in You.

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In These Uncertain Times, Trust in the Certainty of God

                                                                Jeremiah 17: 5-10
Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6)He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7)“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8)He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” 9)The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it? 10)“I the LORD search the mind and try the heart, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.”
Once again, as the world continues to crumble under the weight of this new virus, and any thoughts of normalcy seem like a thing of the past, we find ourselves dumbfounded by the president’s words, that the borders of our country are being closed in an effort to curb the spread of this brand new ‘virus.’ We are left a bit numb by the domino effect of businesses and schools closing one after the other, in all of our towns. Many of us can not even fathom March without the usual basketball madness… a madness we all could enjoy… not like this madness… And then there are the cancellations of all the other sporting events throughout the nation. Many of us can’t believe what is going on and don’t quite know what to do. We are unsure of what to do and feeling a sense of loss because our ‘normal’ is being interrupted.  Not only are we dealing with loss of entertainment, but for some, there is a loss of income … This can be quite difficult, but mostly, we are suffering because our sense of peace that comes from living our days in our ‘relative routines‘ has been shattered.
Many people are upset, some think that all of this is going too far… In reality, what we should be doing is using these ‘freed up’ hours spending more time in prayer and listening to the word of God. It is the Lenten season, after all. A time for prayer, fasting and alms giving. If you look at the daily Mass readings, once again we are met with the prophetic nature of God’s Holy Word. How long will it take you to realize that preparing yourself for the pandemic is not the time to neglect your daily prayers?
Even when we see the throngs of people buying up all the toilet paper and disinfectants, we need to stay calm. Stay away from the chaos of the crowds and don’t allow yourself to lose hope. Don’t be sucked into the fear. Even though we might be tempted to feeling alone or panicked, we mustn’t fret. God is speaking to us. Just as He always has. He is reminding us of who we are … and who we are to Trust. When the ways of man spin in turmoil or chaos, we must recollect our hearts, and hanging onto the frayed ends of our sanity we must quiet our hearts and our minds so as that we are not distracted. For it is only then, that we will encounter the peace of the Lord.
He is waiting for us with His mercy. Remember, He told St, Faustina that His heart is a well spring of Divine Mercy that He wishes to wash us with. It is a message that we cannot continue to ignore. Trusting in God’s Mercy is the only thing that will save us.
It seems that we have begun to spiral…. reeling towards the madness of a godless world. For many, there is no distinction between truth and lies. There is so much deceit in the hearts of evil men, that we don’t know what to believe about the progression of this virus. The stories of the severity of this virus seem to change from moment to moment… the news stories seem to just be stoking the flames… and rallying people into a frenzy. It is hard to believe anything you hear on the news… it feels so political so scripted and rehearsed … There is just something about all of this that feels like the truth is being hidden from the public.
You must remember, that even if is as bad as your worst fears, do not give into the temptation to be overcome with fear.  Do not be afraid. The devil lives in our fears. He is a creature of opportunity, and he will come to us in those dark moments when we start to put our reliance in ourselves. Slow down and remember that God is in control. We must stop and listen to our Loving Father. We must Trust in His Love for us. And we must know, we must believe that He will never abandon us to the world. He will be the strength we need to get us through these coming days.
I’d like to finish with the closing prayer of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, it is one of my favorites and has gotten me through those dark hours of night when it seems the morning sun will never come. Stay strong my friends, and remember, your strength is of the Lord.
Eternal God, in Whom Mercy is endless and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible,
look kindly upon us and increase Your Mercy in us,
so that in difficult moments we might not despair nor become despondent,
but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your holy Will,
Which is Love and Mercy Itself. Amen. 

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Approach Each Day With Trust in the Lord

The Gospel (in Isaiah) – Fruitland Community Church                                                        Reading 1 : Isaiah 1-10, 16-20

Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah!

Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.

Come now, let us set things right,
says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be crimson red,
they may become white as wool.
If you are willing, and obey,
you shall eat the good things of the land;
But if you refuse and resist,
the sword shall consume you:
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!

As I sat in Mass this morning and listened to the first reading, I could not help but to think that yet here was another instance when the readings  from the daily Missal were ‘perfectly timed‘ for such a day as these. For just outside the safety of my town, the world is crumbling under the pressure from the ‘novel‘ corona-virus that is wrecking havoc on huge sections of the world,  whole countries at a time. Dear readers, let us not for a moment, forget who we are as Christians and why we were made in the first place.

As the fears grow, it may be hard to remember that we were created for far greater glories.  This is difficult to remember, when everyone around us is running in a panic  and fear. As the hype tends to spread faster than the truth, the uncertainty of it all easily mixes the fact with fiction. Do not be alarmed. All of this will pass. We do not know what the outcome is going to be, or how this will affect us here at home, but we must look to the Lord.We must pray and we must place our trust in Him… even when everyone is telling us our certain demise is just around the bend.

We must remember that our life here, is not all there is. For when we die, it is not the end of the line, but rather merely the beginning. This place… this world, is not our eternal home, we are pilgrims on a journey, we must remember that in this life… we are just passing through. The world is not our reward. When we think about the possibility of our death or the death of someone close to us, it may get a bit scary, (who am I kidding...) it may get downright petrifying…. and there may be moments when we are tempted to run with the mobs and buy our bunkers and fill them full, but we must fight that temptation. Even with all the nightly news and their comparisons to the black plague or the Spanish flu, we mustn’t fall into the trap of doom. And though we don’t yet know how the history books will ultimately compare this outbreak to the past diseases and plagues that ravaged the world’s population. We mustn’t allow ourselves to be led by the panic, we must remain calm and not become the fool. Sure we must prepare our homes and our families… after all, we have a duty to protect those who are entrusted to our care..

However, we can allow ourselves to think back to the early 1900’s, when Our Lady of Fatima appeared to the three children in a small town in Portugal, and gave them a warning. She showed them hell and told them that Russia and the whole world must be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. She told the children many things and showed them what would befall mankind if he did not turn away from sin and be converted.

There is no denying it. We have been warned. God is mercy, yet He is just. He will not continue to be mocked. We must not allow this corona-virus to cause us to lose our soul. So many people are running out and buying everything. They have become hoarders of medical and sanitizing supplies. So many people are not even hoarding so as to protect their families, but rather, they are buying all the supplies so as to resell them at a much higher profit. Sanitizing gels and wipes will not cleanse a hardened soul… There is no charity in the hearts of greedy men. There is no love. No conversion to the Lord

As we apprehensively approach the coming waves of the virus spreading throughout the U.S. and perhaps being faced with our own quarantine, let us not lose ourselves in the chaotic storm, or we shall risk more than just losing our lives. We risk losing our souls. Stay holy my friends, pray for protection and trust in the Lord.

 

 

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First Friday of the Month During Lent

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Years ago, when I returned to the Catholic Church after having been away  for many years, one of the first things that impressed me… inspired awe in my soul, was the First Friday Eucharistic Devotion when it was combined with the agony of the Stations of the Cross during the season of Lent. Back then, I was attending a Church that was still in the process of collecting money to build a permanent structure, so the Masses were celebrated in a ‘parish-hall’ type building.

Having been away from the Catholic Church for over fifteen years, I wasn’t really sure of all the ‘propers’of the Mass. Many things had changed…things had relaxed… and to me, most of those first Masses I attended after coming back, were rather ordinary. They were not like the ones I had remembered from my childhood. For one thing, we sat in chairs instead of pews, and since there were no kneelers, many of the parishioners had long refrained from the posture of kneeling, and even though the Masses were ‘properly’ done, and in fact valid, they didn’t really feel like the  Traditional Catholic Church I remembered from my youth.

Soon after we started attending Mass, Ash Wednesday came and Lent followed. That first smudge of black on my forehead reminded me of where I came from. It was a stark reminder of why we had come back in the first place… I was a sinner in need of God’s guidance. It was a somber realization that, yes, there was something far bigger in control of my life than just fate. And it was during this first Lenten season that I realized that there were Masses celebrated outside of the usual Saturday vigil and Sunday Liturgies. (Yes, I was quite ignorant, and never had heard of First Friday.)

Anyway, to make a rather long story short, the priest used incense during both the Mass and the Eucharistic Adoration. Then bells were rung for the Benediction and by the time we got through the Stations of the Cross, I was in love. The combination of the prayers on my lips, mixed with the fragrant smoke wafting about my head, ringing with the ancient sounds of the bells, stirred the memories that were buried in my soul. There was an intense depth to the devotions and I could actually feel myself being drawn into the suffering and agony of Christ as we meditated on each station. For the first time in a long time, I realized how Christ had suffered for me. I felt a bit of His love pour over me… even though I had done nothing to deserve It.

As Lent moved on, we continued to pray the Way of the Cross every Friday … Allowing ourselves to be led each week to that painful spot on Calvary. It was heart wrenching, yet very profound.  And I honestly believe that doing this devotion… uniting myself with Christ’s suffering, was actually the start of my reconnecting with a Faith that stretches all the way back to Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary.

If you are looking for a way to live this Lenten season and haven’t yet had a chance to make a First Friday Holy Hour, or to participate in the Stations of the Cross, why not start now? Many parishes offer a First Friday Mass and a Eucharistic Holy Hour devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as well as the Stations. Remember, the First Friday and First Saturday are special devotions which are celebrated every month, but during Lent they give us an opportunity to go deeper into our journey. They allow for us to leave the ordinary of the day behind, and to walk the path with Christ as He carried His Cross to Calvary. It is a very moving devotion, especially if you watch Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion… it adds an extra dose of intense. But even without that, if it is done with reverence and focus on Christ’s suffering … it can be a very moving experience, allowing us to unite ourselves more fully with Christ’s suffering. Through the great mystery of God and His goodness, when we  travel the Way of the Cross with Jesus, He gives us the grace that we need to embrace our own crosses.

Since Fridays during Lent are  days of abstinence and penance… adding these traditional devotions can help us set the mood for seeking God’s forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance, thus allowing us to yet again turn away from our sins and the distractions of the world and make room in our hearts for what truly matters in the end. These devotions … these Ways of the Cross, can actually help us to find our path to heaven. Stay holy my friends, let’s make this a great Lent. God bless.

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Prayers for Protection Against Illness

As the world holds it’s collective breath and watches how quickly the coronavirus is spreading in China and several other countries, we are constantly being bombarded with updates as to how fast it is progressing worldwide. We have just recently heard how it has reached our shores. There are several locations in the United States, and even a couple of confirmed deaths, with more and more cases being tallied each new day.

And although we need to stay aware… be vigilant, as they like to say... Do not allow your hearts to fall into panic. There is a lot of fear mongering going on right now. It sells, and many of these all-day, all-night news channels are in the business of selling. Their focus is on what sells… not so much, on what informs. Even without the news of this new coronavirus, they have gotten a bit out of hand. It seems that every thing has to be sensationalized so as to draw in as many viewers as they can. As we watch the news, we must remember to not get caught up in the chaos that is being peddled, for that is where the devil reigns. We have got to stay calm and not forget that we are men and women of the Lord.

Dear readers, it is times like these that we must give God reign in our souls. Even if the virus comes close to our homes, and it feels as if the walls are crumbling down all around we must strive to maintain the peace of our souls. And as we all are aware… this is only possible with God and prayer.

Remember, the faithful have faced countless difficult times before and the Church has helped many a soul to find peace in the midst of a world seemingly overtaken by disease or violence. This turmoil is nothing new. It is not a novelty belonging to our generation. If we look back into the Church’s history we can easily find numerous saints who have helped the faithful who turned to them during such difficult times. Two such saints called upon for their intercession during times of plagues and illness were Saint Roch and Saint Rosalie.

 

St. Roch was born into a noble family. There is an account that he miraculously had a red cross on his breast at birth. At the age of 20 he gave his fortune away. He assisted plague victims throughout Italy, miraculously curing people with the sign of the cross. He contracted the disease and  survived with the help of a dog. Mistaken for a spy, he was sentenced to prison and spent the rest of his life there.

According to tradition, an angel appeared in St. Roch’s cell after his death. The angel said that those who invoked his intercession would be cured of the plague.

 

 

 

Prayer to St. Roch

O Blessed Saint Roch,
Patron of the sick,
Have pity on those
Who lie upon a bed of suffering.

Your power was so great
When you were in this world,
That by the sign of the Cross,
Many were healed of their diseases.

Now that you are in heaven,
Your power is not less.
Offer, then, to God
Our sighs and tears
And obtain for us that health we seek
Through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

(Repeat the following 3 times)

Saint Roch, pray for us,
That we may be preserved
From all diseases of body and soul.

Saint Rosalie is another saint that has shown God’s power over plague’s and illness.  Not much is known about her early life, since her story actually begins about 500 years after her death.

In 1625, the city of Palermo in Sicily, Italy was suffering a terrible plague. She appeared in a vision to a hunter, telling him to go find her remains in a cave. She told him to carry her bones back into the city and to pray and do a procession with the relics. The Italian citizens processed three times with her relics through Palermo. The plague miraculously ended.

St. Rosalie became the patroness of Palermo. A sanctuary stands where the hunter found her remains.

Prayer for the Intercession of St. Rosalie

“Father in heaven, we thank You for the communion of saints so that we can draw near to You through the prayers of St. Rosalie. Through her prayers, help us to remember that our destiny is heaven.

As St. Rosalie gave up all things in this world for the sake of Your Kingdom, through her prayers, may we love more fully Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who together with You and the Holy Spirit are one God forever and ever. Amen.

O God, our Father, mercifully look upon Your people who come to You and grant through the intercession of St. Rosalie, who turned away from earthly delights to the joys of contemplation, that we may be delivered from all harm here on earth and one day be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven.

St. Rosalie, confessor and virgin, we pray to God for our families and friends. Through your powerful prayers, may we obtain health, life, and eternal salvation.

I also pray today for this special need and intention (make your intention known). O glorious virgin and confessor, St. Rosalie, I promise henceforth to remember and follow your example of faith and love. Pray for me and mine.

Amen.”

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1st Sunday of Lent – Don’t Be Surprised by the Devil’s Temptations

Gospel – Matthew 4:1-11

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply,
“It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.
For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you
and with their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus answered him,
“Again it is written,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.”

Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.

Said Another Way: The First Sunday in Lent [Year A ...

Temptation … it is one of the oldest tricks of the devil, and with good reason… it often works! Look at Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden… They were living in paradise. They had everything they wanted. It was all there, free for the taking. God had given them everything they needed. They didn’t have to worry about shelter, food, pain or death …God had provided for them … The way it was ordered, Adam and Eve were sitting pretty … They had nothing to fear… they had it all. And still, the devil slid his way in, and with the slyness of a serpent, he made Eve doubt herself so much, that she doubted God, and then just like that, both Adam and Eve were tempted right out of the Garden of Eden.

As we hear in today’s Gospel, Jesus had been in the desert for forty days. He was tired and He was hungry. And even though He is God made Man… the devil slipped in and tried his best to tempt Him. Can you even begin to imagine the arrogance! God Made Man!! And the devil is still up to his old tricks, still thinking he is as good as God. This just goes to show you the arrogance and the pride of the devil.

These forty days of Lent will be our desert. We will be embarking on a spiritual journey that will hopefully lead us closer to God. We will be fasting and praying and trying to turn away from our sin. We will be tired and some days we will be hungry. It is a noble challenge, but be warned, anytime we try to grow closer to the Lord, the devil will slip in and try his best to discourage or confuse us. He will make us doubt ourselves, just as he did with Eve. He won’t even care that we are toiling away at our conversion. None of that matters to him. He is a creature of opportunity. For many of us, this will be a difficult time, especially, if we even begin to think that we can do Lent without God’s help, without God’s grace. We must rely on the Lord. Even though this next line sounds ridiculous… it is true... We must rely on God to grow closer to God. That is why our prayer life is so important, otherwise we could easily get caught up in the ‘virtuous’ actions and lose our focus of these forty days.

How do we combat the tactics of the evil one? How do we maintain our resolve? Adoration and Mass are two powerful measures that give strength to our soul. Spending time with the Lord during Mass is a sure remedy for dealing with the temptations of the devil. Also, spending time in quite adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist will work wonders for your endurance. Even if it ‘feels’ like nothing is happening... God is working in your soul. But we must stick with it. We must pray… pray… pray. If you don’t know where to start, there are many good books out there that help. The following link will take you to a list of five great books to read for Lent:  https://epicpew.com/5-books-to-read-for-lent/

So, as we enter into the first full week of Lent, do not lose heart or allow yourself to become discouraged or distracted by temptations. The devil is cunning and has had years and years of practice. Stay focused and firm and know that the devil can only tempt us, he can never make us do anything without our consent. He doesn’t have that kind of power. And even if you start to wonder if you can make it through all the way to Easter without giving in… without being tempted….read over that last line in Matthew’s Gospel again, and ask the Lord to give you the strength to do just as He did, and demand that by the power of Jesus’ name, that Satan flee and be gone from you. Stay strong my friends… for Lent has just begun! God bless!

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This First Friday of Lent

First Reading: Isaiah 58: 1-9a

1 Cry, cease not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their wicked doings, and the house of Jacob their sins.

2 For they seek me from day to day, sad desire to know my ways, as a nation that hath done justice, and hath not forsaken the judgment of their God: they ask of me the judgments of justice: they are willing to approach to God.

3 Why have we fasted, and thou hast not regarded: have we humbled our souls, and thou hast not taken notice? Behold in the day of your fast your own will is found, and you exact of all your debtors.

4 Behold you fast for debates and strife. and strike with the fist wickedly. Do not fast as you have done until this day, to make your cry to be heard on high.

5 Is this such a fast as I have chosen: for a man to afflict his soul for a day? is this it, to wind his head about like a circle, and to spread sackcloth and ashes? wilt thou call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 Is not this rather the fast that I have chosen? loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress, let them that are broken go free, and break asunder every burden.

7 Deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the needy and the homeless into thy house: when thou shalt see one naked, cover him, and despise not thy own flesh.

8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall speedily arise, and thy justice shall go before thy face, and the glory of the Lord shall gather thee up.

9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall hear: thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou wilt take away the chain out of the midst of thee, and cease to stretch out the finger, and to speak that which profit not.

With Ash Wednesday behind us, many of us are focusing on our Lenten endeavors. Re-evaluating the game plan… as it were… This year there seems to be a resurgence in the importance of fasting and doing without eating many of things we take for granted on a regular basis. I guess it appeals to those who have always been able to satisfy their every whim. Anyway, I happen to know several young people who seem to be pushing the fasting portion of our Lenten practices to an extreme. For an example, many will be drinking only water, not eating meat, or eggs or cheese and they will be forgoing all snacking between meals in addition to giving up sweets. Some have lists that are so long, they just seem to run on and on. Now all of this is wonderful, up to a point. We have got to remember that not only is Lent a time for renewed repentance, it is also a time of fervently seeking God. Remember, there are three things, three pillars, that the Church has given us to help us during Lent….Prayer, fasting and alms giving… and they go hand in hand. 

As I wrote on Ash Wednesday, there is more to beginning Lent than just getting your ashes, and there is more to these days of Lent than just fasting. We should be using these three pillars of Lenten practices as a formula to help us live a good Lent. Each one of theses pillars will help us to grow closer to the Lord. If we focus too much on the fasting, it turns it into a mere action done in place of seeking out a deeper relationship with the Lord.  We need to realize how important prayer is. When we pray we have a special opportunity to grow in our relationship with God. In the busy of the world, prayer helps us to pause and reflect on what we need to do to grow in virtue and holiness.

Alms giving, the most often neglected pillar is actually a combination of the other two pillars. It combines the sacrifice of fasting with the nature of prayer, since when we give to those in need, it is as if we are giving to God. It is a sacrificial offering, because unlike fasting, we are giving away something which we feel already belongs to us. Many of us don’t have hoards of wealth and to freely give away what we do have, hurts… It can cause us worry, but this is another reason why it is so important. Not only does it offer charity to others, but it causes us to trust in God and detach from earthly things.

These days of Lent should be for us a time to grow in a deeper and more meaningful relationship with the Lord. We should be striving  to live in a way so that our lives become a reflection of Christ. Not only are we called to see Christ in everyone we meet… we are called to be Christ to everyone we meet. We are to be a living reflection of His tender mercy. Our prayers, our fasting and our alms giving will help us with this momentous task. They should be for us a means of becoming less…so that Christ can become more.

It is well to note that doing virtuous actions  cannot replace our relationship with God. We can’t earn our way into heaven by forgoing the candy and the sweets, or by giving away our excess wealth for the admiration of men, but what we can do, is learn by these actions a means of tempering our passions and our pride so that on that fateful of our death, the good Lord will find us worthy of a place in heaven. God bless, my friends.

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