by | Mar 2, 2024 | Presence

“Anyone who entrusts himself to faith becomes aware that [two sides to this dogma of the last judgment] exist: the radical character of the grace that frees helpless man and, no less, the abiding seriousness of the responsibility that summons man day after day.

Both together mean that the Christian enjoys, on the one hand, the liberating, detached tranquility of him who lives on that excess of divine justice known as Jesus Christ. … At the same time the Christian knows, however, that he is not free to do whatever he pleases, that his activity is not a game that God allows him and does not take seriously.” (Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity via RC Spirituality).


Our first readings in mass this past week have been violent. We had the people of Judah plotting against the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 18:18), the sons of Israel plotting against their little brother Joseph (Genesis 37:12-13, 17-28), and Isaiah telling us if we aren’t obedient to the Lord “the sword shall consume you” (Isaiah 1:20). Jeremiah reminded us that we either trust in ourselves and other people or we trust in the Lord, and the Lord will reward us “according to their [our] ways” (Jeremiah 17:10). We finally see relief from Micah who recounts God’s faithfulness to His people and begs Him to shepherd us once again. All of these are the foretelling of the Good Shepherd, Jesus the Christ.

Meanwhile, the Gospel readings showed us how Jesus fulfills these. Through baptism we are now God’s children who, objectively, have rights to inherit Heaven. But there is a catch…we must live like God’s children for the measure by which we have measured will be used to measure our due (Luke 6:38). He warns us to obey the scribes and pharisees but not to act like them (Matthew 23:1-12). Then Jesus lays out His Father’s plan quite precisely: He will be mocked, scourged, condemned, crucified, then rise to Heaven (Matthew 20:18-19). He further teaches of this with parables: of the rich man and poor Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), of the landowner’s murderous tenants (Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46). Just as Micah had recounted the many ways the Lord has loved His people, we have Jesus explaining the steadfast love of the prodigal son’s Father (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32). And as in the times of His forefathers, Jesus and His disciples will undergo physical, mental, and spiritual scourging. Except for the few who followed Him along the way of His passion, and the three who stood at the foot of His cross, the rest of the flock will abandon their Shepherd and one will even betray Him.

Many of us have abandoned our Lord in our past and experienced first-hand His infinite mercy. Yet are we prepared to stay with Him now in His passion and crucifixion? Once Easter arrives, will we live our lives for the better or return to our old ways?

Some people fear watching Jesus carry His cross. Simon of Cyrene was reluctant too because his focus was on the suffering. What if he instead had focused on God next to him? The suffering wouldn’t just have new meaning; he would see it for its true meaning. Carrying Christ’s cross with Him, side-by-side, is a blessing. It is a passion of two hearts, burning with love for each other, manifesting in deep sympathy each for the other. Each unwilling to stop the suffering because it is necessary. It is through this suffering together that love deepens. So too when we help others carry their cross. We refer to family and friends as our ‘loved ones’ for a reason. But how reluctant we are to suffer with them, and how easy it is to abandon them in this society in which people and relationships are disposable.

“You are part of a play whose full script you do not have, with a stage you did not set.” (Fr. Matthew Kauth, Imitation of St. Joseph, p. 190)

Yes, my life indeed is a play on a stage I did not set with only a few pages of the script to follow. But most of that script is God’s Word in Holy Writ and instruction through Tradition. I ‘just’ need to follow the script. Looking back at my past life, the pages of the script which have already been revealed to me, I can now see it through a new lens because I have more of this script in hand.  God brings me healing and understanding. And this increases capacity to suffer with Him.

It is Satan who has already accused us, demanding God permit Him to sift the chaff from the wheat (Luke 22:31) but Christ intercedes for us (Luke 22:32; Romans 8:34). Thanks to God now is not the time. But what if tomorrow is? Are you ready?

“[I]t is the Soul which gives reality to Penance. The Gospel teaches this by the examples it holds out to us of the Prodigal Son, of Magdalene, of Zaccheus, and of St. Peter. The Soul, then, must be resolved to give up every sin; she must heartily grieve over those she has committed; she must hate sin; she must shun the occasions of sin. … The Christian should, therefore, during Lent, study to excite himself to this repentance of heart, and look upon it as the essential foundation of all his Lenten exercises. Nevertheless, he must remember that this spiritual penance would be a mere delusion, were he not to practice mortification of the Body. Let him study the example given him by his Savior, who grieves, indeed, and weeps over our sins; but he also expiates them by his bodily sufferings. … How great, then, is the illusion of those Christians, who forget their past sins, or compare themselves with others whose lives they take to have been worse than their own; and thus satisfied with themselves, can see no harm or danger in the easy life they intend to pass for the rest of their days! … Is not the life they have led since that time a sufficient proof of their solid piety? And why should anyone speak to them about God’s Justice and Mortification? … such persons as these, gradually and unsuspectingly, lose the Christian spirit.” (Dom Prosper Gueranger via Institute of Catholic Culture)

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊


(Image by Luis Quintero from Pexels)

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