Saturday, March 24, 2012

Devotion for today: Lazarus rises to increase our faith

Scripture for meditation: John 11:3-6, 14-15, 39-43, 53
The sisters sent word to Jesus to inform him, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” Upon hearing this, Jesus said: “This sickness is not to end in death; rather is for God’s glory, that through it the Son of God may be glorified.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus very much. Yet, after hearing that Lazarus was sick, he stayed on where he was for two days more. Finally Jesus said plainly: “Lazarus is dead. For your sakes I am glad I was not there, that you may come to believe.” “Take away the stone,” Jesus directed. Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, it has been four days now; surely there will be a stench!” Jesus replied, “Did I not assure you that if you believed you would see the glory of God displayed?” They then took away the stone and Jesus looked upward and said: “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I know that you always hear me. But I have said this for the sake of the crowd, that they may believe that you sent me.” Having said this, he called loudly, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, bound hand and foot with linen strips, his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus told them, “Untie him, and let him go free.” From that day onward there was a plan afoot to kill him.

St. Peter Chrysologus tells us: On his return from the underworld, Lazarus comes forth from the tomb like death confronting its conqueror, an image of the resurrection to come. Before we can fathom the depths of meaning behind this miracle, we must consider the way in which our Lord raised Lazarus to life. This action appears to us as the greatest of all his signs; we see in it the supreme example of divine power, the most marvelous of all his wonderful works. Our Lord had raised up the daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, but although he restored life to the dead girl, he left the law of death still in force. He also raised the widow’s only son. He halted the bier, forestalled the young man’s burial, arrested the onset of physical decay, but the life he restored had not completely fallen into the power of death. The case of Lazarus was unique. His death and resurrection to life had nothing in common with the other two. Death had already exerted its full power over him, so that in him the sign of the resurrection shone out in all its fullness. I think it is possible to say that if Lazarus had remained only three days in the tomb it would have deprived our Lord’s resurrection of its full significance, since Christ proved himself Lord by returning to life after three days, whereas Lazarus, as his servant, had to lie in the grave for four days before he was recalled. However, let us see if we can verify this suggestion by reading the gospel text further.
His sisters sent a message to Jesus saying, Lord the friend whom you love is sick. By these words they appeal to his affection, they lay claim to his friendship; they call on his love, urging their familiar relationship with him to persuade him to relieve their distress. But for Christ it was more important to conquer death that to cure disease. He showed his love for his friend not by healing him but by calling him back from the grave. Instead of a remedy for his illness, he offered him the glory of rising from the dead.
We are next told that when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he remained where he was for two days. You see how he gives full scope to death. He grants free reign to the grave, he allows corruption to set in. He prohibits neither putrefaction nor stench from taking their normal course. He allows the realm of darkness to seize his friend, drag him down to the underworld, and take possession of him. He acts like this so that human hope may perish entirely and human despair reach its lowest depths. The deed he is about to accomplish may then clearly be seen to be the work of God, not of man.
He waited for Lazarus to die, staying in the same place until he could tell his disciples that he was dead; then he announced his intention of going to him. Lazarus is dead, he said, and I am glad.  Was this a sign of his love for this friend? Not so. Christ was glad because their sorrow over the death of Lazarus was soon to be changed into joy at his restoration to life. I am glad for you sake, he said. Why for their sake? Because the death and raising of Lazarus were a perfect prefiguration of the death and resurrection of the Lord himself. What the Lord was soon to achieve in himself had already been achieved in his servant. This explains why he said to them: I am glad for your sake not to have been there, because now you will believe. It was necessary that Lazarus should die, so that the faith of the disciples might also rise with him from the dead. (Sermon 63: PL 52, 375-377)

My thoughts: God always has a plan. He never allows anything to happen to us, or continue in us, without a purpose. We must believe this. Sometimes it seems as though God is never going to relieve our suffering, erase our problems or grant us our hearts’ desires. Yet we learn from the story of Lazarus that every aspect of his death was part of a plan to increase the faith of those who witnessed the miracle. We must remember that our earthly happiness is not God’s main goal for our lives: it is our eternal happiness,and that of those around us, that matters most to Him. If we are willing to be His suffering servants, and let Him take His time in granting our requests, if at all, then we are willing to let Him use us so that the faith of those around us “might also rise.” We never know the entire story of our own lives. That is why we must trust in God, who does. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Devotion for today: redemptive suffering – futility transformed into fruitfulness

Scripture for meditation: Job 6:1-4
Then Job answered and said: Ah, could my anguish but be measured and my calamity laid with it in the scales, they would now outweigh the sands of the sea! Because of this I speak without restraint. For the arrows of the Almighty pierce me, and my spirit drinks in their poison; the terrors of God are arrayed against me.

Christ declares: Matthew 16:25-27
Jesus then said to his disciples; “If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and begin to follow in my footsteps. Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would a man show if he were to gain the whole world and destroy himself in the process? What can a man offer in exchange for his very self? The Son of Man will come with his Father’s glory accompanied by his angels, according to his conduct.

We conclude our study of Dr. Brook Herbert’s article on redemptive suffering: Jesus enters into suffering with a full knowledge of the extent of the horror that will be imposed upon him in the end to overcome its effects for our benefit. For ourselves, suffering is not often entered into freely; rather, it represents a devastating “tradition” inherent in a fallen world. Christ’s sufferings are compelled by love and endured for love. Our sufferings are compelled by fallenness and endured by our human hopelessness to change them. Thus, if we allow ourselves to be united to Jesus through holy reception of the sacraments, through prayer and study and through loving our neighbors, futility can be transformed into meaning and fruitfulness, as we share in the redemptive purposes of Christ himself. Such is the mystery of grace. We offer nothing but our weakness and receive the dignity of Christ’ redemption. Difficulty in making such an offering also devolves from the fundamental error that to do so will, in some way, lead us out of the circumstances of our sufferings. Yet the offering is never intended to achieve a known end but rather the end that God desires for it. Our only contribution is to “offer” ourselves freely to Christ for his purposes; this contribution, too, is conditioned and compelled by love and only made possible through love. If and when God brings us out of our sufferings, we rejoice and must rejoice, but this deliverance should not be the intended purpose of our offering. A conscious awareness of joy may or may not “come in the morning,” but this gratuitous reversal of fortune is not the motivation of our gift. Suffering is the unmitigated tragedy that ensues from living in a fallen world. It will enter into each of our lives at some point. But equally true is the knowledge that God himself allows such sufferings to come to us. It is this truth that ultimately makes suffering bearable and fruitful for us and for the world that Jesus came to save. God allows suffering to exist in his world, but with fatherly care he never allows us to suffer beyond what is possible to bear. A mature trust in the character of our loving Father allows us to live through suffering with serenity and patience and courage, all in likeness to Christ himself. Such union may not eliminate the pain of suffering, but it does accomplish something even greater. Union with the crucified (and risen!) Christ finally allows us to see how we have never suffered alone, and how none of our lives’ afflictions have ever been without eternal meaning. (Homiletic and Pastoral Review, April 2011, Ignatius Press)

Prayer: Who will grant me, Lord, to find You only, and open all my heart to You, and You as my heart’s desire, so that no man may deceive me, not any creature move me or draw me back, but that You alone speak to me, and I to you, as a lover is wont to speak to his beloved, and a friend to his beloved friend. This is what I pray for, this is what I desire, that I be joined wholly to You, and that I may withdraw my heart from all created things, and that through Holy Communion and the frequent saying of Mass, I may savor and taste eternal things. O Lord God, when shall I be made one with You and wholly melted into Your love, so that I may wholly forget myself? Be in me, and may I be in You, and grant that we may always so abide, always together in one. (St. Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ)

My thoughts: It is important to understand that redemptive suffering has no end result in mind. Dr. Herbert reminds us that while we are on the Cross in our suffering, we cannot be uniting it to Christ’s if our real goal is the cessation of the pain. We may or may not be healed, may or may not find a job, may or may not stop petty gossip about us. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we see a higher purpose for our suffering, and do not wish for it to be relieved until all the good that can come from it has been achieved. If God guides us to the right doctors, or lawyers, or HR personnel, and our problem is solved, wonderful! But, in some situations, we may never be free from the pain, yet with the help of the sacraments, prayer and loving acts of kindness and mercy to our fellow man, we can ease our own burden by drawing closer to Christ. In our own happy world, we never really have the time to unite ourselves to Christ the way we can through our own suffering world. Let us take the prayer of St. Thomas a Kempis to heart: This is what I pray for, this is what I desire, that I be joined wholly to You, and that I may withdraw my heart from all created things….

Our prayer to God: As we end our week of contemplating the merits of redemptive suffering, let us thank God for the opportunities He has given to us to share in His supreme act of love and mercy. As pain and sadness enter our lives, from now on, let us be willing to climb back on the Cross, and be a gateway of blessings for a world so in  need of God’s mercy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Devotion for today: “suffering in Christ: our greatest joy and dignity”

As we remain on the Cross with Christ this week, we find that there is a joy in suffering…

Scripture for meditation:  Matthew 26: 39
He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer. “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Still, let it be as you would have it, not as I.”

Scripture for reflection: Genesis 3:15
“I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and hers; He will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”

As we discover in Dr. Brook Herbert’s discussion of redemptive suffering: Suffering in and of itself is not joyful. Indeed, extreme suffering undermines the very notion of joy. Alone, suffering is Satan’s personal attack against the “very good” of God’s creation. In Genesis we read of the promised Savior whose heel Satan will bruise but who will himself crush Satan’s head (see above). In this simple statement our Lord is seen as the ultimate victor over the cosmic mayhem initiated by Satan in the world. Yet it is precisely the overturning of evil intent that is effected by the Cross. Outside of union with Christ, Satan’s barrage of hatred against God’s creation is meant to destroy all that is good and holy. The human person enters into this war precisely in the realms of personal suffering. It is here that God invites us to know that in our own experience he has overcome such evil. Satan may continue to bruise the “heel,” but Christ continues to crush his head. So, in this battle, where is the joy? The answer is not in the eventfulness of afflictions, but in the grace of offering such afflictions to Christ and in union with Christ on his Cross. As St. Augustine knew, it is the cause, not the wound, that makes the martyr (causa non poena fecit martyrum)! This speaks of that greater joy inherent in sacrificial love, the gift whereby suffering serves a greater purpose, and God’s own desire to serve and to save the lost. In sharing some of these thoughts with a friend, the response was simply, “But it is so hard!” If we consider the contours of such a gift offered on our part, we see that the difficulty ensues only when we fail to see that our gift is a response to God’s greater and prior gift of “participation.” Such an offering does not consist in ignoring the suffering to which we are subject. Suffering is absolutely real and powerfully overwhelms each aspect of our conscious thought as we go through it. To unite this suffering to Christ’s is then to take seriously the state in which we find ourselves. Our Lord was entirely aware of his sufferings both in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the Cross: “If it be possible…My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Homiletic and Pastoral Review, April 2011, Ignatius Press)

Prayer: The Book of Passion
O my Jesus, my only hope, thank You for the book which You have opened before my soul’s eyes. That book is Your Passion which You underwent for love of me. It is from this book that I have learned how to love God and souls. In this book there are found for us inexhaustible treasures. O Jesus how few souls understand You in Your martyrdom of love! Oh, how great is the fire of purest love which burns in Your Most Sacred Heart! Happy the soul that has come to understand the love of the Heart of Jesus! (Diary of St. Faustina, 304)

My thoughts: To find joy in suffering is a new thought for me. I want pain, humiliation and sadness to disappear quickly. I think most of us do. I want to protect myself from these sufferings, and that is not a bad thing, until it interferes with God’s greater plan for my life. I will take a cortisone shot to relieve the pain in my shoulder, and that is fine, but I will also stay home and not participate in a peaceful demonstration against abortion, to avoid humiliation. Is that fine as well? I doubt it. St. Augustine says that it is the cause, not the wound that makes the martyr. By being willing to suffer anything at any cost to bring God’s redemptive love from the Cross to mankind is truly joyful. It is running the good race, crossing the finish line and feeling the joy in the pain.

Our prayer to God: Today, let us meditate on this words Christ revealed to St. Faustina:

My daughter, meditate frequently on the sufferings which I have undergone for your sake, and then nothing of which you suffer for me will seem great to you. You please Me most when you meditate on My Sorrowful Passion. Join your little sufferings to My Sorrowful Passion, so that they may have infinite value before My Majesty. (Diary of St. Faustina, 1512)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Devotion for today: redemptive suffering: raised up to draw all men to Christ

Today we continue to look at redemptive suffering and see how our weakness is turned into joy
Scripture for meditation: John 12:32
“…and I –once I am lifted up from earth – will draw all men to myself.”

Scripture for contemplation: Zechariah 12:10
I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced;

We continue with Dr. Brook Herbert’s explanation of redemptive suffering: If we stand looking up from the foot of the cross, gasping, if you will, at the futility of trying to measure up to the immeasurable love of God, we must accept in profound humility that this love too is God’s gift to us. Powerless to offer ourselves to Christ’s world, our hearts receive with unimaginable joy the mystery and the wonder of the dignity of our own sufferings and sorrows united to the heart of Jesus…. Yet there is more to ponder. In Christ’s human offering we recognize the extremity of human weakness and frailty. Jesus, fixed on the wood, is powerless to offer anything (but) his love. This is the glory of Jesus’ “hour.” Here we are included in the profound dignity of suffering for the good of others in likeness to Christ our Lord. Uniting our sufferings to Christ’s becomes a true participation in his redemptive work. In those moments when we choose to sincerely offer our own sufferings in union Christ, when we too are fixed to the “wood” inherent in our own created “being,” our union to “perfect love” lifts our own sorrows into the grandeur of the grace-bearing love of God, and that for the good of all souls for whom Christ has died. In Christ our own suffering, raised to a supernatural and superlative goodness, is transformed in such a way that as sons and daughters of God, we can confidently confess, “when I am raised up I will draw all men into the redeeming love of Christ”….In the end the mysterious “gift” of suffering offered to God appears to be the point wherein our conformity to Christ in this world is invested with true vitality in a wonder-filled and mysterious way. In suffering with and for Christ for his purposes, we each image the deepest “sacrificial likeness to Christ” possible for us in this life. Herein the extremity of our human sufferings is imbued with the dignity of Christ’s own redemptive oblation (offering), and raises human frailty into the realm of redemptive grace….In suffering, the gift of “participation in the divine nature” moves us from the realms of seeming abject futility into the unbounded fruitfulness of our Lord’s own Eucharistic oblation. Homiletic and Pastoral Review, April 2011, Ignatius Press)

Prayer: Dear Jesus, as You give Yourself completely to me, I give myself completely to You. Through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I surrender to You my mind, my body, my heart, my will and my liberty, for true freedom is loving You without reservation. (Fr. Vincent Martin Lucia, Come to Me in the Blessed Sacrament, Apostolate for Perpetual Adoration)

My thoughts: When I was growing up, it was common for my mother and the Sisters in my Catholic school to tell us kids to “offer it up” when we were hurting in any way. No one necessarily saw the need to prevent suffering in us; they did, however, effectively teach us how to handle what would be an inevitable part of our lives. Today I hear many people say about their loved ones, “I only want them to be happy. I never want them to suffer.” How marvelous it is to learn today that suffering, united with Christ’s, raises us up to a “sacrificial likeness to Christ.” Dr. Herbert stresses so often in this article that we are most Christ-like when we are suffering with Him on the Cross, not when we are happily sipping martinis in our near-perfect world. This world is in deep pain and anguish. It has lost its way to God.  We can make a difference by not only accepting suffering, but willingly accepting suffering and joyfully offering it to God as a libation for sin. Isn’t it incredible how necessary we are to God’s plan for the world? Why not teach others to “offer up” any and all crosses they are asked to bear as well. We can always work to ease the suffering of the poor, the sick, the despondent, but in the process, we can also teach people to unite themselves to Christ on the Cross, to use the suffering for a higher purpose.

Our prayer to God:  Today let us choose one person, living or dead, whom we feel could benefit from the joyful offering of our sufferings. Let us bring our sufferings, disappointments, anger, and frustrations to God and ask Him to pour out on that person, or the soul of that person in purgatory, all the blessings we receive from being joyful sufferers today. There, we have just moved from the” realms of seeming abject futility into the unbounded fruitfulness of our Lord’s own Eucharistic oblation”.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Devotion for today: redemptive suffering: uniting ourselves with Christ on the Cross

Last week we stood at the foot of the cross. This week we place ourselves upon it.

Scripture for meditation: Col 1:24
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.

Christ tells us: John 15:13
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Dr. Brook Herbert, D.Th, explains redemptive suffering in this way: St. Paul writes in Colossians the mysterious words that often take us back (Col 1:24)…. Paul is not suggesting that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is incomplete or in anyway dependent on any sacrifice Paul himself may offer on his own. Rather, Paul is alluding to the gift offered to all of us in Christ, which is the wondrous gift of participation with Christ in his “divine nature,” and this most profoundly perceived in Christ’s own redemptive suffering….Our own suffering becomes, in union with Christ, a redemptive oblation acceptable to God and ordered to his boundless desire to save his world, his cosmos, his own human creatures – the mirrors of his “image and likeness”…. In perfect obedience to his – our – Father, Jesus reveals this unbounded sacrificial love from the degradation of the Cross. Here we cannot fail to wonder at the glory into which our Lord invites us. If we dare to gaze on the Cross we see the contours of a man physically broken beyond recognition. He bears a visage of abject torment, bloody and drained of all semblance of human dignity and beauty. As the Host was elevated between heaven and earth the night before, on Good Friday we gaze upon a God suspended between earth and heaven on behalf of a dying world…. Here is the great paradox, for herein lies the hidden dimensions of authentic truth and beauty as the unimaginable and unfathomable intensity of redemption. The wonder and blessedness of heaven, the utter fruitfulness of salvation comes to us through suffering. Only here are we offered the opportunity to participate in the highest and most perfect expression of human love: love poured out for the eternal good of others. Our personal oblation of suffering, poured out and in union with Christ’s, floods the world locked in sin with goodness and grace. The fruitfulness of the Kingdom of God hangs on a Cross, and we are invited to share in the glorious potency of its transforming grace. Such is suffering human love and such is its power united to Divinity hidden within the One who dies first. (Homiletic & Pastoral Review, April 2011, Ignatius Press).

 Prayer: Dear Jesus, You showed the greatest love by giving Your life for our salvation. You left all the glory You had from the beginning and took on the form of a servant. You invited us to do the same: to be ready to live with and for each other, up to the end, as You did for us. Thank You for enabling us to love. Destroy selfishness, haughtiness, hatred, jealousy, and narrow-mindedness in us. Amen. (Fr. Slavko Barbaric, O.F.M., Pray With the Heart, Franciscan University Press, 1988)

My thoughts: Dr. Herbert paints a powerful picture of redemptive suffering. “…we gaze upon a God suspended between earth and heaven on behalf of a dying world.” Christ asks us to join Him on the Cross. Our suffering is not a waste of time, nor is it something to be feared. Rather, we are invited to look at suffering as an opportunity to join Christ in “…love poured out for the eternal good of others.” When we offer our suffering to God the Father, united with Christ His Son, we participate in, not just observe, Calvary. We become part of the cure for a world which Pope Benedict warned “…in many ways, is on the verge of collapse.”

Our prayer to God: This week, as we look at redemptive suffering, let us begin by offering to God all our humiliations, rejections, feelings of abandonment and sadness. Christ felt all of these as He hung on the Cross. May we unite our suffering with His, and pray, “Dear Jesus, never let me be separated from You again. Grant that I may love You always, and then do with me as You will.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Stations of the Cross).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Devotion for today: feast of St. Joseph, man of faith

It greatly behooves Christians, while honoring the Virgin Mother of God, constantly to invoke with deep piety and confidence her most chaste spouse, Saint Joseph. We have a well grounded conviction that such is the special desire of the Blessed Virgin herself.  Pope Leo XII
Scripture for meditation: Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
Scripture for reflection: 2 Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
 Brothers and sisters: It was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes from faith. For this reason, it depends on faith, so that it may be a gift, and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants, not to those who only adhere to the law but to those who follow the faith of Abraham, who is the father of all of us, as it is written, I have made you father of many nations. He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not exist. He believed, hoping against hope, that he would become the father of many nations, according what was said, Thus shall your descendants be. That is why it was credited to him as righteousness.
These are excerpts taken from the article: St. Joseph hailed as model for upcoming 'Year of Faith'
By Benjamin Mann Philadelphia, Pa., Oct 26, 2011 (CNA).
The author of a landmark work on Saint Joseph says Christ's foster father offers believers a model for building trust in God during the newly-announced “Year of Faith.” “This was a man of faith, like Abraham. He was being asked to believe the impossible,” said Father Joseph Chorpenning, an Oblate of St. Francis de Sales who compiled two decades of research and lectures in his book “Joseph of Nazareth Through the Centuries”.  “We need to bring these figures down to earth for people,” Fr. Chorpenning told CNA on Oct. 18, two days after Pope Benedict announced the 2012-2013 “Year of Faith” that will begin Oct. 11, 2012. “It's challenging, but that's what needs to happen. When you look at Joseph, you have to look at him as a man of faith.” Fr. Chorpenning holds up the chaste husband of the Virgin Mary – who was asked to believe that his fiancĂ©e’s unexplained pregnancy was not a catastrophe, but part of history's greatest miracle – as a figure of inspiration “in a world that's losing faith, at every level of society.”  The lectionary readings for St. Joseph's feast day in March draw a comparison between Joseph and the Old Testament patriarch Abraham, sometimes called the “father of faith.” While Abraham waited decades for the unlikely birth of his son Isaac, Joseph made the leap of faith necessary to become the earthly father of God's son. Fr. Chorpenning said St. Joseph not only displays the virtue of faith, but also illustrates what Bl. John Paul II meant when he spoke of the “civilization of love.” “Joseph, in a sense, becomes the model of the 'civilization of love' – understood as a society which is not about having more, but about being more.” His life, the priest said, represents an alternative to the “'me-centered' kind of narcissism” that has made society break down on many levels, from individual families to financial markets. Fr. Chorpenning, who published a 1996 book on “The Holy Family as Prototype of the Civilization of Love,” says St. Joseph points the way to a life based on devotion to God, dedication to one's family, and work that serves the common good. Joseph's life, he said, shows a “transcending of the self” in which the father of the Holy Family becomes defined by his relation to its other two members, while also making their life possible. The result is a life that is “not about the individual, but about the community of persons” – as both the Church, and society itself, are meant to be.  Joseph's example also stands in opposition to a culture of irresponsibility and prolonged adolescence. “This is what a responsible man looks like,” said Fr. Chorpenning, summing up the love and loyalty that generations of believers have found in the head of the Holy Family.
Prayer: For the Intercession of Saint Joseph
O Joseph, virgin-father of Jesus, most pure spouse of the Virgin Mary, pray every day for us to the same Jesus, the Son of God, that we, being defended by the power of His grace and striving dutifully in life, may be crowned by Him at the hour of death, Amen.
My thoughts: “That is what a responsible man looks like.” Fr. Chorpenning’s comment on St. Joseph holds up for all mankind the model of a truly Christian life. He tells us that Joseph’s life points the way to a life of “devotion to God, dedication to one’s family, and work that serves the common good.” When we look around us today, how many St. Joseph’s can we find? We seem to be surrounded by people who don’t want children because it will cause them to sacrifice time and enjoyment. We see people willing to abort their babies instead of taking responsibility for the child and bringing him into their homes. What about the extensive game playing and viewing of pornography, much less the casual attitude toward sex which abounds in our population?  We have people who won't get married, yet live “the good life” together free of responsibility. What has this led to? Psychiatrists tell us we have an epidemic today of the “Peter Pan Man”...people who never want to grow up. How will the Church, society in general, and mankind prosper if we don’t all take responsibility for our own growth and maturity. It is time to turn to St. Joseph for help.
Our prayer to God: Today, let us ask ourselves if we are living up to the standard of St. Joseph, a man willing to put himself aside, to trust in God, and to do the right thing. He gave Mary a home, he gave Jesus an earthly father, and he gave us a standard to live by. St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, help us all to grow up.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Devotion for today: The Springtime of Lent


An explanation of the springtime season paralleling the Lenten season.

The Springtime of Lent: Action and New Life

  The liturgical season of Lent coincides with spring, calling to mind the new life and growth, the hope and change that should characterize this time of prayer, penance and conversion. This is the season of initiation into the grace-life of the Church. For 40 days, the Church invites us to start afresh.

…Just as Nature renews herself every spring, so during the Church’s spring we are encouraged to begin anew with the catechumens. We prepare for the renewal of our baptism, we suffer with Christ for our sins, we are buried with Him so that we may also arise with Him to a new life of grace and glory. (Therese Mueller, Our Children’s Year of Grace)
The word Lent is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word lengthen or lencten meaning "spring." We are "to spring" into action, to do the tasks of the season, to prepare for the new growth and graces that overflow from Easter. Spring is the most important season for a farmer, for it determines what crops he will plant. Once decided, he prepares the soil thoroughly and plants the seed carefully, hoping that the seed buried deep in the soil will produce an abundant crop.

On Palm Sunday, the very threshold of his death and Resurrection, Our Lord assured his followers that “unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. The man who loves his life loses it, while the man who hates his life in this world preserves it to life eternal. If anyone would serve me, let him follow me; where I am, there will my servant be.” (Jn 12: 24-26) Let us renew our Baptism during this Lenten spring, joyfully dying to self in order to become that fruitful grain of wheat.

Activity Source: Original Text (JGM & MG) by Jennifer Gregory Miller and Margaret Gregory © 2012 Trinity Communications. All rights reserved.

My thoughts: It is clear from the words of Christ contained in the above passage that we must die to ourselves before we can live God's will in our lives. This is hard to do. Lent, a new springtime in our lives, allows us to "practice" ways to die to self. Bishop Loverde of the Arlington Diocese calls it a kind of "training camp." Let us take what we have practiced this Lent and continue to use it throughout our lives, becoming willing servants of Christ.