Generous Trust, Generous Faith - John 11:1-45
In this Gospel passage, a beloved friend of Jesus' was fatally ill and his sisters sent urgent word to Jesus to come immediately. Jesus delayed, and Lazarus died, but this would not be His ultimate fate. Jesus had something else in mind for Lazarus and his family.
When He finally arrived, Martha didn't demand Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, although she acknowledged His power to do so. Even though her brother's body had been in the tomb for days and the decay had begun in earnest, her trust in Jesus was complete. She knew that God's love is more powerful than death and left the outcome in His hands.
God never leaves us in our troubles but uses them to draw us closer to Him. Martha's generous trust in God's will rested on her close friendship with Christ. Whatever He thought would be best was best. God's timing is not ours, yet everything He does - even when He does it - is for our good. Martha's trust in Jesus was rewarded in the most magnificent way. Ours will be, too.
Growing in Faith, Mar. 2023
Renew & Finish Well
As we near the end of Lent, let's take some time to renew our Lenten practices. Here are four ways to enter more deeply into Lent and finish it off well:
Our grand plans on Ash Wednesday may have failed, so let's recommit and be thankful for the two remaining weeks of Lent to pick up our crosses. The devil wants you to throw your plans out the window. God wants you to restart if needed.
We may have been successful thus far with our commitments. This may be our best Lent ever. If that's the case, then take this "Passiontide" as an opportunity to go one step further. Consider adding something to your prayer life for the next two weeks. Maybe add an hour of adoration, pray the Divine Mercy chaplet every day at 3pm, or participate in Mass daily.
Cover your statues and crucifixes at home to help you experience the emptiness that comes with the rejection of Christ and His Church. Perhaps add a more "spiritual" veiling by fasting from something that might have been nearly impossible to commit to for all forty days.
The Sacred Triduum is right around the corner, and it's the holiest time of the year. When it comes to entering into the sacred mystery of the Passion, there is no better way to do so than actively participating in the liturgies of the Triduum. Make arrangements and plan now to set these days apart.
No matter what the last four weeks have looked like, these next two weeks are our chance to renew our commitment to Christ and share in His Passion.
What Should I Give Up For Lent?
Chocolate? ICE CREAM? SODA?
Many of us try to be more disciplined for Lent and give up something that we really like. That's great! Fasting has always been an important tradition of Lent. This year however, let us also consider other things that we can give up.
Give up complaining - Focus on gratitude. Philippians 2:14-15 - Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure... 1 Thessalonians 5:18 - Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Jesus Christ.
Give up bitterness - Turn to forgiveness. Ephesians 4:31 - Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind and compassionate to one another forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Give up worry - Trust in God. Matthew 6:25 - Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, who by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:33 - But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Give up discouragement - Be full of hope. Deuteronomy 31:8 - The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you: he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Isaiah 40:31 - But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Give up hatred - Return good for evil. 1 John 2:9 - Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Luke 6:27 - "But I tell you who hear me; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you."
Give up anger - Be more patient. Matthew 5:22- But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Proverbs 15:18 - A hot tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.
Give up gossiping - Control your tongue. Psalm 34:13 - Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Proverbs 21:23 - He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.
Preparing Hearts for Easter Joy
Lent is the Church's gift to us to help prepare our hearts for Easter by purifying our hearts, opening up to love, and putting love into action.
Purifying our hearts:
Every heart yearns for love, yet only God's love can truly satisfy that yearning. The goal of Lenten penance is to purify ourselves of whatever blocks us from God's love or closes our heart to others. This can include excessive social media, materialism, gossip, or sinful habits like lust or deceit. From what does your heart need to detach so there's room for God and others?
Opening up to love:
Mother Teresa wrote, "Have you seen.. how [Jesus] looks at you with love?... Have you heard the loving words He speaks to you?" Strive to know God's heart. Seek Him, not just His gifts. Only by receiving God's love first, beginning with prayer, can we share it with others.
Put love in action:
"Even as I have loved you.. you also love one another" (John 13:34). God commands us to love as we've been loved - because we are loved. Find small, doable ways to serve during Lent. Commit to a Work of Mercy (corporal or spiritual). Practice patience. Give the gift of listening. True joy at Easter comes from loving Christ and imitating Him. Strive to do this throughout Lent and beyond.
Growing in Faith, Mar. 2023
Victory in the Wilderness
In this passage, Jesus is tempted by the devil. Having witnessed the Father's declaration at His baptism, Satan tested Jesus' identity as the Son of God. His goal was to tempt Jesus to embrace an earthly and political mission and to distract Him from the suffering and death that would lead to the world's salvation.
Satan tempted Jesus to satisfy His hunger with a miracle - to put physical needs above spiritual needs. In His response, Jesus taught us to put spiritual needs first and to entrust both body and soul to God's care.
Next, Satan commanded Jesus to jump from the temple roof in an effort to force God to miraculously save Him. Again, Jesus refused. God is not to be forced or controlled.
Finally, Satan offered to surrender all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would worship him. That would save Jesus from the Cross. Instead, Jesus chose the Cross because it was the only way to save us. When tempted to do what's "easy" versus what's morally right, ask for the strength to choose what's right.
Growing in Faith, Feb. 2023
Lent Leads Us Back to GOD!
On Ash Wednesday we heard from Joel 2:12-18.
"For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment" Lent may be a penitential season, but it is also a wonderful reminder that no matter how we let sin interfere in our relationship with God, He always wants us back. Gracious and merciful is He.
"Return to me with your whole heart." Throughout the year, sin creeps into our daily lives almost without our noticing. A bad habit such as using bad language or gossiping can keep us from loving God fully. Lent is a time to examine our lives and sweep aside whatever keeps us from giving God our whole heart.
"Rend your hearts, not your garments." God doesn't just want outward acts of repentance. Our Father wants a change of heart. Start with Confession and then practice virtues such as prudence, temperance, and fortitude.
"Gather the people, notify the congregation." Become more active in your parish to build it up. Consider attending Mass more often than just once a week.
Growing in Faith, Feb. 2023
Five Blessings while enduring the temptations of the evil one:
- Enduring temptation and conquering it helps us see the strength of God in our lives.
- Temptation humbles us, stripping away our pride and our struggle of thinking we are self reliant and self-made.
- There is great value in completely rejecting the devil. It not only robs him of his power to deceive us, but also clarifies who he is so that we can continue to reject him.
- Overcoming temptation strengthens us in every virtue.
- The devil would not tempt us if he were not concerned about our holiness. We should see temptation as a sign that the evil one is losing hold of our lives.
Five ways to understand forgiveness:
1. His gift. All good things are from God. Don't be too proud to beg for the gift to forgive someone. How does God forgive all? Because he understands all. Pray for the gift of wisdom.
2. Not amnesia.Remember that forgiving someone does not erase the sting of a painful memory. Forgiveness does not make a painful memory happy, but it provides a new context.
3. My burden. Your grudge is your burden, not someone else's. Remember that carrying this burden means we are allowing someone else's sin to remain active in our lives. Address the evil spirit of that sin, and banish it from your life. This is usually not a one-and-done exercise. Continue each time it sneaks up and tries to lure you away from him. The way of forgiveness is the way of freedom.
4. Rewrite the story. One of the reasons we can hold onto the burden of unforgiveness is that we have told the story in only one way. The narrative usually focuses on the bad that happened to me. In prayer, retell the story, emphasizing the graces that God poured into the situation - the strength, the courage, and the fortitude he gave you. You survived and maybe even grew wiser. This is the new memory. Pray to notice his virtue, not dwell on another's vice.
5. At the foot of the Cross. At the foot of the Cross, we experience the transformative power of mercy. Jesus took away my sins, my anger, my unforgiveness and nailed them to the Cross. He has taken even death itself, upon himself, for me. In the Resurrection, Jesus transforms my sins by his love for me. In the shadow of that Cross, as I look upon him who cries out for my forgiveness, how can I but not forgive those who have trespassed against me?
Fr. William Byrne, Washington, D.C.