This is a photo of a crucifix which adorns one of the small altars in the Crypt of the Chapel at Mount Saviour, a Benedictine monastery near Elmira, New York. If I was a priest, this is the type of crucifix which would precede me down the aisle and reside at the altar for Mass. It’s a graphic reminder to me of the monumental, pain-riddled self-giving sacrifice freely offered by Jesus so that I might have the opportunity to escape eternal death and the separation from God forever which is warranted by my selfish sinfulness (read what the Church teaches in CCC nn. 606-618). How can I not strive as diligently as possible to make an appropriate response?!
Here are the meditations for the Stations of the Cross to be led by Pope Francis this evening in the Roman Colosseum.
Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Source of my hope!!
As I prepare to begin this holy season of Lent, I’m going to pause to look ahead and remember that Lent is not a goal in itself, but that it will culminate in the joyous celebration of Easter! In his recent letter, The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis says:
6. There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter. I realize of course that joy is not expressed the same way at all times in life, especially at moments of great difficulty. Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved. I understand the grief of people who have to endure great suffering, yet slowly but surely we all have to let the joy of faith slowly revive as a quiet yet firm trust, even amid the greatest distress: “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is… But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness… It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam 3:17, 21-23, 26).
Catholic evangelist, Peter Herbeck, commented on this section of our Holy Father’s letter during the February 11th episode of his weekday radio program, “Fire on the Earth.” This 12-minute program can be found in the audio archive. It’s well worth a listen. In it, Peter does a tremendous job of summarizing the goal of our Catholic Christian life. I’ll be repeatedly listening to this radio program. I hope it will help motivate me to stay faithful to my Lenten disciplines.
In his homily at daily Mass yesterday, Pope Francis provided an excellent teaching on maintaining our joy in suffering, and the true meaning of patience during times of trial. I am not very good at this. I am still far too focused on myself, on my security, on my comfort. I often look to blame someone for my difficulties. Mostly I blame myself, at times I blame others, and sometimes I cry out to God questioning His lack of intervention on my behalf.
However, I was strongly convicted of my self-centeredness when Pope Francis said “The Lord carries us on his shoulders, with a lot of patience.” How easily my self-absorption causes me to forget that God is always there, always near. The foundation for all growth in holiness is remembering that God first loves us, and understanding the depth of God’s love for us. God wants us to freely love Him in return, especially by trusting Him. I should be increasing that love and trust of God in my own life by remembering the sufferings of Jesus (and uniting my own sufferings to them, and offering them for others), by taking time to recall with deep gratitude the ways in which God provides for me and protects me (and my loved ones) each day. I need to encounter Jesus every day in heartfelt personal prayer based upon Sacred Scripture. This will help my selfishness to diminish, and enable me to live in patient joy during difficult times.