Isaiah 58:1-9; Matthew 9:14-15
What a great reminder for the beginning of Lent. According to today’s first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, there is a right way and a wrong way to fast. It’s a wonderful and challenging passage that has applications far beyond this one religious act (fasting). As Isaiah puts it here, the right way to fast is really a way to be genuinely religious and, for the Christian, adequately to imitate Christ.
First, how NOT to fast -- that would be to be so focused on ourselves that we can’t really see beyond ourselves. Isaiah’s words excoriate those who (allegedly) fast and yet “drive all your laborers,” and let their fasting end in “quarreling and fighting, striking with a wicked claw.”
He became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich
(cf. 2 Cor 8:9)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As Lent draws near, I would like to offer some helpful thoughts on our path of conversion as individuals and as a community. These insights are inspired by the words of Saint Paul: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Cor 8:9). The Apostle was writing to the Christians of Corinth to encourage them to be generous in helping the faithful in Jerusalem who were in need. What do these words of Saint Paul mean for us Christians today? What does this invitation to poverty, a life of evangelical poverty, mean for us today?
“Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” -- Luke 9
In two paragraphs, today’s Gospel gives us a summary of the life of following Jesus. It will not always be easy and it requires living in a different way than others in the world.
Christian history is filled with people who sacrificed their lives for their faith, but for most of us, “losing our life” does not mean physical dying as we try to live out this life as followers of Jesus. The way most of us “lose our life” is much less dramatic, much less memorable, much more … everyday. How area we being asked to give ourselves away in the here and now?
As we begin our Forty Days of Lenten wandering, let us allow the Holy Spirit to lead us out into the desert. Let's freely and happily accept these days of effort, interior struggle, penance, cleansing and allow a rebirth to be created for the love of God. This costly endeavor will also sanctify us and will bring good fruit and Christian joy.
In the Bible the desert is often presented as a place of encounter with God, as a way toward God, as a place of purification, conversion, and preparation for new tasks and challenges /cf. Moses- Exodus 3:1-3; Elijah -1 Kings 19/. It is enough to mention the forty-year journey of God's chosen people to the Promised Land. God was leading his nation through the desert, where He taught them a severe style of life, but at the same time He shared His faithful love for them. Of course we do not live in a real dessert, but we can envision our journey through this Lent in a analogous way.
Saint Vincent Pallotti and Evangelisation with Prisoners
In the 1840’s, the last decade of his life, Saint Vincent Pallotti intensified his ministry to prisoners, one of the most difficult for a priest. The prisons of Rome at that time were full of ordinary offenders mixed with political prisoners. Ministry to prisoners then was more difficult than today. Firstly, imprisonment increased the anticlerical animosity of members of sects. Then, those found guilty were often condemned to death. It was necessary to work with them, seeking to bring them close to God during their time of imprisonment, helping them in their final hours and accompanying them to the scaffold. Prisoners also insistently asked the chaplains to help their families, to be close to their parents, spouses and children and, then as now, it was above all the poorest who fell into crime and suffered its consequences.
1 Peter 1:10-16; Mark 10:28-31
In the very short reading from Mark’s gospel, we hear the frustration of Jesus’ followers. The reading comes at the end of a series of questions and answers circling around the question of salvation. Jesus’ followers want to know what they must do in order to be saved. The dialogue back and forth between Jesus and his followers seems to go round and round never quite getting to the answer – at least an answer his followers can understand. A man must leave his parents and be joined to his wife, “what God has joined together, let no one separate.” There must be no divorce or adultery. “Whoever does not receive the kingdom or God as a little child will never enter it. And he took them (children) up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.” To another, Jesus says that you must keep the commandments. In addition to this “you must sell what you own, and give the money to the poor….” In no uncertain terms, Jesus says, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.” In frustration his followers ask, “then who can be saved?” Peter demands an answer in his plea, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus’ final words seem to offer little or no comfort, “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
Mark 10: 17-27
1. God Is Good: The rich young man recognized Christ’s goodness. He kneels down before him knowing that Jesus possesses something that he does not have. What is it? The spirit of unconditional love. Christ leads us out of ourselves and asks us to trust him more. And so, Pope Emeritus Benedict encourages us, “I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life” (Homily, April 24, 2005).
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- Central Assembly - Rome 2014
- Let's Enjoy!
- Union of the Catholic Apostolate - Rome