LENT, Week 4: Thursday



“Let me alone, then, that my anger may burn against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.” (Exodus 32:10.)

Saint Augustine of Hippo comments on this verse from the First Reading proclaimed during today’s Mass:

“And in case you should suppose that he acted like this more from necessity than from charity, God actually offered him another people: “And I will make you,” he said, “into a great nation,” so leaving himself free to eliminate those others. But Moses wouldn’t accept this: he sticks to the sinners; he prays for the sinners. And how does he pray? This is a wonderful proof of his love, brothers and sisters. How does he pray? Notice something I’ve often spoken of, how his love is almost that of a mother. When God threatened that sacrilegious people, Moses’ maternal instincts were roused, and on their behalf he stood up to the anger of God. “Lord,” he said, “if you will forgive them this sin, forgive; but if not, blot me out from the book you have written.” What sure maternal and paternal instincts, how sure his reliance, as he said this, on the justice and mercy of God! He knew that because he is just he wouldn’t destroy a just man, and because he is merciful he would pardon sinners.” (Sermon 88)




Collect
We invoke your mercy in humble prayer, O Lord,
that you may cause us, your servants,
corrected by penance and schooled by good works,
to persevere sincerely in your commands
and come safely to the paschal festivities.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen



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Contemplating the Lord’s passion



(Bishop of Rome and Father of the Church)

An excerpt from Sermo 15, On the Lord’s Passion

LENT Week 4: Thursday

True reverence for the Lord’s passion means fixing the eyes of our heart on Jesus crucified and recognizing in him our own humanity.

The earth—our earthly nature—should tremble at the suffering of its Redeemer. The rocks—the hearts of unbelievers—should burst asunder. The dead, imprisoned in the tombs of their mortality, should come forth, the massive stones now ripped apart. Foreshadowings of the future resurrection should appear in the holy city, the Church of God: what is to happen to our bodies should now take place in our hearts.

No one, however weak, is denied a share in the victory of the cross. No one is beyond the help of the prayer of Christ. His prayer brought benefit to the multitude that raged against him. How much more does it bring to those who turn to him in repentance.

Ignorance has been destroyed, obstinacy has been overcome. The sacred blood of Christ has quenched the flaming sword that barred access to the tree of life. The age-old night of sin has given place to the true light.

The Christian people are invited to share the riches of paradise. All who have been reborn have the way open before them to return to their native land, from which they had been exiled. Unless indeed they close off for themselves the path that could be opened before the faith of a thief.

The business of this life should not preoccupy us with its anxiety and pride, so that we no longer strive with all the love of our heart to be like our Redeemer, and to follow his example. Everything that he did or suffered was for our salvation: he wanted his body to share the goodness of its head.

First of all, in taking our human nature while remaining God, so that the Word became man, he left no member of the human race, the unbeliever excepted, without a share in his mercy. Who does not share a common nature with Christ if he has welcomed Christ, who took our nature, and is reborn in the Spirit through whom Christ was conceived?

Again, who cannot recognize in Christ his own infirmities? Who would not recognize that Christ’s eating and sleeping, his sadness and his shedding of tears of love are marks of the nature of a slave?

It was this nature of a slave that had to be healed of its ancient wounds and cleansed of the defilement of sin. For that reason the only-begotten Son of God became also the son of man. He was to have both the reality of a human nature and the fullness of the godhead.

The body that lay lifeless in the tomb is ours. The body that rose again on the third day is ours. The body that ascended above all the heights of heaven to the right hand of the Father’s glory is ours. If then we walk in the way of his commandments, and are not ashamed to acknowledge the price he paid for our salvation in a lowly body, we too are to rise to share his glory. The promise he made will be fulfilled in the sight of all: Whoever acknowledges me before men, I too will acknowledge him before my Father who is in heaven.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 





LENT, Week 4: Wednesday



“Thus says the LORD: In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you; I form you and set you as a covenant for the people, to restore the land and allot the devastated heritages ...” (Isaiah 49:8.)

Origen of Alexandria (part 2 of Pope Benedict’s reflections on Origen) comments on this verse from the Second Reading proclaimed at Mass today:

“God says through the prophet, “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” What other time, then, is more acceptable than when for piety toward God in Christ we are led under guard in procession before the world, celebrating a triumph rather than being led in triumph? For the martyrs in Christ disarm the principalities and powers with him, and they share his triumph as fellows of his sufferings, becoming in this way also fellows of the courageous deeds wrought in his sufferings.7 These deeds include triumphing over principalities and powers, which in a short time you will see conquered and put to shame. What other day is so much a day of salvation as the one when we gain such deliverance from them?” (Exhortation to Martyrdom)





Collect
O God, who reward the merits of the just
and offer pardon to sinners who do penance,
have mercy, we pray, on those who call upon you,
that the admission of our guilt
may serve to obtain your pardon for our sins.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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The mercy of God to the penitent





Saint Maximus the Confessor
Abbot

An excerpt from his Letter 11

LENT Week 4: Wednesday

God’s will is to save us, and nothing pleases him more than our coming back to him with true repentance. The heralds of truth and the ministers of divine grace have told us this from the beginning, repeating it in every age. Indeed, God’s desire for our salvation is the primary and pre-eminent sign of his infinite goodness. It was precisely in order to show that there is nothing closer to God’s heart that the divine Word of God the Father, with untold condescension, lived among us in the flesh, and did, suffered, and said all that was necessary to reconcile us to God the Father, when we were at enmity with him, and to restore us to the life of blessedness from which we had been exiled. He healed our physical infirmities by miracles; he freed us from our sins, many and grievous as they were, by suffering and dying, taking them upon himself as if he were answerable for them, sinless though he was. He also taught us in many different ways that we should wish to imitate him by our own kindness and genuine love for one another.

So it was that Christ proclaimed that he had come to call sinners to repentance, not the righteous, and that it was not the healthy who required a doctor, but the sick. He declared that he had come to look for the sheep that was lost, and that it was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel that he had been sent. Speaking more obscurely in the parable of the silver coin, he tells us that the purpose of his coming was to reclaim the royal image, which had been coated with the filth of sin. You can be sure there is joy in heaven, he said, over one sinner who repents.

To give the same lesson he revived the man who, having fallen into the hands of the brigands, had been left stripped and half-dead from his wounds; he poured wine and oil on the wounds, bandaged them, placed the man on his own mule and brought him to an inn, where he left sufficient money to have him cared for, and promised to repay any further expense on his return.

Again, he told of how that Father, who is goodness itself, was moved with pity for his profligate son who returned and made amends by repentance; how he embraced him, dressed him once more in the fine garments that befitted his own dignity, and did not reproach him for any of his sins.

So too, when he found wandering in the mountains and hills the one sheep that had strayed from God’s flock of a hundred, he brought it back to the fold, but he did not exhaust it by driving it ahead of him. Instead, he placed it on his own shoulders and so, compassionately, he restored it safely to the flock.

So also he cried out: Come to me, all you that toil and are heavy of heart. Accept my yoke, he said, by which he meant his commands, or rather, the whole way of life that he taught us in the Gospel. He then speaks of a burden, but that is only because repentance seems difficult. In fact, however, my yoke is easy, he assures us, and my burden is light.

Then again he instructs us in divine justice and goodness, telling us to be like our heavenly Father, holy, perfect and merciful. Forgive, he says, and you will be forgiven. Behave toward other people as you would wish them to behave toward you.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

 





LENT, Week 4: Tuesday



“He said to me, “This water flows out into the eastern district, runs down into the Arabah and empties into the polluted waters of the sea to freshen them.” (Ezekiel 47:8.)

Saint Jerome offers the following insight on this verses from today’s First Reading:

“We said a little time ago that the waters signify either the grace of baptism or the teaching of the gospel. If these waters go out from the threshold of the temple of the Lord and carry the teaching of the apostles, they have the power to make piles of gravel, sterile and infertile as they are, bear fruit, and they can irrigate every plain and every desert.” (Commentary on Ezekiel, 14.)


Collect
May the venerable exercises of holy devotion
shape the hearts of your faithful, O Lord,
to welcome worthily the Paschal Mystery
and proclaim the praises of your salvation.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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The virtue of charity



Bishop of Rome and Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Sermo 10 in Quadragesima

LENT Week 4: Tuesday

In the gospel of John the Lord says: In this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for each other. In a letter of the same apostle we read: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God; he who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

The faithful should therefore enter into themselves and make a true judgment on their attitudes of mind and heart. If they find some store of love’s fruit in their hearts, they must not doubt God’s presence within them. If they would increase their capacity to receive so great a guest, they should practice greater generosity in doing good, with persevering charity.

If God is love, charity should know no limit, for God cannot be confined.

Any time is the right time for works of charity, but these days of Lent provide a special encouragement. Those who want to be present at the Lord’s Passover in holiness of mind and body should seek above all to win this grace, for charity contains all other virtues and covers a multitude of sins.

As we prepare to celebrate that greatest of all mysteries, by which the blood of Jesus Christ did away with our sins, let us first of all make ready the sacrificial offerings of works of mercy. In this way we shall give to those who have sinned against us what God in his goodness has already given us.

Let us now extend to the poor and those afflicted in different ways a more open-handed generosity, so that God may be thanked through many voices and the relief of the needy supported by our fasting. No act of devotion on the part of the faithful gives God more pleasure than that which is lavished on his poor. Where he finds charity with its loving concern, there he recognizes the reflection of his own fatherly care.

In these acts of giving do not fear a lack of means. A generous spirit is itself great wealth. There can be no shortage of material for generosity where it is Christ who feeds and Christ who is fed. In all this activity there is present the hand of him who multiplies the bread by breaking it, and increasing it by giving it away.

The giver of alms should be free from anxiety and full of joy. His gain will be greatest when he keeps back least for himself. The holy apostle Paul tells us: He who provides seed for the sower will also provide bread for eating; he will provide you with more seed, and will increase the harvest of your goodness, in Christ Jesus our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 





LENT, Week 4: Monday



“See, I am creating new heavens and a new earth; The former things shall not be remembered nor come to mind.” (Isaiah 65:17.)

Saint Jerome offers the following insight on this verses from today’s First Reading:

“The new heavens and new earth are cause for rejoicing and for confessing the true God, because eternal amnesia follows on the former tribulations; this means that those who live therein will never be mindful of idols and previous errors but will pass from darkness into light for the enjoyment of eternal beatitude. For they will forget the former evils, not by having their memories destroyed but by receiving an inheritance of goods, in accordance with what is written: “On the day of good rewards, there will be no memory of evils,”1 and again: “an affliction of one hour destroys the memory of pleasures.” Thus, to the extent that the former desires were born in tribulation, members of the new creation will never enjoy them in the wayward manner of the Epicureans.” (Commentary on Isaiah, 18.)



Collect
O God,
Who renew the world
through mysteries beyond all telling,
grant, we pray,
that Your Church
may be guided by Your eternal design
and not be deprived of Your help
in this present age.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen


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Christ the high priest makes atonement for our sins



Priest, Ancient Christian Writer and Martyr

An excerpt from his Homily on Leviticus

LENT, Week 4: Monday

Once a year the high priest, leaving the people outside, entered that place where no one except the high priest might enter. In it was the mercy-seat, and above the mercy-seat the cherubim, as well as the ark of the covenant and the altar of incense.

Let me turn to my true high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. In our human nature he spent the whole year in the company of the people, the year that he spoke of when he said: He sent me to bring good news to the poor, to announce the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of forgiveness. Notice how once in that year, on the day of atonement, he enters into the holy of holies. Having fulfilled God’s plan, he passes through the heavens and enters into the presence of the Father to make him turn in mercy to the human race and to pray for all who believe in him.

John the apostle, knowing of the atonement that Christ makes to the Father for all men, says this: Little children, I say these things so that you may not sin. But if we have sinned we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the just one. He is the atonement for our sins In the same way Paul refers to this atonement when he says of Christ: God appointed him to be the atonement for our sins in his blood, through faith. We have then a day of atonement that remains until the world comes to an end.

God’s word tells us: The high priest shall put incense on the fire in the sight of the Lord. The smoke of the incense shall cover the mercy-seat above the tokens of the covenant, so that he may not die. He shall take some of the blood of the bull-calf and sprinkle it with his finger over the mercy-seat toward the east.

God taught the people of the old covenant how to celebrate the ritual offered to him in atonement for the sins of men. But you have come to Christ, the true high priest. Through his blood he has made God turn to you in mercy and has reconciled you with the Father. You must not think simply of ordinary blood but you must learn to recognize instead the blood of the Word. Listen to him as he tells you: This is my blood, which will be shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

There is a deeper meaning in the fact that the high priest sprinkles the blood toward the east. Atonement comes to you from the east. From the east comes the one whose name is Dayspring, he who is mediator between God and men. You are invited then to look always to the east: it is there that the sun of righteousness rises for you, it is there that the light is always being born for you. You are never to walk in darkness; the great and final day is not to enfold you in darkness. Do not let the night and mist of ignorance steal upon you. So that you may always enjoy the light of knowledge, keep always in the daylight of faith, hold fast always to the light of love and peace.

Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen

 

 





LENT, Week 4: The Lord’s Day



“As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:1.)

Saint Ambrose of Milan offers the following insight on this verse from today’s Gospel proclamation:

“You have heard that story in the Gospel where we are told that the Lord Jesus, as he was passing by, caught sight of a man who had been blind from birth. Since the Lord did not overlook him, neither ought we to overlook this story of a man whom the Lord considered worthy of his attention. In particular we should notice the fact that he had been blind from birth. This is an important point.

There is, indeed, a kind of blindness, usually brought on by serious illness, which obscures one’s vision but that can be cured, given time; and there is another sort of blindness, caused by cataract, that can be remedied by a surgeon: he can remove the cause, and so the blindness is dispelled. Draw your own conclusion: this man, who was actually born blind, was not cured by surgical skill but by the power of God.” (Letter 67)



Collect
O God, Who through Your Word
reconcile the human race
to Yourself in a wonderful way,
grant, we pray,
that with prompt devotion and eager faith
the Christian people may hasten
toward the solemn celebrations to come.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen





Christ is the way to the light, the truth, and the life



Bishop and Great Western Father of the Church

An excerpt from his Treatise on John

LENT, Week 4: The Lord’s Day

The Lord tells us: I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. In these few words he gives a command and makes a promise. Let us do what he commands so that we may not blush to covet what he promises and to hear him say on the day of judgment: “I laid down certain conditions for obtaining my promises. Have you fulfilled them?” If you say: “What did you command, Lord our God?” he will tell you: “I commanded you to follow me. You asked for advice on how to enter into life. What life, if not the life about which it is written: With you is the fountain of life?”

Let us do now what he commands. Let us follow in the footsteps of the Lord. Let us throw off the chains that prevent us from following him. Who can throw off these shackles without the aid of the one addressed in these words: You have broken my chains? Another psalm says of him: The Lord frees those in chains, the Lord raises up the downcast.

Those who have been freed and raised up follow the light. The light they follow speaks to them: I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness. The Lord gives light to the blind. Brethren, that light shines on us now, for we have had our eyes anointed with the eye-salve of faith. His saliva was mixed with earth to anoint the man born blind. We are of Adam’s stock, blind from our birth; we need him to give us light. He mixed saliva with earth, and so it was prophesied: Truth has sprung up from the earth. He himself has said: I am the way, the truth, and the life.

We shall be in possession of the truth when we see face to face. This is his promise to us. Who would dare to hope for something that God in his goodness did not choose to promise or bestow?

We shall see face to face. The Apostle says: Now I know in part, now obscurely through a mirror, but then face to face. John the apostle says in one of his letters: Dearly beloved, we are now children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. We know that when he is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. This is a great promise.

If you love me, follow me. “I do love you,” you protest, “but how do I follow you?” If the Lord your God said to you: “I am the truth and the life,” in your desire for truth, in your love for life, you would certainly ask him to show you the way to reach them. You would say to yourself: “Truth is a great reality, life is a great reality; if only it were possible for my soul to find them!”



Glory to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit:
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen