“Your prophets provided you visions of whitewashed illusion; They did not lay bare your guilt, in order to restore your fortunes; they saw for you only oracles of empty deceit.” Lam 2:14
One of the things I appreciate the most at Mass is when the liturgy begins with a call to repentance, through the Confiteor prayer. Much like St Peter had to respond three times to Christ’s question “Do you love Me?”, this amazing prayer leads us to acknowledge and repent of our own shortcomings three times as well: “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault“. This public affirmation of responsibility is preceded by a summary of the four areas, in which we have the freedom to choose our response to God’s grace: “in my thoughts, and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do“.
The Confiteor prayer goes much deeper than simply begging for our Lord’s mercy, because it asks us to go beyond merely acknowledging Christ as our Saviour, an act that can be made solely through the mind. What it does is challenge us to pick up our crosses and follow Christ, an act that can only be made through the heart. It’s the difference between knowing about God and knowing God, which is why the Church teaches that “the root of all sins lies in man’s heart.” CCC1873 You either love Christ with all your heart or you don’t love him at all. Imagine your spouse promising you she would be faithful 99% of the time, or telling a mother you drive sober 98% of the time….
Unlike modern atheists, who sell us the descent of man to mere beasts, Christ raises us from mere animals to sons and daughters made in the image of God! It’s the difference between a corpse and a body, facts and wisdom, grafitti and the Sistine Chapel. Rather than succumbing to our every desire and living constrained to our addictions, Christ frees us so “that you may have life and have it to the full”! Jn 10:10 G.K. Chesterton upon being received into the Catholic Church, wrote a poem which ended with his memorable line: “For I am Lazarus, and I live.”
Atheism asks us to rely on senses only and love yourself first. In other words, it wants us to limit our minds and close our hearts. Christ on the other hand, insisted we rely on Him and love others as He has loved us. In other words, He wants us to seek the Truth with all our mind and open our hearts. How do you know if you are seeking Truth and opening your heart? Padre Pio said “If the devil makes a great deal of noise about you, rejoice, for this is a good sign.”
Worried about family breakdowns and cohabitation? “But I say this to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart” Mt 5:28 Helped a child along with genital mutilation or prevented one from being born? “But anyone who is the downfall of one of these little ones who have faith in me, would be better drowned in the depths of the sea with a great millstone round his neck.” Mt 18:6 Have you sat by indifferently as children are led astray or walked by a homeless man without so much as a glance to acknowledge his presence? “In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.” Mt 25:45 What does Jesus expect of His followers? “You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Mt 5:48 That’s it.
Jesus elevated man through the Cross, as man elevated Jesus to the cross. On His way to Calvary or place of skulls, Jesus encountered people uttering mocking words, people standing by grinning with satisfying thoughts, people beating and torturing him despite His innocence, and people who watched at a distance. Which one are we? Do we ever sit at the cross like His mother did, help carry the cross like Simon the Cyrene did, repent and speak with Him like the thief did? An examination of the Cross helps us with the cross examination of what we have thought, said, done or failed to do. It’s the Cross that helps us get ready for the Resurrection – there’s no Easter without Good Friday!
This Lent, I encourage you brothers to spend even just a few minutes at Adoration, examine your conscience, and ask God for mercy. Spend some time praying with His mother and meditating on the Sorrowful Mysteries. Master your senses and give up that burger on Fridays and maybe more (one of our brothers fasts entire Lenten period). Share some of your treasure and talents with others. This is prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – healing for the mind, the body, and the spirit, for we are not angels (spirits without bodies), nor corpses (bodies without spirit), nor wild beasts (brains with a body but no spirit).
Jesus died on the Cross for us, for our own sake. Whatever sufferings we are going through, the Cross gives it meaning, even if we cannot see it at the time. St Eulalia a 12 yr old girl from Spain, was tortured with iron hooks and martyred in the fourth century, for refusing to worship false idols. I cannot speak about what was going through her mind as she saw the tools for torture laid in front of her, but I can say with certainty that she did not know sixteen centuries later, she would be the inspiration for a 13-yr old girl from Canada to attend Mass every week. I must admit, her witness, like so many of our saints and martyrs, is an inspiration to me as well.
Padre Pio once said, “Jesus permits the spiritual combat as a purification, not as a punishment. The trial is not unto death, but unto salvation.” Let us rise then, lift up the Cross, and lay bare our guilt (mea culpa, “own it”). The battle rages in our thoughts, in our words, in what we do and in what we failed to do, but the Good News is that with Him, victory is ours!
Happy Easter everyone! He is Risen!
St Joseph: Pray for us
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