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Our Lady of Canada, Pray for us! (Homily – Sunday OT 13 A)

OLCanada_Dubois

Our Lady of Canada, by Marius Dubois, in the Basilique Notre Dame, Montréal.

2 Kgs 4:8-12a, 14-16
Ps 89   R/. Forever I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord.
Rom 6:3-4, 8-11
Mt 10:37-42


I remember a conversation I had with my dad years ago, when I was beginning to discern my call to the Priesthood. At the time I was still dating a young lady, and we were talking about the possibility of Marriage, and I asked my dad how I could love God above all else and still love a wife with my whole heart. He answered that in Marriage a husband loves God above all things by loving God through his wife.

This hits to the core of our Gospel message today, as the Lord challenges us to love Him above all else: Whoever loves father or mother [son or daughter] more than me is not worthy of me (Mt 10:37). Jesus isn’t exaggerating to make a point here; rather He’s simply recalling the 1st Commandment and the great “shema Israel”, Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might (Dt 6:4).

Jesus is warning us against making others the first object of our love and attention. He’s warning us not to be attached to His gifts, but to Him. Our parents, our children, our families, these are all gifts from God. They’re indeed great gifts to be treasured, but not treasured more than the Giver Himself. Instead, like my father explained, we’re called to love God through them by recognising that they are in fact treasured gifts given by God. The love we owe to our families, and anyone else for that matter, must be a love that is first and foremost directed to God. To love our families and friends with gratitude to God means that we understand them to be gifts from Him and opportunities to love Him through loving them.

It all comes down to where our hearts, minds and lives are focussed. It’s about not making people or things into idols, but keeping God first in our lives. It’s a question of what we make the priority in our lives.

It’s a beautiful message for us to receive as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of our country, a country that was founded on this very principle. In 1534, when Jacques Cartier first landed on the Canadian mainland, he planted a Cross on the shore. He did this to claim Canada for the King of France, but also as a symbol of claiming it for Christ. He could have easily placed the King’s flag or some other royal symbol, but instead he chose the Cross, claiming this land in way similar to when we greet a child for Baptism and claim him for Christ by the Sign of the Cross. From the very beginnings of colonialisation, what was to become Canada has been dedicated to Jesus by this great symbol of the Cross.

This was echoed in the 1982 Constitution, which begins by stating, “Canada is founded upon the principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law”. And again in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which lists the freedom of conscience and religion as the first freedom of its citizens.

Sadly, today we seem to have forgotten this root of our nation. Instead of being oriented to God, we’ve changed our focus to the self. God is no longer given the supremacy; love of self is now supreme. And I dare say that we’ve made the modern ideas of individualism and self-determination the idols of our day. This is why abortion, sexual immorality, euthanasia, and recreational drug use are being so strongly promoted today. It’s all about the self, all about making the self the focus of our lives. Well, if Jesus says that loving others more than Him makes us unworthy to be His disciples, how much more will we be unworthy of Him if self-love, self-worship, is supreme?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to examine the priorities and orientations of our life: are we pointing to Him, or to something else? We need to orient ourselves to Christ, individually and societally. We must again recognise that supremacy belongs to God, and to God alone.

That’s why the Catholic Bishops of Canada have decided to re-consecrate our country to Mary, and are doing so this weekend to coincide with Canada’s anniversary. We need to get back to our Catholic roots, and one of the best ways to do that is to turn to Mary. Just as Mary brought Jesus into this world, so too can she bring us back to Him. By staying close to Mary, our Mother, she can help us to receive Jesus in a deeper way and to follow Him more perfectly.

This is the purpose of Marian consecration. By consecrating ourselves to Mary, we consecrate ourselves to Jesus through her. Just as Mary’s life was set-apart for Jesus, so too, by consecration to her, are our lives set-apart for Jesus in imitation of her. It’s a commitment to follow in her footsteps as the perfect disciple of Jesus, who calls us to Do whatever He tells [us] (Jn 2:5).

With this consecration, we also ask for Mary’s intercession and protection for ourselves and for our country: that she who is destined to crush the serpent’s head will also defeat what St. Paul calls the spirit of this world, so that Christ may reign in our hearts and in our country.

May we, then, express love of our country by renewing our love of Jesus through Mary by calling upon her to pray for us and to lead us into the ways of love, that we may truly love God above all things, with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Like Mary, may it be done to us according to God’s Word (cf. Lk 1:38). Our Lady of Canada, pray for us. Amen.

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Homily – Sunday Easter V C


Acts 14:21-27
Ps 145       R/. I will bless your name for ever, my king and my God.
Rev 21:1-5
Jn 13:1, 31-33, 34-35


One of the greatest challenges of our society today is that of selfishness. People are generally only concerned with themselves. In our Gospel this week, our Lord gives us the remedy to such egoism: Love! Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (Jn 13:34).

You see, my brothers and sisters, love is the opposite of selfishness, it opens us up to others, and it causes us to want to give of ourselves for others (cf. John Paul II, Message for the XI World Youth Day, no. 6). Love leads us out of ourselves and toward others. That’s why love is the cure for selfishness, for injustice, for poverty, for every evil. That’s why love is the way of God; that’s why love is the way to God.

But in our Gospel today, Jesus doesn’t just invite us to love, He commands us to love: I give you a new commandment, that you love one another (Jn 13:34). So what does it mean to love one another? Jesus gives us two answers to that question.

First, this commandment is given to us in the context of the Last Supper, and it’s in this event that we find our first clue to understanding Christian love. Do you remember what’s unique about the Last Supper in John’s Gospel? If you said the Washing of the Feet, you’re right. If you remember Holy Thursday, John recounts how Jesus washed the feet of the Twelve, and it’s in this context that He gives us this new commandment. And we need to keep these two parts tied together: the Washing of the Feet, and the Commandment to Love. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you (Jn 13:15). Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another (Jn 13:34).

So to love as Christ loves is to wash each other’s feet, to serve each other, to care for each other. This kind of love is best called ‘charity’, the virtue of loving God and others. The theological virtue of charity is a supernatural virtue: it’s one we receive as a gift from God, not one that we achieve by effort. That means it’s rooted in prayer, and is the result of God’s grace working in our lives. This is what distinguishes Blessed Mother Teresa from, say, Bill Gates or some other philanthropist. Charity is about receiving others for the sake of our love for God, and for love of them, and sharing ourselves with them in return. It’s unconditional and unlimited.

Second, the first verse of today’s Gospel gives us another clue: Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father (Jn 13:1). John repeatedly uses this term ‘hour’ to refer to the moment of Jesus’ glorification, the Cross (cf. Jn 3:14, 12:32). So to love as Jesus loves is to embrace the Cross: No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (Jn 15:13). To love one another as Christ loves us is to lay down our lives for others. Charity isn’t just sharing with others; it’s giving ourselves to others.

To love as Christ loves, then, is a demanding love; it isn’t for the lukewarm or the half-hearted! To love as Christ loves is to die to ourselves, it’s to sacrifice our lives, it’s to serve. That’s why it’s a supernatural virtue, because it can only be the fruit of the Holy Spirit working in us. But in order for the Spirit to transform us into vessels of love, we must open our hearts to God; we must first encounter His love. That’s why prayer and the Sacraments are essential for the Christian life, because it’s through them that we open our hearts to God; it’s through them that Christ teaches us to love; it’s through them that we receive the grace that sanctifies us. This is why Jesus made charity the distinctive mark of His disciples: By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:35). That’s why in the Acts of the Apostles Christianity is called ‘the Way’, because it is the way of Love.

Now this isn’t new to you. Parent’s, whether you realise it or not, you’ve been living a similar love since the day your child was born. To wake up in the middle of the night to feed or console a child, to make sure they have clothes before you do, to provide for their needs first, these are acts of love. Combined with prayer and offered as a sacrifice of love to God, they begin to take on the character of charity.

It’s because of acts like this that Catherine Dougherty, the founder of the Madonna House Apostolate, was able to coin the phrase ‘I am third’: God first, others second, me third. Or that Blessed Mother Teresa was able to challenge us to ‘give until it hurts’.

Charity, as the supernatural virtue of loving, is a way of participating in God’s action, because through charity we share in God’s act of love; we’re able to love as He loves. In fact, charity is God’s love working in and through us. That’s why St. Paul called it the greatest gift that never ends (cf. 1 Cor 13:8, 13). It’s this love that makes all things new, that transforms the world in which we live.

In this Easter Season, as we continue to celebrate the Eucharist and receive the gift of God’s love made flesh, may we contemplate this mystery so as to learn to love as Christ loves, to grow in the virtue of charity, and to live according to God’s commandment to love one another as He loves us, so that through Him, with Him and in Him, we too, can make all things new with His love. Amen.

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Homily – Sunday Easter III C – Do You Love Me?

Audio: https://soundcloud.com/pereroger/doyouloveme (Follow me on SoundCloud!)


 

Acts 5:28-32, 40b-41 Ps 30   R/.  I will extol you, Lord, for you have raised me up. Rev 5:11-14 Jn 21:1-19


In our Gospel passage today we continue with the accounts of Jesus’ apparitions after the Resurrection. Once again, John doesn’t disappoint with his carefully worded retelling of the encounter. The whole scene ties in several previous key events the disciples experienced with Jesus.

We begin with the disciples — including Simon, James and John — fishing on the Sea of Galilee, but without catching anything throughout the night. Jesus is on the shore. This scene reminds us of their call to discipleship (Mt 4:18-22).

As Jesus tells them to cast their nets again, it recalls the miraculous catch of fish (Lk 5:1-11), when Peter made his first profession of faith — Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man! (Lk 5:8).Jn21Icon.jpg

Ashore, Jesus invites them to eat bread and fish; this brings up the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish (Jn 6:1-13), which began the discourse on the Bread of Life.

The mention of a charcoal fire (Jn 18:18) recalls Peter’s triple denial of Jesus during the Passion (Lk 22:64-62; Jn 18:15-27). The three questions that follow reinforce this connection.

Finally, Jesus speaks directly to Peter calling him Simon, son of John (v. 15), recalling Peter’s elevation as chief of the Apostles, when he’s given the keys (Mt 16:18).

I mention these things briefly because I think they’re important for us to keep in our hearts and minds as we hear the words of our Gospel today. John subtly recalls them so as to help us to understand what Jesus is saying and doing in this final encounter.

You see, the key part of our Gospel passage is precisely this interchange between Jesus and Peter; everything else serves to help us make sense of it. Having denied Jesus three times, Peter must now profess his love for Jesus three times; having run away from Jesus’ Passion, he must now embrace the passion that awaits him. And all of this Peter will do by loving Jesus to the end, and by humbly and faithfully caring for the flock of Christ — that is, the Church — now entrusted to his care.

Jesus gave Peter the keys to loose and to bind; now he’s being told about what that’ll look like: self-sacrificial love (for God and for others) — Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? (Jn 21:15); and, He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God (Jn 21:19).

This love will be expressed not merely through Peter’s death, but also in his care for the Church, by tending and feeding the sheep. Here I think John is tying-in his previous mention of the fish and loaves: Peter must feed the flock of Christ with the Eucharist and help them to follow Jesus.

But there’s another aspect here that’s lost in the English language. When Jesus questions Peter, they’re not using the same words. The details are lost in English because we only have one word for love, but the Greeks have at least four words, each describing a different kind of love or relationship.

Jesus asks Peter, do you love me?do you [agape] me? Agape is a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love (cf. DCE, 7). So Jesus is really asking Peter, ‘do you love me with your whole heart? Will you die for me as you once said you would?’ (Mt 26:33).

Peter, on the other hand, responds with another word, philia, which is a friendship kind of love: ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I [like] you’, or ‘you know that I’m your friend’. This contrast also appears in the second question and answer.

In the third question, Jesus mercifully lowers His expectations and changes His question to match Peter’s language: do you [philia] me?, that is, ‘do you like me?’ Obviously not catching on to the differences, Peter responds in a wounded manner, Lord, you know everything; you know that I [like] you.

Jesus mercifully lowers His expectations because He sees that Peter doesn’t yet understand and can’t quite raise himself to say it, but that he will in due time. Peter wasn’t ready for agape — for a selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love — on that morning by the Sea of Galilee, but he certainly was by the time he joyfully laid down his life in Rome nearly 35 years later. Jesus accepted Peter where he was at so that He could help him to grow into what he should be.

My brothers and sister, the Lord Jesus does the same for us: He consistently invites us to the high dignity of discipleship, even when He knows it often seems beyond our capacities. But He doesn’t stop inviting us if we’re not yet ready to love Him as He desires us to. Instead, like He did with Peter, Jesus is patient with us and is willing to walk with us along the path to perfection. He doesn’t give up on us, but walks with us.

We don’t need to fear that we’re not where Jesus wants us to be. We don’t need to fear we can’t do what Jesus asks us to do. He’s patient with us. But we can’t give up either: we can’t just walk away because what Jesus asks is challenging. And we can’t just sit back and expect that Jesus will accept us if we do nothing. He invites us, but we need to respond in order to receive the gifts He has in store for us. Our ‘yes’ doesn’t need to be perfect, but we do need to open the door at least a crack in order for Him to enter.

Peter didn’t stay stuck in his inability to love Jesus perfectly. Rather he loved Jesus as he could, and through that love, Jesus drew him closer, and perfected his love. When Jesus calls us to follow Him, we need to respond to the best of our capacity. We can’t just mope and wallow in self-pity because we’re not as good as He wants us to be. Rather, like Peter, we need to offer Jesus what it is we do have, what it is we can do right now, and then allow Him to lead us to a deeper love, a stronger commitment, a holier way of life.

Jesus invites us to perfection, but He accepts what we can give Him. The key is that we have to give what we have, and let Him raise us up. Are we ready to do that? Are we ready to follow Jesus with what we have? Are we able to let Him change and transform us, so that we, too, can love Him perfectly with an agape love?

Through the Sacraments, the help of the Holy Spirit, and the intercession of Mary and the Saints, may we be lifted up by the grace of Christ to become what He calls us to be: one with Him in the love of the Father. Amen.

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Homily – Sunday in Ordinary Time 14 A

Zech 9:9-10
Ps 145             R/. I will bless your name for ever my King and my God.
Rom 8:9, 11-13
Mt 11:25-30

 

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Mt 11:29, 30). I think that’s a verse you all know by heart — whoever said Catholics don’t memorize Scripture!

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Mt 11:29, 30). We all know this verse, and we’re comforted by it: it gives us peace and assurance, even if we’re not always sure what it means. So what did Jesus mean by these words?

First we need to look at what is a ‘yoke’. It’s not a term we use much anymore, because it’s a tool we don’t use much anymore. A yoke is a heavy wooden beam that was strapped on the shoulders of a pair of working animals (usually oxen) so that they could pull an object (usually a cart or a plough), that also allowed the driver could steer them.yoke

Now it’s important that we have this image in our minds when hearing the words of Jesus, because it plays an important part of the literal sense of what He’s saying.

You see, a yoke is meant to do two things: First, it keeps the beast from doing his own thing; the yoke limits his freedom of movement. The ox can’t leave his partner to wander off track; he can’t stop to eat longer or even go at a slower pace. The driver controls the path and the pace, and both animals must work together. This helps them to focus on the task at hand.

Second, it distributes the weight of their cargo. Because a yoke makes the animals work together, it means that one cannot work less than the other. They both need to pull their weight. This makes it easier for each animal to pull something heavy, and allows them to pull something heavier than they could do on their own.

But not every animal is capable of working with a yoke. A stubborn, untrained or ‘independent’ animal won’t be able to accept the limitations of the yoke. They will constantly seek to be freed from it and fight against it. A pair of stubborn animals could be very dangerous for the driver.

Pulling from this literal meaning, Jesus is trying to teach us two things: First, He’s pointing us to the Cross. The Cross is the yoke of Christ. This was the wooden beam to which were tied His hands that He carried around the city. It certainly was a heavy and difficult burden.

But yet, it was also a sweet burden, because it brought about salvation. And, as we see from the Agony in the Garden, it was anything but forced upon Him; Jesus freely chose to accept this yoke and become for us a slave: Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want (Mt 26:39).

And here’s His first point: because He chose to accept the yoke out of love for us, it became light. Charity lightens the burden of the yoke; it makes the yoke an expression of love and allows us to give ourselves over to it. Perhaps we should actually say instead that charity is the yoke. Or better yet, that Christ Himself is the yoke!

Jesus’ second point is this: we are not alone! Just as a yoke is carried by two animals, so Jesus is there with us in carrying our Cross. Jesus’ yoke is easy because He’s there helping us. And the best part of this is that He lets us set the pace; He’s the one who matches our pace. In His mercy He slows down so that we might keep up.

My brothers and sisters, to follow Jesus is to carry a yoke, His yoke. And the yoke of Jesus is the Cross of love. Yes there are demands; there are things we must stop doing in order to follow Jesus; there are things we cannot do because we follow Jesus — and sometimes our freedom seems to be limited by this. But when we take the time to look at it, Jesus’ yoke only stops us from doing what would hurt us. Instead, it opens us up to a path of true freedom: not freedom to do whatever we want — that always leads us into some kind of slavery —, but freedom to be and to do what it is we’ve been created and called to be and do, what is right and just, what is demanded by love. Following Jesus is really only a struggle when we fight against His yoke, when we try to stay tied to it but still do our own thing. But Jesus reminds us that we must be docile to the Spirit: learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart (Mt 11:29).

Jesus invites us to let go and abandon ourselves to the yoke of His Cross of love, to give-in to His love for us so that we might be guided by it. He also invites us to let go of our own stubbornness so that we can depend more and more on His grace, on His strength to pull the cart.

Sacred Heart 14When we accept this and repeat His words, not what I want but what you want (Mt 26:39), then His yoke indeed becomes easy and light. Because now it’s an act of love, a companionship rooted in being partners with God. This is what all the Saints have discovered, and what they encourage us to imitate. So the question that remains is, will we take up sweet yoke of Christ and follow Him, too?

Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls .For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Mt 11:29-30). Amen.

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Homily – Ash Wednesday


Joel 2:12-18
Ps 51   R/. Have mercy, O Lord, for we have sinned. 
2 Cor 5:20-6:2
Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

 

My brothers and sisters, the Christian life is all about imitating Christ, and Lent is about taking the time to see where we’re at in that journey of becoming like Christ.

Ash-WednesdayWe begin Lent today with a spirit of penance and repentance because we recognise that we don’t always live like Christ; because we recognise that sometimes we don’t even try to imitate Him; and because we recognise that at times we even choose to turn away from Him, preferring instead the glamour of sin.

This is the reality of our human weakness: we are attacked everyday by various temptations — some of which we even create ourselves —, and too often we simply give-in to them without a fight. And so, as we embark on this annual journey of Lent, this journey of conversion, we do so by acknowledging our sinfulness, by acknowledging our love for God, and by acknowledging our need for His grace to persevere in faithful discipleship and to grow in holiness.

Today, we put on ashes as a sign of this repentance, and as a sign of our desire for conversion. Taken from the ancient Jewish custom, the placing of ashes on our heads is an act of publically acknowledging our sinfulness, and of humbling ourselves in the sight of God, remembering that we are little more than ashes, for from dust we were created and to dust we shall return (cf. Gen 3:19).

It’s also a means of calling upon God’s goodness. If we look at all the times in the Old Testament when people put on sackcloth and ashes as a sign of repentance and conversion, it’s almost always accompanied by prayers calling for God’s mercy.[1]  And so, the imposition of ashes also signifies turning our hearts back to God and asking for His mercy.

These two dimensions — humble repentance and prayer for mercy — are at the heart of the entire Lenten season, and so we see in this symbolic act of ashes the meaning of this holy Season: repentance and conversion; and it opens us up to the triple practice of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, which are characteristic of Lent.

Prayer deepens our relationship with God, helps us to recognise our sinfulness and our need for Him, and strengthens us to better live the Christian life.

Fasting helps us to make room for God by shedding the things we don’t really need, the things that tend to distract us from God, and it helps us to discipline our bodies and desires so that we’re better able to resist temptation. By saying ‘no’ to good things we learn to better say ‘no’ to evil. Fasting also helps us to identify with the poor who often go hungry on a daily basis.

Almsgiving helps us to be detached from our material possessions so as to share the gifts we’ve received with those in need.

Together, prayer, fasting and almsgiving are intended to bring us closer to God and to make us stronger in faith and in love. As such, then, they’re more than just ‘something we do during Lent;’ they’re really at the very heart of the Christian life. The Church simply highlights these three weapons during Lent in the hope that our renewed efforts in these areas will continue beyond the 40 days, bearing fruit throughout the whole year, indeed throughout our whole life.

When training for an upcoming season, athletes prepare themselves by renewing their commitment to fitness and by increasing their efforts to train their bodies for the stamina and strength required for their sport.

Lent is like a spiritual ‘spring training’: it’s a time we take to renew our commitment to the spiritual life and to increase our efforts to be holy through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. But just like the athlete who needs to keep a healthy lifestyle throughout the year so as to be ready for training and competition, so, too, do we need to sustain throughout the year the progress we make during Lent, each year building upon the last.

But the penance we do during Lent, and the discipline of discipleship we build through it, isn’t for its own sake; it’s not meant to make us into sad Christians, depressed by our sins and weighed down by our penance. The Christian life isn’t some endless cycle of Lent, of ‘training for competition’, of just fighting temptation! Though that’s certainly a part of it, the Christian life goes far beyond that, because it always looks beyond the fight against evil to Christ’s victory on the Cross.

And so, just as Lent already points us beyond penance toward the joy of Easter, the joy of the Resurrection, so, too, does the Christian life point beyond the struggle against sin toward eternal life in the Kingdom. You see, the Christian life is intended to prepare us for Heaven, to help us become holy so that we might be ready to share in the blessed joy of eternal union with God. Lent is merely the warm-up exercise that helps us to better and more properly live the life of holiness to which we’ve been called by virtue of our Baptism.

The placing of ashes on our heads today is an external sign of our commitment to this renewal of faith, a physical sign on our bodies that represents the internal, spiritual reality that’s taking place in our souls. And so, with these ashes, we humbly turn our hearts back to God and ask Him to fill us with His grace, to strengthen us against temptation, to make us holy. Amen.

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Lenten Message

Lent is a time the Church sets aside each year for us to evaluate the state of our life, of our relationship with Christ, and the direction in which we’re going. It’s a time during which we’re called to go out into the desert to be with God, as did the people of Israel with Moses (the book of Exodus), a time during which we’re called to follow Jesus into the solitude of the desert in order to do battle against temptation (Lk 4:1-12; Mt 4:1-11).

christ tempted by satan

Christ being tempted. (Bl. Fra Angelico?)

To help us in this mission of spiritual warfare, the Church gives us three particular weapons: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The effectiveness of these ancient practices is rooted in their very nature as being directed toward someone other than ‘me’.

Prayer binds us to God. It helps us recognise our sins and our need for God; it deepens our relationship with Jesus, and strengthens us to better live like Him. It’s the foundation of the other two weapons.

Fasting helps us to make room for God by letting go of the things we don’t really need, things that distract us from God. It teaches us discipline and helps us to control our bodies and desires so that we can better resist temptation. It teaches us to make sacrifices for the sake of love, and helps us to identify with the poor who are often hungry on a daily basis.

Almsgiving helps us to let go of our material possessions so that we might provide for the needs of others. In Lent, the idea is that the money we save by fasting is then given to feed the poor. It also keeps us from making fasting a miserly and selfish act.

These are the basic spiritual tools of the Christian life; we simply highlight them during Lent to help us better practice them throughout the year. Together, they bring us closer to God and increase our love for Him and neighbour. Done intentionally with joy and authenticity, they strengthen our faith. They also point us to a proper understanding of ‘penance’.

As I wrote in Part XVII of my series on Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, penance isn’t a form of punishment; rather it’s “an act of love offered to increase our desire to avoid sin, to strengthen repentance, and to make reparation for sins”. Penance is meant to bring us closer to God by increasing our capacity to love, and refocusing our attention and efforts on following God.

In this way, then, Lent also reminds us of our Baptism, the starting point of our Journey toward God, and points us toward the Resurrection of Christ, the guarantee of our own resurrection to come.

And so, this time of prayer and penance which is Lent, is also a time of preparation and joyful expectation: preparation for the Easter mysteries celebrated in the Sacred Paschal Triduum; expectation of the glory that awaits us in Christ Jesus.

May we, then, embrace this time of renewal: with all of God’s people, may we enter into the desert of Lent to encounter God and His superabundant love for us, and recommit ourselves to following His way. A blessed and holy Lent to each of you!

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