Sunday, May 1, 2011

Second Homily for Lent

Sancti eritis qui Ego Sanctus Sum
Lectio Secunda [1]

Instruction for the Second Sunday of Lent
20th of March, 2011

Parish of Saints Peter and Paul
Rev. Mr. Michael Taylor

·         First Sunday of Lent: Concerning the knowledge of good and evil.
·         Second Sunday of Lent: Concerning the call to holiness
·         Third Sunday of Lent: Concerning why hope is necessary
·         Fourth Sunday of Lent: Concerning what is pleasing to God
·         Fifth Sunday of Lent: Concerning why our faith is salvific
·         Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion: Concerning how to be a martyr

Be not ashamed then of testifying to our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel in the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not in virtue of our works but in virtue of his own purpose and the grace which he gave us in Christ Jesus. [2]

If you are ever given the chance to see gold being made, being mined from the ore from which it is gathered, I highly recommend it. In the old days, a goldsmith would take the ore and put it into an amazingly hot fire, to melt the gold away from the rock. He would then let it cool. Still, there was a lot of impurities within the gold. So he would heat up the gold again, and the impurities would float to the top. He would skim the impurities off, and then let it cool. He would repeat this process up to seven times, until he could see his reflection in the molten gold. When he could see his image, he knew the gold was pure. Now this is an metaphor for the Christian life. For as Saint Peter says, that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.[3]
We know that we were created in the image of God,[4] but in original sin, we are like gold which is covered in the ore and dirt of the mountains of our sin. An orthodox Jewish theologian, Michael Wyschogrod, once commented that the meaning of God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendents lays in whenever God looks down on the Jewish people, He sees the image of his beloved Abraham, with whom He first made His covenant. Now consider today’s gospel. Jesus is standing on Mount Tabor, and God looks down. God sees Jesus, the Son of Mary, and sees the image of His beloved Abraham.[5] But more importantly, God the Father looks down, and sees the Second Person of the Divine Trinity, His Eternally Begotten Son, the image of the invisible God.[6] Jesus is the purified gold, the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, the restoration of the image of God given to man at his creation. For this reason, God the Father is able to look down and say, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
That is what baptism does for us.  We are baptized into the life of Christ, sharing in his death and thus sharing in the glory of his resurrection.[7] In Baptism, we are given the power of the Holy Spirit, and whoever is led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For we have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear: but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father)! For the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God.[8] If we are to find salvation from God, it will only be because when the Father looks at our souls on the Day of Judgment and see the image of His beloved Son, and in so doing, recognizes us as brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus.[9] It is for this reason that God has command, be holy, for I am holy [10] and Christ taught us to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.[11]
As the Catholic theologian Garrigou-Lagrange noted, "There are those who seem to think that it is sufficient to be saved and that it is not necessary to become a saint.  It is clearly not necessary to be a saint who performs miracles and whose sanctity is officially recognized by the Church.  To be saved, we must take the way of salvation, which is identical with that of sanctity.  There will be only saints in heaven, whether they enter there immediately after death or after purification in purgatory.  No one enters heaven unless he [or she] has that sanctity which consists in perfect purity of soul.  Every sin, though it should be venial, must be effaced, and the punishment due to sin must be borne or remitted, in order that a soul may enjoy forever the vision of God, see Him as He sees Himself, and love Him as He loves Himself.  Should a soul enter heaven before the total remission of its sins, it could not remain there and it would cast itself into purgatory to be purified.  The interior life of a just [person] who tends toward God and who already lives by Him is indeed the one thing necessary.  To be a saint, neither intellectual culture nor great exterior activity is a requisite; it suffices that we live profoundly by God." [12]
So how do we live profoundly by God? The answer is first and always prayer. How can we expect to be transformed in our relationship with God if we never talk to Him? Yet it is difficult to know how to pray, especially in these busy lives of ours. So, if it is amenable to you, I would like to offer you nine ways of prayer as first exemplified by Saint Dominic.
The First Way is to examine oneself before the altar of Christ. This way is perfect for when you enter a Church. Take time when you first enter a Church to have time to pray before mass begins. Think about the crucified Christ and where you are in relationship to where Christ is. It is an examination of who we are, and who we are called to me. Think of the words of the Centurion, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my roof: but only say the word, and my servant shall be healed. [13] The Centurion knew of his unworthiness, yet in his faith, he knew that Jesus could work with where he was at. The prayer of the humble and meek has always pleased the Lord.[14] Where humility is, there also is wisdom.[15]
The Second Way is lay prostrate before the altar.[16] This is an act of extreme humility, to lay everything out before God. This is particularly useful before going to confession. In this way, we acknowledge that we have sinned against God, and God alone.[17] In acknowledging that we have sinned, we can begin to seek reconciliation. During this form of prayer, say to the Father, O God, be merciful to me a sinner.[18] As the proverb says, the fear of the Lord is the lesson of wisdom: and humility goeth before glory.[19]
The Third Way is the disciplining of the self. Self-gift and the idea of denying ourselves for the sake of God is something that should accompany us throughout the year, not just in Lent. Remember that Christ taught, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.[20] Let us take up periods of fasting, almsgiving and prayer throughout our year, whether it is abstaining from meat on all Fridays or if it is participating in a soup kitchen once a month. Pray psalms 51 or 130 once a week. Remember, the discipline of the Lord is for those whom He loves.[21]
The Fourth Way is to kneel before the Lord in adoration. It is important to remember that God is God, and we are not, and to him alone shall every knee bend.[22] Here at Saints Peter and Paul, we have a perpetual adoration chapel. One does not need to spend hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament. God knows what you are able to give Him and He will appreciate any time spent with you, just as any good parent enjoys time with their children. But also, kneeling before the Lord is a state of mind. It reminds us that he is the Lord of our lives, and that it is his will, and not ours that is most important.[23] If we remember to keep Christ as the center of our lives, than we will keep everything in right perspective.
The Fifth Way is to be still and know that God is present. In scripture it is written, be still and know that I am God.[24] In our day to day lives, there are so many distractions, so many noises around us, that even if we were trying to talk to God, we couldn’t hear ourselves think, much less hear what God was trying to say. At least once a day, take time to be silent. See what the Lord has to say to you. The psalmist says, commune with your own hearts on your beds and be silent.[25] Let God give you peace amidst the storms of our lives, with all the concerns which consume our time. Remember the words of Christ Jesus when the disciples were afraid of the storm. Jesus turned to the seas, and said, peace, be still.[26] Allow God to give you peace in your prayer.
The Sixth Way is to imitate Christ crucified. There are times in our lives where tragedy strikes unannounced and unplanned. The pain of such events can wound us to the very core of our being. But remember that Jesus has suffered for you, and willingly suffers alongside you now. Jesus, who in the days of his flesh, with a strong cry and tears, offering up prayers and supplications to Him that was able to save him from death, was heard for his reverence. And whereas indeed He was the Son of God, He learned obedience by the things He which He suffered. [27] It was for this reason that Paul was able to say, I now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things which are wanting in the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body which is the Church. Offer up your misfortunes to the Father, so that He might bring good out of what has been evil. At the end of every day, repeat the words of Jesus on the cross, Into thy hands, I commend my spirit.[28]
The Seventh Way of prayer is to yearn for the presence of God. “Remember O Christian, your dignity.”[29] “Know then, O man, your greatness and be vigilant .”[30] What is the meaning of this life? To know, love and serve God in this world so that God may show His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.[31] Saint Theresa of Avila lamented that “we are a people who forget that we have a soul.” If we remembered that we were created to love God, than we could not help but to proclaim, O God, thou art my God, I seek thee; my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry, weary land without water.[32] The Eucharist, containing the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, is the culmination of that desire here on earth, the foretaste of the heavenly liturgy. [33] The seventh way of prayer allows us to enter into this Eucharistic mystery with fervor, and such fervor sustains us throughout the rest of the week.
The Eighth Way is to study the ways of the Lord. As the Psalmist says, I will hear what the Lord God will speak to me.[34] Read the Bible. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Read the lives of the Saints. Saint Jerome famously noted that “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” [35] How can we believe if we do not know the one whom we believe in? Jesus taught, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.[36] Therefore, take time every day to read scriptures. Start in the New Testament and even if it’s just one chapter, take the time. Let the scriptures wash over you. God’s word is lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path.[37] Read the Catechism to see how the faith of our fathers has been passed on to us in this present day. Read the lives of the saints to see how people conformed themselves to Christ in many different ways in many different times. In all these things, we will be able to say with Saint Paul, I know whom I have believed.[38]
The Ninth Way is to take time to withdraw. We all need breaks, and we all need vacations. Lent is one of those seasons which allows us to break from our routine, to approach our faith from a different angle. But there will be times when other breaks are needed. Take time to withdraw from the world. Go, as Christ Jesus did, out into the wilderness. As God said, I will lead her, my spouse, into the wilderness and I will speak to her.[39] It might just be a day retreat. It might be a week. It might just be a couple of hours on a Thursday evening when the kids are at soccer practice. Take them time to seek out God. Don’t turn on the TV or worry about what chores need to be done. Just take the time to rest in the Lord.
Not all of these ways are to be done at once. They are different ways for different needs that arise in our lives. At some point in our life, one of the ways might be just what we needed. A couple of years later, that way might not do anything for our spiritual journey. That is what is so great about our tradition and our faith. God is continually working to reach us in just the way we need. The one thing that is constant, the one thing that is necessary, is that we have to be willing to pray. If we are willing to draw near to God, He will draw close to us. [40] He who calls you is faithful. He will do it.[41]

[1] “Be Holy, for I am Holy.” I Peter 1.16; Second Reading for Sunday
[2] II Timothy 1.8-9 (Taken from the Second Reading of the Second Sunday of Lent)
[3] I Peter 1.7
[4] Cf. Genesis 1.26
[5] Michael Wyschogrod. “Incarnation and God’s Indwelling in Israel.” Abraham’s Promise: Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations. 2004, p. 25
[6] Cf. Colossians 1.15
[7] Cf. Romans 6.4, Colossians 2.12, I Peter 3.21
[8] Romans 8.14-16
[9] Venerable Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, §51: “Holiness begins from Christ, and Christ is its cause. For no act conducive to salvation can be performed unless it proceeds from Him as from its supernatural source. Without me, He says, you can do nothing (cf. John 15.5). If we grieve and do penance for our sins, if, with filial fear and hope, we can turn again to God, it is because He is leading us.”
[10] I Peter 1.16. See also Leviticus 11.44, 46; Leviticus 20.26; Psalm 18.26; Ephesians 1.24; Ephesians 5.27.
[11] Matthew 5.48
[12] Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, The Three Ages of the Interior Life:  Prelude of Eternal Life (vol. 1, 1947, p.4-5).
[13] Matthew 8.8
[14] Cf. Judith 9.16
[15] Proverbs 11.2
[16] Psalm 119.25
[17] Psalm 51.6
[18] Luke 18.13
[19] Proverbs 15.33
[20] Luke 9.23
[21] Hebrews 12.6
[22] Isaiah 45.23-24; Philippians 2.10-11
[23] Cf. Matthew 6.10; Luke 22.42
[24] Psalm 46.10
[25] Psalm 4.4
[26] Mark 4.39
[27] Hebrews 5.7-8
[28] Luke 23.46; Psalm 31.6
[29] Saint Pope Leo the Great, Sermo I de Nativitate Domini, §3
[30] Venerable Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, §10: The Church, instructed by the Teacher’s words, believes that man, made in the image of the Creator, redeemed by the Blood of Christ and made holy by the presence of the Holy Spirit, has the ultimate purpose of his life to live for the praise of God’s glory (Eph. 1.12), striving to make each of his actions reflect the splendor of that glory. “Know then, O beautiful soul, that you are the image of God”, writes Saint Ambrose. Know that you are the glory of God (I Cor 11.7). Hear how you are His glory. The prophet says: Your knowledge has become too wonderful for me (cf. Ps. 138.6, Vulgate). That is to say, in my work your majesty has become more wonderful; in the counsels of men your wisdom is exalted. When I consider myself, such as I am known to you in my secret thoughts and deepest emotions, the mysteries of your knowledge are disclosed to me. Know then, O man, your greatness and be vigilant.” SEE Saint Ambrose, Exameron, Dies VI, Sermo IX, 8-50
[31] SEE The Baltimore Catechism, “Lesson I,” questions 3-4
[32] Psalm 63.1-2
[33] Venerable Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia de Eucharistia, §18: “The Eucharist is a straining towards the goal, a foretaste of the fullness of joy promised by Christ (cf. Jn. 15.11); it is in some way the anticipation of heaven, the pledge of future glory.”
[34] Psalm 85.9
[35] Saint Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah
[36] Matthew 4.4
[37] Cf. Psalm 119.105
[38] II Timothy 1.12
[39] Hosea 2.14
[40] James 4.8
[41] I Thessalonians 5.24

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