1st Sunday of Lent - 18 February

18th February 2024
“Lent is a period of spiritual ‘combat’ which we must experience alongside Jesus, not with pride and presumption, but using the arms of faith, prayer, listening to the word of God, and penance.” - Pope Benedict XVI
A reflection on today's readings by the Venerable Archbishop Fulton J Sheen:
"One often sees sign painted on roadways, ‘Jesus Saves.’ Now this indeed is true, but the important question is how does He save?
"The answer is to be found in the sacraments. The divine life of Christ is communicated through His Church or His Mystical Body in exactly the same way that His divine life was communicated when He walked on earth. As He then used His human nature as the instrument of divinity, and used material things as signs and symbols of the conferring of His pardon, so He now uses other human natures and material things as the instruments for the communication of that same divine life.
"In the earthly life of Our Lord, we read that there were two kinds of contact. There was the visible contact with humanity by which His power was communicated to the palsied man and to the blind, both of whom He touched. But there was also the invisible contact, in which Our Blessed Lord showed His power by working miracles at a distance, such as the curing of the servant of the centurion of Nazareth. The second kind of contact is an anticipation of the way that Christ, Who is now in Heaven, extends and communicates His power through the sacraments.
"The sacraments derive their power and efficacy from the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord. Why was a blood sacrifice required to bring us the seven-fold sanctification? For several reasons: Life is in the blood, but so also is sin. If, therefore, sin is to be done away with, there should be some shedding of blood, as if to symbolize the emptying of sin. Furthermore, blood is the best symbol of sacrifice, because blood is the life of man: when man gives up his blood, he gives up his life. Hence, St Peter writes: ‘What was the ransom that freed you from the vain observances of ancestral tradition? You know well enough that it was not paid in earthly currency, silver or gold; it was paid in the precious Blood of Christ; no lamb was ever so pure, so spotless a victim.’ The blood of Christ had infinite value because He is a divine person.
"Calvary is like a reservoir of divine life or grace. From it, there flow seven different kinds of sanctification of man in different stages of his spiritual existence. Each of these seven channels is a sacrament by which the power of the Risen Christ is bestowed on souls by a spiritual and effective contact. This divine life pours into the soul when we receive the sacraments, unless we put an obstacles in the way, just as water will not flow out of a faucet if we put our hand in front of the faucet. But a faucet in a house has no power to quench thirst unless there is a reservoir and a pipeline. So the sacraments do not confer grace as magical signs; they communicate it only because they are in contact with the Risen Christ.
"A principle of philosophy states: ‘Whatever is received is received according to the mode of the one receiving it.’ If you pour water into a blue glass, it looks blue; if you pour it into a red glass, it looks red. If you pour water into the parched earth, it is different than water poured onto a carpet or into oil. So too, when the blood of Christ and its merits flood in upon the soul, it depends upon the one receiving it. Does the soul come for strengthening? For nourishment? For healing? For a long journey? For induction into the spiritual army? The effects will differ as to whether a person is spiritually dead or spiritually living. If a member of the Church is spiritually dead, then it will revive him as does the Sacrament of Penance, or the Sacrament of Baptism." (These are the Sacraments)
Food for thought
Before Lent begins many of us make very grand resolutions on how we will use this time to increase our spiritual growth. Unfortunately, sometimes what we plan is not only unrealistic (e.g. for parents with young children or those who work or are sick), but, in the case of wanting to do severe fasting and mortification, can be dangerous to our health if we have not been given the grace by God to endure it. Not everyone can spend several hours in prayer every day, or (like St John Vianney) survive on two hours of sleep and a diet of a few potatoes and milk.
Be prudent when making your Lenten resolutions. If the demands of your family or work life make it impossible to do more than 30 minutes of prayer each day, don’t be disheartened that you can’t fit in the three hours you wished to do. If you have a medical condition that requires you to eat at regular intervals, instead of a long fast consider abstaining from certain types of food instead. Also consider alternative methods of self-denial: go without make-up or social media, or that new outfit you really want. All sacrifices, big or small and done for love of God, please Him and can help you grow in holiness.
Prayer for Avoiding Sin
Heavenly Father, please hear the prayers I offer from a contrite heart. Have pity on me as I acknowledge my sins. Lead me back to the way of holiness. Protect me now and always from the wounds of sin. May I ever keep safe in all its fullness the gift Your love once gave me and Your mercy now restores.
Jesus, pour Your Precious Blood over me, my body, mind, soul, and spirit; my conscious and sub-conscious; my intellect and will; my feelings, thoughts, emotions and passions; my words and actions; my vocation, my relationships, family, friends and possessions. Protect with Your Precious Blood all other activities of my life. Lord, I dedicate all of these things to You, and I acknowledge You as Lord and Master of all.
Mary, Immaculate Conception, pure and holy Virgin Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, draw me under Your veil; guard me and shield me against all attacks and temptations that would violate the virtue of chastity.
Lord Jesus Christ, I beg You for the grace to remain guarded beneath the protective mantle of Mary, surrounded by the holy briar from which was taken the Holy Crown of Thorns, and saturated with Your Precious Blood in the power of the Holy Spirit, with our Guardian Angels for the greater glory of the Father. Amen. 🙏💖💐
Did you Know?
Lent is a season of 40 days to mirror the 40 days Jesus stayed alone in the desert. In biblical terms 40 days could mean a very long time as well as 40 actual days.
But if you count on the calendar, you’ll find Lent is longer than 40 days. What’s going on?
Firstly, Lent ends on Holy Thursday and we enter then into the Paschal Fast. This is three days: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday. That removes three days from Lent but still it’s not 40.
The answer lies in that Sundays are not counted as days of Lent because each Sunday of the year is a solemnity of the Resurrection. Then there are two more solemnities in Lent: St Patrick’s Day and St Joseph’s Day. The Church does not require us to fast or do penance on solemnities. So each Sunday and these two saint’s days are like “days off” Lent. And that brings the number down to 40.
Ways to Pray During Lent
Lent brings to our minds the task and duty of prayer, which belongs to the whole of our Christian life, not just for Lent.
Praying before the Blessed Sacrament, exposed in the monstrance, which is called Adoration, is a sublime form of prayer.
The practice of Adoration is not difficult, as some may think. It is a gentle abiding in the presence of Jesus. It is a resting in the radiance of His Eucharistic Face, and a closeness to His Eucharistic Heart. Words, though sometimes helpful, are not necessary, nor are thoughts. What Jesus seeks from the one who adores Him is a heart aflame with love, a heart content to stay with Him, being silent and still. It is taking time to be with Him, and by taking time show Him that He is worthy of our attention; that is worship, showing the worth Jesus holds for us. It is important also to remember that it is His work in our soul that makes Adoration possible. It is His gift to the one who asks for it. Ask then, for the gift of Adoration.