Sirach, Chapter 48, Verse 12
When Elijah was enveloped in the whirlwind, Elisha was filled with his spirit; He worked twice as many marvels, and every utterance of his mouth was wonderful. During his lifetime he feared no one, nor was anyone able to intimidate his will.
Is there anything that threatens or frightens you? Are there bullies or organizations (IRS) that scare you? Does the threat of terrorism or the coercing by government out of control worry you? Then welcome to the 21st Century. We need the spirit of Elisha so that all may know that we feared no one in our lifetime and were not daunted by threats nor were we overawed by demonstrations of power and that we are resolute in our following of the gospel.
O LORD, you have probed me and you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. My journeys and my rest you scrutinize, with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know the whole of it. Behind me and before, you hem me in and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; too lofty for me to attain. (Ps. 139:1-6)
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done, without neglecting the others. Blind guides, who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel! “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.” (Mt. 23:23-26)
If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts. (Ps. 95:8)
Why is this day so called?
Because on this day the Catholic Church blesses ashes and puts them on the foreheads of the faithful, saying, “Remember, man, that thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou shall return” (Gen. iii. 19).
Why are the ashes blessed?
1. That all who receive them with a contrite heart may be preserved in soul and body. 2. That God may give them contrition, and pardon their sins. 3. That He may grant them all they humbly ask for, particularly the grace to do penance, and the reward promised to the truly penitent.
Why are the faithful sprinkled with ashes?
The sprinkling with ashes was always a public sign of penance; as such God enjoined it upon the Israelites (Jer. xxv.
34). David sprinkled ashes on his beard (Ps. ci. 10). The Ninivites (Jonas iii. 6), Judith (Jud. ix. 1), Mardochai (Esther iv. 1), Job (xlii. 6), and others, did penance in sack-cloth and ashes. To show the spirit of penance and to move God to mercy, the Church, at the Introit of the Mass, uses the following words: “Thou hast mercy upon all, O Lord, and hatest none of the things which Thou hast made, and winkest at the sins of men for the sake of repentance, and sparing them, for Thou art the Lord our God” (Wis. xi. 24, 25).
INSTRUCTION ON LENT.
What is the origin of fasting?
Under the Old Law the Jews fasted by the command of God; thus Moses fasted forty days and forty nights, on Mount Sinai, when God gave him the Ten Commandments; Elias, in like manner, fasted in the desert. Jesus also fasted, and commanded His apostles to fast also. The Catholic Church, says St. Leo, from the time of the apostles, has enjoined fasting upon all the faithful.
Why has the Church instituted the fast before Easter?
1. To imitate Jesus Christ, Who fasted forty days. 2. To participate in His merits and passion; for as Christ could only be glorified through His sufferings, so in order to belong to Him we must follow Him by a life answering to His. 3. To subject the flesh to the spirit, and thus, 4, prepare ourselves for Easter and the worthy reception of the divine Lamb. 5. Finally, to offer to God some satisfaction for our sins, and, as St. Leo says, to atone for the sins of a whole year by a short fast of the tenth part of a year.
Was the fast of Lent kept in early times as it is now?
Yes, only more rigorously; for: 1. The Christians of the early ages abstained not only from flesh-meat, but from those things which are produced from flesh, such as butter, eggs, cheese, and also from wine and fish. 2. They fasted during the whole day, and ate only after vespers, that is, at night.
How shall we keep the holy season of Lent with advantage?
We should endeavor not only to deny ourselves food and drink, but, still more, all sinful gratifications. And as the body is weakened by fasting, the soul, on the other hand, should be strengthened by repeated prayers, by frequent reception of the holy sacraments, attending Mass, spiritual reading, and good works, particularly those of charity. In such manner we shall be able, according to the intention of the Church, to supply by our fasting what we have omitted during the year, especially if we fast willingly, and with a good intention.
(Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896)
CCC571. The Paschal mystery of Christ's cross and Resurrection stands at the center of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church following them, are to proclaim to the world. God's saving plan was accomplished "once for all" by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ.
CCC1171. In the liturgical year the various aspects of the one Paschal mystery unfold. This is also the case with the cycle of feasts surrounding the mystery of the incarnation (Annunciation, Christmas, Epiphany). They commemorate the beginning of our salvation and communicate to us the first fruits of the Paschal mystery of Christ.
It is the same Paschal Mystery that we celebrate every Sunday at every Mass. This mystery should evoke the ancient Passover of the Jews when the firstborn children of Israel were spared and they were liberated from slavery. Their delivery began in each household with the sacrifice of the lamb and the smearing of the lamb’s blood on the doorposts which delivered the Jews out of vice into virtue and the worship of God in sincerity and truth. In the Last Supper Christ became the lamb that transformed his execution into a once for all sacrifice. During Lent we mirror the Jews 40 years of purification when God purged them of the residual effects of generations of interaction with Egyptian Idolatry. Christ in His own life fasted for 40 days in the wilderness as a model, like His baptism for His disciples to imitate. So, every year, we prepare like Him for our Easter where we will offer our sacrifice, small as it may be to Him. Lent is the season of fasting that begins today and ends on Holy Saturday (except for Sundays; ancient Fathers forbade fasting on Sundays). This is our tithe or a tenth part of our year for the Lord. We fast from “good” things; for in our fast we give them to God, so that we learn not to put anything before Him. We pray that by this movement of purification we may be illuminated and finally come to union with Him. In a sense during Lent we “pass over” from sin through penance to communion.
 Hahn, Scott, Signs of Life; 40 Catholic Customs and their biblical roots. Chap. 7. Lent and Easter.
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