GRAND CANYON Established
Sirach, Chapter 26, Verse 3
A good wife is a generous gift bestowed upon him who fears the Lord.
So, does this mean that if you don’t fear the Lord you are to be cursed with a bad wife? I don’t think that is the message here though; the point is that if our primary relationship with the Lord is right then as a natural result all our relationships will be improved. If you fear the Lord, that is Love the Lord, then you will love those around you and not see others as objects to be used but as persons of worth and dignity. As a husband seek to love your wife as Christ loved the church giving Himself up for her.
Today we are a community living in the fulfillment of faith in Christ and He asks us to do something unthinkable, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”(John 6:53-58)
The solemn season begins with a reminder of our mortality and our profound need for repentance and conversion.
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 Ninevites (Jonas iii. 6), Judith (Jud. ix. 1), Mordechai (Esther iv. 1), Job (xlii. 6), and others, did penance in sackcloth 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).
Prayer. Grant to Thy faithful, O Lord, that they may begin the venerable solemnities of fasting with becoming piety, and perform them with undisturbed devotion.
EPISTLE. Joel ii. 12-19.
Therefore, saith the Lord: Be converted to Me with all your heart, in fasting, and in weeping, and in mourning. And rend your hearts and not your garments and turn to the Lord your God: for He is gracious and merciful, patient and rich in mercy, and ready to repent of the evil. Who knoweth but he will return, and forgive, and leave a blessing behind him, sacrifice and libation to the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Sion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather together the people, sanctify the church, assemble the ancients, gather together the little ones, and them that suck at the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth from his bed, and the bride out of her bride-chamber. Between the porch and the altar, the priests, the Lord s ministers, shall weep, and shall say: Spare, O Lord, spare Thy people; and give not Thy inheritance to reproach, that the heathens should rule over them; why should they say among the nations: Where is their God? The Lord hath been zealous for His land, and hath spared His people: and the Lord answered and said to His people: Behold I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and you shall be filled with them: and I will no more make you a reproach among the nations, saith the Lord Almighty.
Explanation. The prophet, in these words, calls upon the Israelites to be converted, reminding them of the great mercy of God, and exhorting them to join true repentance for their sins with their fasting and alms. They should all, without exception, do penance and implore the mercy of God, Who would then forgive them, deliver them from their enemies, and bring peace and happiness upon them.
GOSPEL. Matt. vi. 16-21.
At that time Jesus said to His disciples: When you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad: for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father Who is in secret: and thy Father, Who seeth in secret, will repay thee. Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.
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 us 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.
Prayer. O Lord Jesus, I offer up to Thee my fasting and self-denial, to be united to Thy fasting and sufferings, for Thy glory, in Gratitude for so many benefits received from Thee, in satisfaction for my sins and those of others, and to obtain Thy holy grace that I may overcome my sins and acquire the virtues which I need. Look upon me, O Jesus, in mercy. Amen.
Ash Wednesday Top Events and Things to Do
· Go to your local parish to get ashes and reflect on your own mortality and sinfulness. Non-Christians are also welcomed to get ashes.
· Fast during Ash Wednesday to commemorate Jesus fasting for forty days in the desert. Catholics are specifically instructed to not eat meat and are only permitted to eat one full meal. However, they may have 2 snacks in the form of some food in the morning and evening.
· Make fiber-rich vegetarian versions of popular dishes. Some good ideas are Veggie Burgers, Vegetarian Chili and salads with Tempeh. The fiber will help keep you feeling full - useful if you fast for the rest of the day!
· Rent a movie that reflects on Mortality or Repentance. Some suggestions: Les Misérables (2012), Dorian Gray (2009), What Dreams May Come (1998), Flatliners (1990) and The Seventh Seal (1957).
· Discuss mortality, repentance and the meaning of life with your friends or with a church group.
Of all the observances of Lent, the chief among these is the Great Fast. So, intertwined are the words Lent and the Great Fast, that in fact the Fathers of the Church sometimes used the terms interchangeably. This solemn obligation is believed to be of Apostolic origin and takes its precedent, as we mentioned above, from the examples of Moses, Elias, and Jesus Christ. The Great Fast used to consist of both abstinence and fasting. Christians were expected to abstain not only from flesh meat, but from all things that come from flesh, e.g. milk, cheese, eggs, and butter. Eastern rite Christians still observe this practice, while the Western church gradually kept only abstinence from meat (reference to all lacticinia, or "milk foods," was dropped in the 1919 Roman Code of Canon Law). Both East and West, however, agree on the importance of fasting. Originally this meant taking only one meal a day, though the practice was modified over the centuries. The preconciliar practice in the U.S. was for all able-bodied Catholics ages 21 to 60 to have one full meal a day which could include meat, and two meatless meals which together could not equal one full meal. Snacking between meals was prohibited, though drinking was not. Ash Wednesday, Fridays and the Ember Days were days of total abstinence from meat, while Sundays were completely exempted from all fasting and abstaining. The idea behind the Great Fast -- as well as other periods of fasting -- is that by weakening the body it is made more obedient to the soul, thereby liberating the soul to contemplate higher things. St. Augustine gives perhaps the best example: if you have a particularly high-spirited horse, you train it at the times when it is too weak to revolt. It is our opinion that this venerable practice should still be taken seriously. Even though current ecclesiastical law has reduced the fast from forty days to two and eliminated the thirty-three days of partial abstinence, this does not mean that observing the Great Fast is not salubrious or praiseworthy. This said, however, the Great Fast should not be adhered to legalistically. In the words of St. John Chrysostom: "If your body is not strong enough to continue fasting all day, no wise man will reprove you; for we serve a gentle and merciful Lord who expects nothing of us beyond our strength."
Lent-10 Things to Remember for Lent
1. Remember the formula. 10 Commandments, 7 sacraments, 3 persons in the Trinity. For Lent, the Church gives us almost a slogan—Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving—as the three things we need to work on during the season.
2. It’s a time of prayer. As we pray, we go on a journey over 40 days, one that hopefully brings us closer to Christ and leaves us changed by the encounter with him.
3. It’s a time to fast. With the fasts of Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, meatless Fridays, and our personal disciplines interspersed, Lent is the only time many Catholics these days actually fast. And maybe that’s why it gets all the attention. “What are you giving up for Lent? Hotdogs? Beer? Jellybeans?” It’s almost a game for some of us, but fasting is actually a form of penance, which helps us turn away from sin and toward Christ.
4. It’s a time to work on discipline. Set time to work on personal discipline in general. Instead of giving something up, it can be doing something positive. “I’m going to exercise more. I’m going to pray more. I’m going to be nicer to my family, friends and coworkers.”
5. It’s about dying to yourself. The more serious side of Lenten discipline is that it’s about more than self-control – it’s about finding aspects of yourself that are less than Christ-like and letting them die. The suffering and death of Christ are foremost on our minds during Lent, and we join in these mysteries by suffering, dying with Christ and being resurrected in a purified form.
6. Don’t do too much. It’s tempting to make Lent some ambitious period of personal reinvention, but it’s best to keep it simple and focused. There’s a reason the Church works on these mysteries year after year. We spend our entire lives growing closer to God. Don’t try to cram it all in one Lent. That’s a recipe for failure.
7. Lent reminds us of our weakness. Of course, even when we set simple goals for ourselves during Lent, we still have trouble keeping them. When we fast, we realize we’re all just one meal away from hunger. Lent shows us our weakness. This can be painful but recognizing how helpless we are makes us seek God’s help with renewed urgency and sincerity.
8. Be patient with yourself. When we’re confronted with our own weakness during Lent, the temptation is to get angry and frustrated. “What a bad person I am!” But that’s the wrong lesson. God is calling us to be patient and to see ourselves as he does, with unconditional love.
9. Reach out in charity. As we experience weakness and suffering during Lent, we should be renewed in our compassion for those who are hungry, suffering or otherwise in need. The third part of the Lenten formula is almsgiving. It’s about more than throwing a few extra dollars in the collection plate; it’s about reaching out to others and helping them without question as a way of sharing the experience of God’s unconditional love.
10. Learn to love like Christ. Giving of ourselves in the midst of our suffering and self-denial brings us closer to loving like Christ, who suffered and poured himself out unconditionally on the cross for all of us. Lent is a journey through the desert to the foot of the cross on Good Friday, as we seek him out, ask his help, join in his suffering, and learn to love like him.
Read: Take inspiration for your Lenten journey from prayer and the reading of Scripture, from fasting and from giving alms. – Lent is essentially an act of prayer spread out over 40 days. As we pray, we are brought closer to Christ and are changed by the encounter with him. Fasting – The fasting that we all do together on Fridays is but a sign of the daily Lenten discipline of individuals and households: fasting for certain periods of time, fasting from certain foods, but also fasting from other things and activities. Almsgiving – The giving of alms is an effort to share this world equally—not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents.
Reflect: “Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning” (Joel 2:12, Lectionary)
Pray: As we begin Lent, we pray for the strength to commit ourselves to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving so that we may grow to love God more each day.
Act: Have you picked up your Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl for Lent this year? Make a commitment to dropping in spare change every day. Another way to give alms today is by giving to the National Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe.
Prayer before the Crucifix
This prayer is designed to be said within the family before a Crucifix from Ash Wednesday to Saturday at the beginning of Lent.
Mother or a child: From the words of St. John the Evangelist (14:1-6).
Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many mansions. Were it not so, I would have told you, because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I am coming again, and I will take you to myself, that where I am, there you also may be. And where I go, you know, and the way you know.
Father: We ought to glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
Family: in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection.
Father: Let us pray. Grant to your faithful, Lord, a spirit generous enough to begin these solemn fasts with proper fervor and to pursue them with steadfast devotion. This we ask of you through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.
Family: Amen. Favor this dwelling, Lord, with your presence. Far from it repulse all the wiles of Satan. Your holy angels—let them live here, to keep us in peace. And may your blessing remain always upon us. This we ask of you through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.
Father: Let us bless the Lord.
Family: Thanks be to God.
Father: May the almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, bless and keep us.
Prayer Source: Holy Lent by Eileen O'Callaghan, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1975
A Practical Guide to Fasting
Fasting – a word we normally reserve for Lent. Once Easter comes, we box it up and package it away until the next Lent. Yet this should not be so among Catholic men. A while ago, Sam discussed the great benefits of fasting.
Now you may be thinking … Fasting sounds great, but where do I start? … Let’s take some time to look at the basics of fasting well.
Preparation: It is important to develop a strategy before beginning to fast. This starts with setting a realistic goal. For example, you should start simple, such as a bread and water fast for one meal, one day a week. Also, select your fast day. I recommend Wednesday or Friday, as these are the two traditional Catholic days to fast, commemorating Jesus’ betrayal and crucifixion. As you grow in fasting discipline, you could increase your fast to multiple meals on fast day or even multiple days a week.
Water: Water helps purify our bodies of toxins, while providing only the basic hydration we need to survive. When fasting, make sure to bring a water bottle with you throughout the day and drink frequently to stay hydrated. One temptation may be to slip in a cup of coffee or soft drink during the day. However, stay strong against this temptation. The bread and water will satisfy your basic needs even if they do not bring the comfort of your favorite food or beverage.
Bread: Selecting the proper fasting bread is crucial to a successful fast. Since the typical bread we eat is processed and devoid of most nutritional value, I recommend the bread made by the group, Live the Fast. As a bonus, if you are a priest, seminarian or religious, they will send you bread free! Their bread is all-natural. They bake the bread, freeze it, and then ship it to your home along with a booklet of fasting instructions. Once you receive it, you place it in the freezer. On fast day, you take the bread out of the freezer and heat it in the oven for a few minutes. The bread is filling but austere; to give the one fasting the nutrition needed to complete the day’s tasks and nothing more.
Prayer: While you are heating up the bread, grab a notebook and write down your prayer intentions for the day. Maybe a friend has lost a job, a relative is sick, or someone has asked for your prayers. Keep the list with you and offer up prayers for these people throughout the day. After the bread is finished baking, take it out of the oven, say a prayer and then eat your first piece. As you go throughout the day, look for extra opportunities to pray, especially during mealtimes. Maybe you could attend daily Mass or stop to visit the Blessed Sacrament during your lunch break. Intentional prayer during fasting helps remind us that fasting is not purely an ascetical practice. We forgo food to grow closer to God, not to show how tough we can be on our bodies. The hunger we experience while fasting instills in us the truth that nothing in this world can satisfy us but God alone.
Temptations: You will undergo many temptations while you fast, so stay close to God in prayer. One may be to boast to your friends about how great you are for fasting. Jesus warned us in the Gospel that those kinds of people are hypocrites. The purpose of fasting is to draw us closer to Christ, not draw others closer to us for our own greatness. Another temptation may be free food. Just like during Lent when meat becomes more available and appealing on Fridays, expect more temptations to eat during the fast. A co-worker may offer you a snack or tell you about some leftovers from a department’s lunch in the break room. Stay vigilant against these temptations and focus your mind on other things. The less you think about food during the day, the easier it will be to fast.
Breaking the Fast: End your fast day with a prayer. Thank God for the day and then prepare a normal sized meal. The temptation can be to gorge yourself with food after eating less during the day, but this is not beneficial. Eat your meal slowly and mindfully. Thank God for the gift of food and the grace he gave you to fast well. Just like any other habit, fasting can be difficult to begin and you may want to quit. You will have days where you fast well and others where you give into hunger easily. Do not be discouraged but persevere! God has great graces for those who fast and will help draw near to him those who seek him through the discipline of fasting.
“Fasting purifies the soul. It lifts up the mind, and it brings the body into subjection to the spirit. It makes the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of desire, puts out the flames of lust and enkindles the true light of chastity.” (St. Augustine)
What the Grand Canyon tells us about God
Many years ago, I was telling my spiritual director that I found it easiest to pray in a beautiful garden, and I was warming to my sense of myself as a contemplative. The wise Dominican asked with disarming candor: “But are you in the garden, or is the garden in you?” It took a long time even to realize what the question meant. I remember another similarly disarming question at the very beginning of my adult search for God. I was an undergraduate and took myself to a Benedictine monastery for a few days’ retreat in Lent. I was captivated by the silence, prayer and retreat from the world, swept up in the chant and the romance of monastic life. What I did not realize was that I was attracted to it as something that would make it less painful to be what I thought I was – something I needed for my religious amour-propre. Thus, many searches for God begin, but one can only search for God because he has already found you. What must happen is that someone else must put a belt around you and lead you where you would rather not go. It is not the intensity of the search, but of the willingness to be led that is ultimately the measure of vocation. Vocation is not finding the garden in you, it is finding yourself in the garden.
Perhaps the wise abbot sensed this. Anyway, I remember being rather discombobulated by his direct manner. As I emoted about the spiritual life, he looked at me carefully and asked: “Is God real to you?” It was like a torpedo below the waterline of all my high-sounding talk about my attraction to the monastic life versus secular priesthood, the script I was busy constructing of an encounter with the living God in which I remained firmly the star. The best answer I could manage was: “I think so.” In the moment of asking I doubted it, or rather I realized suddenly that so much of what I thought was God wasn’t actually God. It was the paraphernalia of God, of religion. (In fact, the moment wasn’t too confounding, for soon there came another answer from deep inside: “He’s real to me in the Blessed Sacrament.” There – perhaps because, as Aquinas put it, “Sight, touch and taste in thee are each deceived” – I couldn’t confuse feeling for the reality. I realized that I had been given something to work with.) All of this came to mind when I visited the Grand Canyon at the end of my trip to America. What’s the connection? One may grasp what one might call the paraphernalia of the Grand Canyon. It was formed by billions of years of imperceptibly slow change, of almost every possible kind of geological activity: sediment layering, tectonic plates shifting, glaciers melting and rivers carving a gorge a mile and a half deep into solid rock. These are processes that can be mapped and understood, but the result overwhelms the sum and the mind of man. Its astonishing, ancient beauty can only be contemplated – that is, it must act on you, overwhelm your mind with its four-billion-year-old scale, stillness and silence which is in constant change. Spontaneously, the words of the psalmist rose from my heart at the breathtaking sight: “Before the mountains or the hills were brought forth, you are God, without beginning or end.” Contemplation always involves knowledge of one’s true scale, of a reality that dwarfs the ego. As if this were not enough, as the sun set, the sky above came alive with stars. I have never seen so many or so clearly. They were like the lights of some vast celestial city calling, a million points of light and security like some distant homeland, like the medieval fantasy that the stars were rents in the sky through which one could see the light of heaven. To count them I must be eternal, like God. The psalmist said: “When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and stars which you have made, what is man, that thou art mindful of him?” And the answer comes back that in Jesus Christ the Father has united himself to the heart of every person in such a way that the vastness of the universe becomes an image not of alienation, but of the vastness of a love that was there before the hills were set in order. This love causes even rocks to exude a soft beauty which seems like the desire of the Eternal Hills for the Heart of their maker.
The Devil and Temptations
Freeing My Own Self from the Power of Evil
· Through his passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus has broken the power of the Evil One. When the influence of evil is perceived in one's own life, it most frequently comes about from personal sin. Family members suffer because of the sin of an individual member of the family. It is through the sacred power that the Lord has placed in his Church that the evil of sin is conquered.
· Through medicine, psychology and other human means, suffering can often be alleviated. But Jesus in his Church, has given us basic helps that are often neglected.
· In our day the Sacrament of Reconciliation has fallen into disuse. There exists a power in this sacrament to break the power of the Evil One and sin that is not possible otherwise.
· Our faith in the Eucharist is weakened. In this sacrament is the power and presence of Jesus Himself. Persons who have actually needed exorcism from the power of the Evil One have been cured by sitting in church in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, an hour each day, for one or two months. These were very difficult cases.
· Our Blessed Mother has been designated by God as the one who crushes the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:1s). The Rosary is a very powerful means of protection and salvation. Many sons and daughters have been saved from the power of sin and the loss of faith through the perseverance of their parents in saying the Holy Rosary.
Manhood of the Master-Day 18
Goffine’s Devout Instructions, 1896