Third Sunday Of Lent
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/COVID-19) that scare you? Does the threat of terrorism or the coercing by dark 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 cumin, 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)
Christ again foreshadows His victory (this time over the devil), but as we move closer to Passion tide, He also hints at the way in which this will be done.
· The holy Church gave us, as the subject of our meditation for the first Sunday of Lent, the Temptation which our Lord Jesus Christ deigned to suffer in the Desert. Her object was to enlighten us with regard to our own temptations and teach us how to conquer them.
· Today, she wishes to complete her instruction on the power and stratagems of our invisible enemies; and for this she reads to us a passage from the Gospel of St. Luke. During Lent, the Christian ought to repair the past, and provide for the future; but he can neither understand how it was he fell, nor defend himself against a relapse, unless he have correct ideas as to the nature of the dangers which have hitherto proved fatal, and are again threatening him.
· Hence, the ancient Liturgists would have us consider it as a proof of the maternal watchfulness of the Church, that she should have again proposed such a subject to us. As we shall find, it is the basis of all today’s instructions. Assuredly, we should be the blindest and most unhappy of men, if, - surrounded as we are by enemies, who unceasingly seek to destroy us, and are so superior to us both in power and knowledge, - we were seldom or never to think of the existence of these wicked spirits. And yet, such is really the case with innumerable Christians now-a-days; for, truths are diminished from among the children of men [Ps. xi. 2].
· So common, indeed, is this heedlessness and forgetfulness of truth, which the Holy Scriptures put before us in almost every page, that it is no rare thing to meet with persons who ridicule the idea of Devils being permitted to be on this earth of ours! They call it a prejudice, a popular superstition, of the Middle-Ages! Of course, they deny that it is a dogma of Faith. When we read the History of the Church or the Lives of the Saints, they have their own way of explaining whatever is there related on this subject. To hear them talk, one would suppose that they look upon Satan as a mere abstract idea, to be taken as the personification of evil.
· When they would account for the origin of their own or others’ sins, they explain all by the evil inclination of man’s heart, and by the bad use we make of our free-will.
· They never think of what we are taught by Christian doctrine; namely, that we are also instigated to sin by a wicked being, whose power is as great as is the hatred he bears us. And yet, they know, they believe, with a firm faith, that Satan conversed with our First Parents, and persuaded them to commit sin, and showed himself to them under the form of a serpent. They believe, that this same Satan dared to tempt the Incarnate Son of God, and that he carried him through the air, and set him first upon a pinnacle of the Temple, and then upon a very high mountain. Again; they read in the Gospel, and they believe, that one of the Possessed, who were delivered by our Savior, was tormented by a whole legion of devils, who, upon being driven out of the man, went, by Jesus’ permission, into a herd of swine, and the whole herd ran violently into the sea of Genesareth, and perished in the waters. These, and many other such like facts, are believed, by the persons of whom we speak, with all the earnestness of faith; yet, notwithstanding, they treat as a figure of speech, or a fiction, all they hear or read about the existence, the actions, or the craft of these wicked spirits.
· Are such people Christians, or have they lost their senses? One would scarcely have expected that this species of incredulity could have found its way into an age like this, when sacrilegious consultations of the devil have been, we might almost say, - fashionable. Means, which were used in the days of paganism, have been resorted to for such consultations; and they who employed them seemed to forget, or ignore, that they were committing what God in the Old Law, punished with death, and which, for many centuries, was considered by all Christian nations as a capital crime. But if there be one Season of the Year more than another in which the Faithful ought to reflect upon what is taught us both by faith and experience, as to the existence and workings of the wicked spirits, - it is undoubtedly this of Lent, when it is our duty to consider what have been the causes of our last sins, what are the spiritual dangers we have to fear for the future, and what means we should have recourse to for preventing a relapse. Let us, then, hearken to the Holy Gospel. Firstly, we are told, that the devil had possessed a man, and that the effect produced by this possession was dumbness.
· Our Savior casts out the devil, and, immediately, the dumb man spoke. So that, the being possessed by the devil is not only a fact which testifies to God’s impenetrable justice; it is one which may produce physical effects upon them that are thus tried or punished. The casting out the devil restores the use of speech to him that had been possessed.
· We say nothing about the obstinate malice of Jesus’ enemies, who would have it, that his power over the devils, came from his being in league with the prince of devils:- all we would now do is, to show that the wicked spirits are sometimes permitted to have power over the body, and to refute, by this passage from the Gospel, the rationalism of certain Christians.
· Let these learn, then, that the power of our spiritual enemies is an awful reality; and let them take heed not to lay themselves open to their worst attacks, by persisting in the disdainful haughtiness of their Reason. Ever since the promulgation of the Gospel, the power of Satan over the human body has been restricted by the virtue of the Cross, at least in Christian countries; but this power resumes its sway as often as faith and the practice of Christian piety lose their influence. And here we have the origin of all those diabolical practices, which, under certain scientific names, are attempted first in secret, and then are countenanced by being assisted at by well-meaning Christians. Was it not that God and his Church intervene, such practices as these would subvert society? Christians! Remember your baptismal vow! You have renounced Satan: take care, then, that by a culpable ignorance you are not dragged into apostacy. It is not a phantom that you renounced at the Font; he is a real and formidable being, who, as our Lord tells us, was a murderer from the beginning [St. John, viii. 44].
· But, if we ought to dread the power he may be permitted to have over our bodies; if we ought to shun all intercourse with him, and take no share in practices over which he presides, and which are the worship he would have men give him; - we ought, also, to fear the influence he is ever striving to exercise over our souls. See, what God’s grace has had to do in order to drive him from our soul! During this holy season, the Church is putting within your reach those grand means of victory, - Fasting, Prayer, and Almsdeeds.
· True sweets of peace will soon be yours, and, once more, you will become God’s temple, for both soul and body will have regained their purity. But be not deceived; your enemy is not slain. He is irritated; penance has driven him from you; but he has sworn to return. Therefore, fear a relapse into mortal sin; and in order to nourish within you this wholesome fear, meditate upon the concluding part of our Gospel. Our Savior tells its, that when the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water. There he writhes under his humiliation; it has added to the tortures of the hell he carries everywhere with him and to which he fain would give some alleviation, by destroying souls that have been redeemed by Christ.
· We read in the Old Testament that, sometimes, when the devils have been conquered, they have been forced to flee into some far-off wilderness: for example. The holy Archangel Raphael took the devil that had killed Sara’s husbands, and bound him in the desert of Upper Egypt [Tob. viii. 3]. But the enemy of mankind never despairs of regaining his prey. His hatred is as active now, as it was at the very beginning of the world, and he says: I will return into my house, whence I came out.
· Nor will he come alone. He is determined to conquer; and therefore, he will, if he think it needed, take with him seven other spirits, even more wicked than himself. What a terrible assault is this that is being prepared for the poor soul, unless she be on the watch, and unless the peace, which God has granted her, be one that is well armed for war! Alas! with many souls the very contrary is the case and our Savior describes the situation in which the devils finds them on his return: they are swept and garnished, and that is all! No precautions, no defense, no arms. One would suppose that they were waiting to give the enemy admission.
· Then Satan, to make his re-possession sure, comes with a seven-fold force. The attack is made; - but there is no resistance, and straightways the wicked spirits entering in, dwell there; so that, the last state becometh worse than the first; for before, there was but one enemy, - and now there are many. In order that we may understand the full force of the warning conveyed to us by the Church in this Gospel, we must keep before us the great reality, that this is the acceptable time. In every part of the world, there are conversions being wrought; millions are being reconciled with God; divine Mercy is lavish of pardon to all that seek it. But, will all persevere? They that are now being delivered from the power of Satan, - will they all be free from his yoke, when next year’s Lent comes round?
· A sad experience tells the Church, that she may not hope so grand a result. Many will return to their sins, and that too before many weeks are over. And if the Justice of God overtake them in that state - what an awful thing it is to say it, yet it is true, - some, perhaps many, of these sinners will be eternally lost! Let us, then, be on our guard against a relapse; and in order that we may ensure our Perseverance, without which it would have been to little purpose to have been for a few days in God’s grace, - let us watch, and pray; let us keep ourselves under arms; let us ever remember that our whole life is to be a warfare. Our soldier-like attitude will disconcert the enemy, and he will try to gain victory elsewhere.
Prayer. We beseech Thee, Almighty God, regard the prayers of Thy humble servants, and stretch forth in our defence the right hand of Thy majesty.
EPISTLE. Epliesians v. 1-9.
Brethren: Be ye therefore followers of God, as most dear children. And walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and, hath delivered Himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to Grod for an odor of sweetness. But fornication and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints: or obscenity, or foolish talking, or scurrility, which is to no purpose: but rather giving of thanks. For know ye this and understand that no fornicator, nor unclean, nor covetous person (which is a serving of idols), hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words. For because of these things cometh the anger of God upon the children of unbelief. Be ye not therefore partakers with them. For you were heretofore darkness, but now light in the Lord. Walk ye as children of the light: for the fruit of the light is in all goodness, and justice, and truth.
Aspiration. O Lord, free my heart from all inordinate desires for temporal goods and sensual pleasures. May a childlike fear of Thee guard my tongue, that I may not speak foolish or sinful words.
GOSPEL. Luke xi. 14-28.
Therefore, they shall be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out devils, doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his court: those things are in peace which he possesseth. But if a stronger than he come upon him and overcome him: he will take away all his armor wherein he trusted and will distribute his spoils. lie that is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest: and not finding, he saith: I will return into my house whence I came out. And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then he goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in they dwell there. And the last state of that man becometh worse than the first. And it came to pass as He spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd lifting up her voice said to Him: Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps that gave Thee suck. But He said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.
What are we to understand here by the dumb devil? The evil spirit, who so controls those of whom he has possession that they are dumb, and through a false shame keep away from confession.
By what power did Christ cast out the devil? By His divine power, which worked so suddenly and perfectly that the possessed was at once freed and able to speak.
How did Christ show the Jews that He did not cast out devils by Beelzebub?
1. By the parable in which He explains to them that the kingdom of Satan cannot stand if one evil spirit is cast out by another.
2. By pointing to their own children, some of whom were enabled to cast out devils by the power they had received from God (Mark ix. 37, 38).
3. By His whole life, and His works, which were in direct opposition to the devil.
Prayer. O Jesus, conqueror of the dumb devil, strengthen me, that if I should have the misfortune to sin against Thy holy commandments, I may have courage to overcome my false shame, and confess my sins in sincerity and humility. O my Savior, be Thou my leader in the fight, that I may foil those arms of the devil: my evil inclinations, idleness, bad company, bad books, and human respect, and grant that I may never relapse into sin, but serve Thee with perseverance. Amen.
Read: Take time to read the readings before going to Mass today. You can sign up to receive the daily readings.
Reflect: Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance.” (Pope Francis, Message for Lent, 2014)
Pray: Pray in solidarity with refugees around the world.
Act: When confronted with your own weakness during Lent, don’t give in to anger, frustration, and self-pity. Be patient and see yourself as God does, with unconditional love.
St. Longinus was the Roman centurion who pierced the side of Christ with a lance. He is said to have converted to Christianity after experiencing the darkness after Christ's death.
St. Luke tells us that the centurion "gave praise to God", and exclaimed, "Truly this was an upright man." (Luke 23:47)
What was believed to be the Holy Lance of Longinus, was given to Innocent VIII in 1492.
Things to Do:
- Read more about the statue of St. Longinus at St. Peter's Basilica.
- Read The Life of Saint Longinus from the Golden Legend
When Our Lord overcame the Devil in the wilderness, He quoted Scripture. In Scripture, the Devil and his demons go by several names and are portrayed by several vivid images, each one pointing to some important aspect of their nature and activity. To know these names and images is to understand better the kind of opponents we face in spiritual warfare.
· The Devil, literally, “one who hurls [himself] across” the path of God’s plan; Mt 4: 1.
· Satan, literally, “adversary, attacker”; Job 1: 6; Mt 4: 10.
· Beelzebul, the prince of demons, the name of a pagan Canaanite god meaning “the Prince-God”; the Jews interpreted the word as “prince of demons” because they identified false gods with demonic spirits; Mt 12: 24– 27. The form Beelzebub, used in some Bible translations, is a contemptuous adaptation of the name that means “Lord of the flies”; see also Baalzebub as a reference to the Canaanite god in 2 Ki 1: 2– 6.
· The Serpent, the malicious intruder in the Garden of Eden who led our first parents into sin; Gn 3: 1; Rv 12: 9.
· Demon, from the ancient Greek term for a lesser deity; St. Paul identified such pagan gods with demonic spirits; 1 Cor 10: 20– 21.
· Unclean spirit, in the sense of morally unclean or impure; Mt 10: 1.
Devotion to the Trinity
The Trinity is the sum, substance, subject and object of our prayer. We are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. One God, who is three persons, is a mystery too deep for anyone to fathom. St. Teresa of Avila had a vision on the Trinity she stated, “What was represented to me were three distinct persons, for we can behold and speak to each one. Afterward I reflected that only the Son took human flesh, through which this truth of the Trinity was seen. These persons love, communicate with, and know each other…and this is a very great truth…In all three persons there is no more than one will, one power, and one dominion, in such a way that one cannot do anything without the others.” St. John Paul II stated also, “God in his deepest mystery is not a solitude but a family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship, and the essence of family, which is love.” We are created for the sake of love. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (234) the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in Himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the "hierarchy of the truths of faith". The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men "and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin". God the Father sent the Son so that we might receive the Spirit. God became what we are, so that we might become what He is. He assumed our nature, so that we might share in His. Heaven is nothing other than the sharing, that communion, and it has begun with our baptism. All the sacraments and all Catholic liturgy are about the Blessed Trinity. We have been taken up into the life of the Trinity, even now. We do not have to wait to live in heaven, Heaven has come to us—though we still await the day of consummation, when we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (Jn. 3:2). Our very nature speaks of the trinity through our Mind, emotions and will. Will to serve!
· Today in honor of the Holy Trinity do the Divine Office giving your day to God. To honor God REST: no shopping after SUNSET ON SATURDAY till Monday. Don’t forget the internet.
Thigpen, Paul. Manual for Spiritual Warfare. TAN Books.
 Hahn, Scott, Signs of Life; 40 Catholic Customs and their biblical roots. Chap. 34. Devotion to the Trinity.