From Our Pastor: Weekend Readings Challenging Right Before Lent
These readings, this weekend, are insanely challenging which is perfect right before Lent. They warn us quite strongly about our faults, being tested, hypocrisy, good fruit vs. bad fruit, and good vs. evil. Again, as I have said before, if you haven’t read the book of Sirach, it is worth the read. The wisdom is rich in this often-forgotten book of Scripture. Today the Lord tells us how we reveal our true selves and reveal what care has been done on ourselves. Yes, we need to care for our spiritual life, most especially by using what God has given us...the sacraments and sacramentals of the Church, for Him to do the work and care of ourselves and our souls. Take the opportunity to fast, give alms, sacrifice, and pray. Give up something this Lent, but also look not JUST to where God is teaching you discipline and pruning you by giving up something, but DO something extra as well to nurture and fertilize your soil to make it good. As we look to Lent, allow the Lord to prune those things out of your life, and allow Him to water and nurture and fertilize the good in your life, so that you may bear good fruit.
There is the old saying, “Can the blind lead the blind?” which is a synopsis of this gospel passage. Both are in peril. So, allow the Lord and His Church to lead us to keep us from peril. Find those spiritual guides and teachers that will lead and guide you, and mold and shape and teach you the spiritual life. Read a spiritual classic by St. Bernardine of Sienna or St. John of the Cross or St. Teresa of Avila or St. Therese of Lisieux or Bonaventure or Maximus the Confessor or Atony of Egypt, and on and on. In our history we have so many giants to stand on the shoulders of! We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Look to their wisdom and model and example and guidance, as well as their prayers and companionship. For me I love all those named above, but I also love St. Leo the Great and his writings, which I have discovered recently more than I knew before.
Do spiritual readings, like those listed above. Check out our Parish Library bookshelf. Come to Stations of the Cross. Bring your children; it is an awesome thing they can really be engaged in a real and profound way. Honestly, they love it. Make sure your entire family, no matter the fight with your children, goes to Mass every Sunday. Come to daily Mass, maybe at least once a week. Come to the soup suppers. Come to a Bible study or the “99” series. Read the Scriptures daily, use Fr. Mike Schmitz Bible in a Year podcast to do so. Check out the Formed.org website and app and the multitudes of things there. Fast extra. Give extra alms. Come to the Liturgy of the Hours on Sunday evenings or the Rosary group on Monday nights. Join a small group or start one with a few friends. Come to Wednesday adoration. Go to confession a few times during Lent on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
On Ash Wednesday, our holy father Pope Francis has called for us to offer our prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine and the people that will suffer so greatly from this war that has begun. Pray for an end to this war. Fast for an end to this war. Give alms to the collection for the Church in Eastern Europe second collection that supports the efforts of the churches in that region. Pray for our President and government leaders, as well as world leaders, to have the wisdom to know how to navigate this insanity. Pray for the conversion of the heart of Putin and his government and military leaders. Pray for the conversion of Russia. Pray for an end to this violence. Personally, pray for my priest friend and classmate from my master’s degree program, Fr. Volodymyr and his wife and children (remember Eastern Catholicism allows married clergy) who live in Kiev that they remain safe, and he can guide and care for his people in this time. This is tragic. Call upon Ss. Cyril and Methodius, patrons of the Slavic peoples, for their intercession in this atrocity.
The biggest thing to learn from the readings this weekend isn’t that we can’t help one another in the spiritual faith, but it is that as we discipline ourselves in the spiritual life and rid ourselves of our sins, we can help those around us better. It doesn’t mean don’t help each other until you’re perfect. No, it means don’t be telling everyone around about how broken and sinful they are without first realizing your brokenness and your sinfulness and your need for God’s grace. Let the Lord tend your soil so that you may bear good fruit in this world, so that you may bear the greatest fruit that the Lord freely gives...eternal salvation.
Use this time before Lent to know where God is looking to prune a tree and tend your soil this Lent. Take the time to store up the good in your heart this Lent so that you produce good. Allow this time of Lent to be one of great upheaval and pruning so that it may be one that bears great fruit in the resurrection of Easter. This brings us to the second reading which is the reminder before we enter Lent. Let Lent be one of suffering and death and destruction of yourself, as that is not the end. Lent should be tough and challenging and frustrating, but “knowing that in the Lord your labor (this Lent) is not in vain.” For in that suffering and death and destruction we join Him and are reminded that Christ won the victory and Christ gives us the victory. Embrace the cross and struggle this Lent so that you may truly embrace the resurrection and victory this Easter, and into life eternal!
-Rev. Steven Arisman