"Walking in the way and the love of the Lord"
Pope Francis tells the inmates at Regina Coeli prison present for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper that Jesus risks himself by serving others because he loves so much.
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Pope Francis, speaking off the cuff during his homily during the Mass of the Lord's Supper at Regina Coeli prison, contextualized the Gospel passage from John in which Jesus washes his disciples’ feet.
Jesus does what a slave does
He explains that this was a task done by slaves. After having dirtied their feet on the dusty roads, people would return home. As soon as they entered their house, a slave would provide the “service” of washing their feet. “Jesus wants to do this service to give us an example of how we must serve one another,” Pope Francis says.
Those who command must serve
The Pope then brought up the passage where two disciples “who wanted to climb the corporate ladder” asked Jesus to give them the most important places. After looking at them with love like he always did, Jesus told them they didn’t know what they were asking. He described what those in positions of power do: “command and make others serve them.” In thinking of times past, Pope Francis says that there have been many kings and cruel people who have made slaves of other people. But Jesus says it must not be this way with us. “The one who commands must serve,” the Pope reminds us. “Jesus overturns the historical cultural habits of that time, but also of our own day.” If only the kings and emperors of the past had understood Jesus’ teaching and had served instead of commanding and killing, "so many wars would never have happened," Pope Francis observes.
Jesus serves today in me
Turning to those present, Pope Francis told them that Jesus tells those discarded by society that they are important. “Jesus serves us today, here in Regina Coeli.” Jesus risks himself for each person. Jesus does not know how to wash his hands of people. He knows how to risk for his name is Jesus, not Pontius Pilate. In going after the lost sheep, Jesus risks being wounded, Pope Francis asserts.
“I am a sinner like you. But I represent Jesus today,” Pope Francis confessed. He then invited the prisoners to think of the fact, as their feet were being washed by him, that “Jesus took a risk with this man, a sinner, to come to me to tell me that he loves me. This is service. This is Jesus. Before giving us himself in his body and blood, Jesus risked himself for each one of us—risked himself in service—because he loves us so much.”
Ash Wednesday is just around the corner. Yes, you heard me. Ash Wednesday is next week, Feb 14th to be exact. Valentines Day is Ash Wednesday. I can't believe its already here.
Are you ready? What will you do for Lent?
So, here we are again. 40 days to prepare. We are called to deepen our spiritual lives. We have been given the tools, fasting, prayer and almsgiving. So what are you going to do? Lets join this gym for our spiritual life and get to work. Participating in these practices improves our spiritual well being. Lets strip away all that is unnecessary. Lets focus on God. Lets open our eyes and our hearts and become more mindful of how God is working in our lives.
Are you ready to walk into the desert?
(As I was writing this, I found this writing below on another blog. It was perfect, so I hope you enjoy it)
The desert is a dry, dusty, desolate place. Our winter landscape covered with snow in some ways resembles a desert of sorts. The monastic tradition of desert connotes caves, silence, solitude and a withdrawal from people. The desert offers a place for inner reflection and contemplation to encounter our relationship with God and self.
They are weeping for you. Their hearts are broken seeing you suffer so unjustly. And then you speak to them. In the middle of your own suffering, you reach out to console them in their sadness.
Lord help us to put ourselves aside when someone needs our words to encourage them “in this valley of tears.”
Meditation by Kathleen Aparo
Again the weight of the cross bears down on you. But you carry on, lifting your cross once more, just as you lift us when we are worn down, worn down with the weight of our trying and failing.
Lord it is only with your strength that we are able to rise from our failures again and again.
Meditation by Kathleen Aparo
How much you must have loved and appreciated Veronica in that moment. She could not help you carry the cross, she could not stop the evil being done to you but her compassion compelled her to do something. And so she wiped your face and gave You the comfort of her compassionate heart.
Lord help us to see that even one small act of compassion reaches deeply into peoples souls.
Meditations by Kathleen Aparo
Simon had no choice. He was simply coming in from the fields and was “pressed into service to carry the cross.” Sometimes we too are pressed into doing something we wouldn’t necessarily choose to do. Like Simon we may wish we had never come in from the field but God knows who we are in our hearts. He knows the one he formed in our mothers womb. Did you smile at Simon, Jesus? Did you understand his fear?
Lord help us to be brave. Help us to help when help is needed. Help us to step up to the needs we see around us. Don’t let us hide from life.
Meditation by Kathleen Aparo
How helpless you must have felt to see the suffering of your mother and not be able to reach out to her. But how comforting to see her face, feel her love and know you are not alone.
Lord help us to give of ourselves and to bring Mary’s motherly love to those who feel alone in their suffering.
Meditation by Kathleen Aparo
Not only were you carrying the burden of the heavy wooden cross, you were carrying our burdens as well. All of our names were already etched in the wood of that cross.
Lord help us to never forget that you carry us still, especially when our burdens etch themselves in our hearts.
Meditation by: Kathleen Aparo
Pilate was eager to release Jesus but he gave in to the pressures of the crowd. How many times do we eagerly set out to do your will only to lose heart when we find ourselves so easily influenced by the ways of the world?
Lord help us to be true servants, as faithful to you in a crowd as we
Meditation by: Kathleen Aparo
ASH WEDNESDAY – INTO THE DESERT - by Bishop Robert Barron
In so many of the great figures of salvation history—Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, David, etc.—a period of testing or trial is required before they can commence their work. We see the same thing in the initiation rituals of primal peoples, and you can see it in Luke Skywalker’s initiation in Star Wars.
The goal of the Biblical initiation rituals is to convey this simple truth: your life is not about you. It is about God and God’s purposes for you.
This was the purpose of Jesus’s forty-day sojourn in the desert, which we model during Lent. The desert represents a stripping away of our attachments, so as to make the fundamental things appear. In the desert, there are no distractions or diversions or secondary matters. Everything is basic, necessary, and simple. Either one survives or one doesn’t. One finds in the desert strengths and weaknesses he never knew he had.
So are you ready to visit your desert?
Are you prepared to deal with your particular temptations to pleasure, power, money, and honor?
Even if, in the past, you have not succeeded in the ways you wanted, remember that our God is a God of second chances. It’s never too late to start again.
On this Ash Wednesday, let’s recommit ourselves and together journey into the desert.
The Little way of Fasting – by Fr. Aidan Kieran
The season of Lent is almost upon us, it begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. During Lent, we are asked to take on three traditional Christian disciplines: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. Today I want to share with you a new insight into fasting which I gained recently.
I’ve generally always dreaded the idea of fasting during Lent. It always seemed to me like a test of endurance, and I never thought I had all that much endurance. Typically I would decide to, say, give up biscuits for the whole of Lent. It would last about ten days, I would have a biscuit and Lent would be over for me. And no matter what people would say about ‘beginning again’ it would never feel the same once failure had set in.
Now, I have learned a new approach to fasting, and it has become a much more appealing prospect.
St Therese of Lisieux teaches us that the “Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ… On the contrary, the most brilliant deeds, when done without love, are but nothingness.” These words made me realise that the way I had been approaching the Lenten fast in the past was wrong. Lent is not a test of endurance. It is not even a test of discipline (even though we gain discipline as a by-product). Lent is a little test of LOVE. It is quality the Lord is interested in – not quantity.
I can describe this new approach to fasting – the little way of fasting – with an example. Here is a fast I recently undertook:
At breakfast time I didn’t have my normal cup of tea. I had a cup of hot water instead. It’s not much of a sacrifice is it? But this is the important part: fasting must always be accompanied by prayer. You may remember from the Gospels that on one occasion Jesus told the disciples that a particular evil spirit could only be driven out by prayer AND fasting. The two must be always occur together.
So while I was having my cup of water, I prayed.
I spoke to the Lord Jesus and told him that I was denying myself this 1 cup of tea as an act of love for him. I was doing this so that I might grow in my love for Him. I prayed for others. I asked Him to grant my intentions, but above all I asked him to help me grow in faith and love of Him.
It didn’t matter that it was only a small sacrifice. That’s not what matters to the Lord. What matters is that the sacrifice is accompanied by prayer and offered with a sincere and open loving heart. Fasting must always be accompanied by prayer, and must be done as an act of love for the Lord.
Perhaps you would prefer to go through Our Lady. While fasting, we can also pray through the intercession of Mary, our blessed Mother. I can tell her I am offering my fast as an act of love for her, and ask her to bring me closer to her son Jesus. We give Mary the title ‘mediatrix of all graces’ so we can of course pray through her intercession.
With this approach, fasting has become a wonderfully joyful act. Rather than a miserable endurance test, it becomes a joyful act of offering a sacrifice for the good of others, the good of the Church and above all the good of my own soul. I can have a smile on my face, knowing that the small sacrifice I have made has had a powerful effect in the spiritual life. Since I started this little way of fasting, I have prayed better and I feel I have drawn closer to Christ.
It’s just 1 cup of tea. A little thing, done with great love.
During Lent, I won’t totally deprive myself of other drinks, because I know I would find that too burdensome. My aim is to give up my first cup of tea each morning. On some days I may give up my second cup of tea too! – a definite sacrifice, but one I can realistically sustain. And each time I am conscious of foregoing a drink I would like, I will pray. I will offer my sacrifice to the Lord with a joyful heart and a smile on my face.
I will offer my Lenten fasting for your intentions, for the people who read this blog. In particular I will pray that those of you who need to do so will make a good confession in preparation for Easter, because confession is so important.
And if any of you would like me to pray for a particular intention of yours, please contact me through this blog in the comments section below. I’d be happy to offer my fasting on a particular day for your personal intention.
I hope you will find these words about fasting helpful during the coming season of Lent.
Blog source to contact Fr. Aidan: https://faithinourfamilies.com/2015/02/17/the-little-way-of-fasting-by-fr-aidan-kieran/
by Daniel P. Horan, OFM
“No one can really embrace the Christian asceticism mapped out in the New Testament unless he [or she] has some idea of the positive, constructive function of self-denial. The Holy Spirit never asks us to renounce anything without offering us something much higher and much more perfect in return … The function of self-denial is to lead to a positive increase of spiritual energy and life. The Christian dies, not merely in order to die but in order to live. And when he [or she] takes up his cross to follow Christ, the Christian realizes, or at least believes, that he is not going to die to anything but death. The Cross is the sign of Christ’s victory over death. The Cross is the sign of life. It is the trellis upon which grows the Mystical Vine whose life is infinite joy and whose branches we are. If we want to share the life of that Vine, we must grow on the same trellis and must suffer the same pruning.” — Thomas Merton
Merton’s call for us to follow the asceticism of Christian evangelical life is not simply an arbitrary practice that is an end in itself, but must always be seen in the broader context of Gospel living. As Merton points out, the penitential practices of lent are not to be self-serving, but should be oriented toward freeing us up to be more focused on the important things in life. “The function of self-denial is to lead to a positive increase of spiritual energy and life.”
There are a few things that I particularly find worth considering in Merton’s reflection here. One thing is the sense of death to self that Merton presents in association with Christian self-denial. It is the Pauline notion of “dying to one’s self” in order to be more focused on living as a member of the Body of Christ, as part of the Vine Merton describes here. St. Paul writes to the Galatians: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20), so too, Merton reminds us, are we called to live not for ourselves but as a member of Christ’s body.
The notion of being part of the Vine along the trellis poetically suggests that we don’t do this alone and in our own, arbitrary way. We have to look to God’s very self-revelation in Christ and in the historical manifestation of God’s disclosure in scripture. Here is the locus of our unity and communal support in living more fully the Christian life. Here is the trellis upon which the whole Body of Christ grows and supports one another as part of the Vine.
During this season of lent, we are challenged to pause and reflect on how we go about our everyday lives. Are we aware of our intimate connection to the rest of the Body of Christ? Do we try to life for ourselves alone, away from the Vine, apart from the branches, off the trellis of community where the Pilgrim People of God strive to flourish together? Perhaps we can follow the example of Merton and Paul, seeking in our daily lives — in big and little ways — to die to our own self-centeredness, our own priorities and concerns, and those things which constitute our own frivolous desires rather than the true and inherent aspiration we have deep within to be at home with one another and the rest of creation in Christ.
Prayerful Path/Mary Maddox
Saint James, pray for us that we may be willing to leave everything to follow Jesus as you did. Help us to become special friends of Jesus as you were. Amen