"Walking in the way and the love of the Lord"
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
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/
Incline your ear, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and oppressed. Preserve my life, for I am devoted: save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; be gracious to me, Lord; to you I call all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant; to you, Lord, I lift up my soul. Lord, you are good and forgiving, most merciful to all who call on you. Lord, hear my prayer; listen to my cry for help. On the day of my distress I call to you, for you will answer me. None among the gods can equal you, O Lord; nor can their deeds compare to yours. All the nations you have made shall come to bow before you, Lord, and give honor to your name. For you are great and do wondrous deeds; and you alone are God. Teach me, Lord, your way that I may walk in your truth, single-hearted and revering your name. I will praise you with all my heart, glorify your name forever, Lord my God. Your mercy to me is great; you have rescued me from the depths of Sheol. O God, the arrogant have risen against me; a ruthless band has sought my life; to you they pay no heed. But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and truth. Turn to me, be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant; save the son of your handmaid. Give me a sign of your favor: make my enemies see, to their confusion, that you, Lord, help and comfort me.
No matter what you are going through, God is worthy of our praise. "On the day of my distress I call to you, for you will answer me" God is good all the time and all the time God is good. So no matter your circumstance, good or bad, "Turn to me, be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant". Spend time in prayer today, thanking God for His goodness and praising Him for the good things He has done for you. Completely surrender your heart to Him,"I will praise you with all my heart, glorify your name forever". Gladden your soul and trust in Him. "Teach me, Lord, your way that I may walk in your truth" for we know, "that you, Lord, will help and comfort me."
A British newspaper once invited famous authors to contribute to its article, “What’s Wrong with the World?” We can imagine the responses—war, poverty, consumerism, etc. Yet one response stood out above the rest. Among the invitees was the witty writer G.K. Chesterton. He wrote:
Regarding your article “What’s Wrong with the World?”
Chesterton’s pithy response may seem quaint to some. Then again, perhaps his response is the only proper and effective one in the face of worldwide suffering; perhaps it is the only response capable of igniting the change the world so desperately needs.
In the Gospel today, Jesus speaks of his own suffering and rejection. He warns his followers that they, too, must bear crosses and hardships; that they must be willing to lose their life for the life of the world. Notice: Jesus doesn’t offer a formula to solve the infamous “problem of evil”; nor does he articulate a detailed list of “What’s wrong with the world?” Instead, he proposes the only sane response to suffering: “Whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.”
The Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky reiterates this point in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky writes through the character of Fr. Zossima: “There is only one salvation for you: take yourself up, and make yourself responsible for all the sins of men. For the moment you make yourself sincerely responsible for everything and everyone, you will see at once that it is really so, that it is you who are guilty on behalf of all and for all.” Fr. Zossima goes on to explain that we must get on our knees, water the earth with our tears, and ask forgiveness from all of creation; we must pray daily “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me!” This, Fr. Zossima asserts, is the proper response to the wrongs of the world.
In this light, Chesterton’s response appears in no way a witty dodge, but rather a sincere confession. As Fr. Zossima says, “Truly, each of us is guilty before everyone and for everyone, only people do not know it, and if they knew it, the world would at once become paradise.”
Readings: Dt 30: 15-20 / Ps 1: 1-4, 6 / Lk 9: 22-25
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