God’s call to us as human beings – our “vocation” - involves giving our self completely and forever in a lasting commitment.
Indeed the first great commandment of the Old Testament – repeated in the Gospel - is expressed in this way: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deut 6: 4-5; Mt 22: 37; Mk 12: 29-30) God wants everything from us, and love is fulfilled when we give everything.
Priests are ordained forever. Consecrated Religious make perpetual vows. Married couples also promise themselves to each other “until death.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of the irrevocable bond, “… established by God Himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. “ (Catechism of the Catholic Church. no. 1640)
We cannot – humanly speaking – make up for the wrong we have done. If I strike someone, they feel pain, perhaps rejection or aggression. These things are forever part of their experience. I can say, and mean it when I say, “I am sorry.” The physical reality doesn’t change.
The Seventh Commandment forbids unjustly taking or keeping the goods of one’s neighbor. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2401), and the virtue of commutative justice requires the restitution of stolen goods to their owner. (CCC. No. 2412) But can we ever completely restore and repair the loss inflicted by our selfishness? Is anything the same even when later we have had our belongings returned?
On December 9, 1531, St. Juan Diego was hurrying to celebrate the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception (then celebrated on December 9), when he was met by the Blessed Mother of God on Tepeyac Hill.
Three more apparitions would lead to the dramatic December 12 revelation of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Juan’s ‘tilma’ or cloak – a convincing sign to the Bishop to build the church requested by Mary.
The Dogma of Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception would be formally proclaimed nearly 325 years later in 1854, by Blessed Pope Pius IX, in the Apostolic Constitution, Ineffabilis Deus:
When traveling with family, decisions are sometimes more complicated. “Where should we go to eat?” “There are 5 DVDs; which one should we watch?” “We are ready to go to Church; where are your shoes?” Even the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, had some human challenges. The Sacred Scriptures relates one of their family crises as they were on the way home from Jerusalem to Nazareth (Lk 2:41ff.) Where is Jesus? I thought he was with the family. We must go back at once and find Him! While living closely with others has its challenges, that unity, unconditional acceptance and love, is a beautiful part of life.
There is a societal heresy that may be called “the cult of the Individual.” It proposes that the individual person is the ultimate arbiter or decider of reality. A corollary of this egocentric phenomenon finds its way into the sphere of the spiritual, declaring that my relationship with God does not require religion or Church. I can even establish my own set of beliefs, my own creed.
Lent is a time of spiritual purification, not only for ourselves individually, but for the whole Church.
For those who have decided to join the Catholic Church and who will receive the sacraments for the first time at Easter, Lent is the last stage of their preparation, a kind of forty-day retreat.
The Catechumens are those who were never baptized. They have made the decision to embrace the Catholic faith, and they are prepared to receive the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist – most fittingly administered on Holy Saturday Night at the Church’s Easter Vigil.