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.
Do you begin and end your day with God? Is your first and last (conscious) thought each day of Him? As we develop a plan for holiness, we will do well to set the “bookends” of our day. How do we begin each day? When the day ends do we “crash” on the bed, or conclude our day by giving everything to God?
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Rev 22: 13) (Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek Alphabet.) At the end of the Book of Revelation - also sometimes called, “The Apocalypse”- Jesus Christ tells us that He is the beginning and end of all things.
On Easter Sunday night, the risen Jesus appeared to the Apostles who were gathered in the Upper Room, (Jn 20: 19ff.) He gave them several gifts: The gift of His peace (vv. 19, 21); the Gift of the Holy Spirit, (v. 22), and the mandate and power to forgive sins, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain, are retained.” (v. 23)
These gifts remain important to the act of redemption accomplished in Christ’s death and resurrection. God forgives our sins. In Christ, He redeems us; He pays the price for our sins.
In the Old Testament we also hear of the extraordinary gift of God’s forgiveness of our sins. Particularly powerful are the words of the prophet, Micah. “Who is a God like you, who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who … delights in mercy, and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our iniquities? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins.”(Mc 7”18-19; see also, Ex. 34:6-7; Zech 13:1)
We must rightly thank God for our life, our Catholic faith, and all the blessings we might experience in this life: health, family, and the joy of work and prayer. Even as we endure hardship and suffering; while we face the battles that are required to “do good, and avoid evil,” we have reason to hope.
A most extraordinary source of strength and hope for us is that we are made for eternal glory. “Why did God make me?” the Baltimore Catechism asks. “God made me to know, love, and serve Him in this world and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” Heaven is our eternal destiny. We have an immortal soul. God calls us to be with Him forever. Nonetheless, He gives us free will and we can forfeit everlasting happiness. By our unrepentant sinfulness we can choose hell.
The beginning of November is graced by two feast days that celebrate the Communion of the Church: the Solemnity of All Saints (November 1), and the Commemoration of All Souls, (November 2). In the Catholic Church’s sacred liturgy, these days celebrate the reality of those members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, who have gone before us.