Category Archives: Lent

Holy Week! Bring Your Whole Heart to the Story!

This weekend, we enter into that most holy of times as we begin to celebrate the fullness of the paschal mystery, living through Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.

At Palm Sunday, we remember that we stand beside all those who seek to end Christ’s life through our own sin, as we too cry out, “Crucify Him!” It is an emotional time for me. I cannot help but be drawn up into the mystery and emotional roller coaster of it all.

Today, as I was praying my morning office, I came upon a reading that stopped my heart, and I wanted to share it with you.

From a homily by Saint Gregory Nazianzen, bishop

I will say more: we must sacrifice ourselves to God, each day and in everything we do, accepting all that happens to us for the sake of the Word, imitating his passion by our sufferings, and honoring his blood by shedding our own. We must be ready to be crucified.

If you are a Simon of Cyrene, take up your cross and follow Christ. If you are crucified beside him like one of the thieves, now, like the good thief, acknowledge your God. For your sake, and because of your sin, Christ himself was regarded as a sinner; for his sake, therefore, you must cease to sin. Worship him who was hung on the cross because of you, even if you are hanging there yourself. Derive some benefit from the very shame; purchase salvation with your death. Enter paradise with Jesus, and discover how far you have fallen. Contemplate the glories there, and leave the other scoffing thief to die outside in his blasphemy.

If you are a Joseph of Arimathea, go to the one who ordered his crucifixion, and ask for Christ’s body. Make your own the expiation for the sins of the whole world. If you are a Nicodemus, like the man who worshiped God by night, bring spices and prepare Christ’s body for burial. If you are one of the Marys, or Salome, or Joanna, weep in the early morning. Be the first to see the stone rolled back, and even the angels perhaps, and Jesus himself.

This weekend, we will be the crowd, crying for his death. Let us also be those who call out for life! Let us stand to help Christ carry his load like Simon of Cyrene, let us hang on the cross beside our Lord like the good thief, let us beg to bring Christ down from the cross like Joseph of Arimathea, let us rush to anoint Him like Mary Magdeline!

This week is a time to live, to be alive with the joy of everything it means to be in love with the Lord. Let us bring ourselves deeply into the mystery, and find ourselves written in throughout the greatest story that will ever be told!

Plan Your Work – Work Your Plan

We are now fully into the penance of the holy season of Lent.

I’ve already messed it all up.

This to me, is the beauty of Lent. It reminds me every year of just how hard it is to be the person I really want to be, the person I think God is calling me to be. It sets me up to fail, to remind me that without God, I truly am powerless.

Every year, I use Lent almost like New Years Day, a time to reset my life to what I think it should be if only I were a better person. I have in my mind the idea that if I can just create the habits of being good, that somehow that will fix most of my problems. Lent teaches me again and again, year after year, that it is just more complicated than that. It reminds me of my fundamental laziness, my sloth, my pride.

It’s not that I don’t really want to be a good person, I truly do. I truly wish to become a saint, as holy as I am able in this transitory life. The problem is wanting to be a saint right now. I have this constant vision of what I think holiness looks like, and want to somehow reach it, but in the moment, I think, “I’m tired, I know I should pray my rosary, but I really just want to lie on the couch and watch some Netflix.” Then one show becomes three, and I’ve blown my whole evening. I can’t help but feel so defeated, and I feel like just giving up.

The first Sunday of Lent, we heard the story of Jesus in the desert, being tempted by Satan. Again and again Satan tries to trick Jesus, and he does it in the most devious way possible. He uses scripture! He tries to present sin to Jesus as if it is a good thing, as if God would really want him to do these things. Jesus is not fooled, but I am fooled almost every time. “Come on Dance, you know you are tired, I know God wants you to have some free time to yourself,” the serpent whispers. Yes, of course he does, but not at the expense of leaving Him or my commitments I’ve made to Him! And I certainly don’t need THAT much rest!

How does Jesus fight back? He has a plan. A real plan, and a good plan. Jesus knows he is going to be tempted, and he is prepared. For Jesus, he has prepared by knowing his scripture, and he’s ready to fight the devil head on.

Satan will attack us this Lent as well, every day of it, and if we too don’t have a plan, we will fall victim to his lies.

This is NOT a good plan! Sadly though, this is often the only plan we have.

You know what your main sins are. I certainly know mine, I confess them over and over again every time I seek Reconciliation. Do you have a plan for how you are going to deal with the temptation that most affects you? When you have the temptation to gossip, what is your plan? When you have the temptation to be rude, what is your plan? When you have the temptation to be lazy, what is your plan? When you have the temptation to consume too much, what is your plan?

Take your spiritual life seriously this Lent, treat it as you would any other enterprise. You would not build a business without a plan, neither can you build a strong spiritual life without one. Take notice of your weaknesses, and careful decide how you will defeat the sin that have plagued you. That way, like Jesus, you will be prepared when the tempter comes.

Then, this will be a Holy Lent indeed.

Spy Wednesday

Tomorrow we celebrate betrayal. Sounds funny doesn’t it, to “celebrate” betrayal?

Tomorrow we remember Judas going out to the chief priests to sell out Jesus.

Guess what? All the apostles sold Him out. You and I have also sold Him out. There is so much betrayal here that there is no way I could put it all down in one post.

The apostles who just celebrated the first Mass with our Lord all bailed on Him.

“Surely not I Lord?”

Peter who seemed so faithful and committed will deny he even knows Jesus at the threat of a lowly servant.

You and I deny Him again and again every time we sin.

Betrayal.

I want to take a look at two betrayals here today though, and contrast them, the betrayal of Peter vs the betrayal of Judas. They both screwed up. They both made a very serious mistake. Maybe Judas was upset because Jesus was not the Messiah he had hoped for, one that would kick out the Romans and bring Israel to the forefront of nations, maybe he was in it for the cash, I just don’t know. I think at the heart of the matter was that Judas just wanted something different from Jesus.

You and I do this all the time. You and I pray not with thanksgiving, but with petition. Lord, if you could just take care of my weight / debt / mother in law then everything will be just right, and I can go on and be holy. We know what Jesus should do, and gosh darnit, we are going to tell Him. This is betrayal.

Peter said he loved Jesus. Said he would die for Him. Said they could rip off his arms and he wouldn’t budge, only to run away crying because he couldn’t tell a little girl the truth. How many times have you denied being a Christian? How many times have you not made the sign of the cross before eating because you were at a business lunch? How many times have you kept silent because you knew your friend might be insulted that you think abortion is evil?

We are both Judas and Peter. I pray for them both. There is however a great difference, so what is it?

I want you to stop right here. Really think, what is the difference? Why is Peter a big capital lettered Saint, and Judas not? Stop, and figure it out.

Yes, Peter sinned, but he got back up again. He knew he could not do right, and that the Lord would have to teach him. I have no doubt that he cringed every time he heard a chicken for the rest of his life, but that did not deter him. He continued to move forward in hope that Jesus could fix his deficiencies.

Judas gave in to despair. Judas thought he was so bad that there was no saving him, and hung himself.

Something to think about.

Another thing to think about, who was the first person to leave Mass early?

Just saying, maybe that last hymn is worth listening to.

Rite of the Turkey Basters

You think I’m kidding around right? Rite of the Turkey Basters? What the heck is that?

Well, that’s not it’s official name, but there is a special mass that the laity rarely get to attend that happens this week, usually on Thursday morning, but it often moves around. It is the Chrism Mass.

Now it’s not that the laity aren’t invited, it’s just that it is usually inconvenient because it is held at the cathedral. I don’t know about you, but most mornings, I’m personally not excited to drive 6 hours to my cathedral for Mass, how about you? It is however, a very important Mass, and very much tied to Holy Week.

Now as I said, it’s proper place is Holy Thursday Morning. So as we think about the Mass and walk through it, we need to keep it in the context of Holy Thursday, even if it is celebrated on a different day. Why? Because The Chrism Mass is not about Chrism.

I know, this is just not making any sense, but hang on there.

The Chrism Mass is a lot like Midnight Mass at Christmas time in that it has it’s name because of an incidental thing that happens at this Mass. We don’t celebrate “midnight” at Midnight Mass, we celebrate the birth of our savior. It just happens at midnight, so we call it Midnight Mass. Same thing here. This is the Mass where the Holy Oils are blessed, so we call it the Chrism Mass. (Chrism is one of the oils.)

What is really going on here is something much bigger. This is the Mass of unity. This is the Mass where every priest in the diocese once again rededicates himself to Christ through obedience to his bishop. This is the Mass where the priest is empowered by their bishop to go out and serve you. We must remember that all the gifts a priest is given are given through their shepherd, this Mass is where those gifts are dispersed. This is why the Mass must be understood in the context of Holy Thursday, as Holy Thursday is the day we celebrate the institution of the priesthood. (As a side note, the footwashing thing is also tied to the priesthood, but I’ll get to that another day.)

This is the Mass that ties us to our apostle. How cool is that? It is just not enough to get a phone call and have a piece of paper hanging on the wall telling us we are united with the greater Church. We have to have real unity, and that unity is celebrated at this Mass.

This is also the Chrism Mass though, so we should talk about oils. All of the oils we used in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Healing of the Sick, and Holy Orders must be blessed by the bishop. They are also only good for one year. (Unity theme again!) So every year, the bishop blesses the oils at the Chrism Mass, and all the priests take it back home to their parishes with them. Pretty cool huh?!

There is one rite we are missing here. When the bishop blesses the oils, they are in three huge vats, so they have to be separated before the priests can take their oils back home.

So immediately after the Mass begins the Rite of the Turkey Basters, where all the helpers gather together to distribute the oils, usually while trading jokes and funny stories from their parishes. So imagine a bunch of really oily people laughing and in a rush to get home, and you will have the right picture of the day. Tons of fun, and an incredible Mass to attend if you ever have the opportunity.

Lent’s Last Push

We are at the home stretch. The finish line is in sight.

This is not the time to slow down, this is the time to give it all you got.

As we push through this last few days of Lent, it is so easy for us to just sit back and focus on the upcoming Easter, rather then really hone in on the last few days of Lent. Something in us can see ahead to the celebration, so we almost start celebrating early, just because it’s so exciting.

Don’t do it! Persevere!

If we really want to get into the spirit of Easter, this is our chance to really make our Lent count. I know, it’s been a long road. We have fallen in our Lenten penances, we have let it slide a little too much, we have not prayed as much or the way we intended. I know this, and that is really okay, but let’s not let Lent end with a fizzle.

Let us let Lent end with the resurrection!

So go out and give all your extra cash to a food bank to help them pay for Easter brunch for the homeless. (Extra cash guys, not your mortgage or the Easter ham!) Get down on your knees and pray from dawn to dusk. Get back on those Lenten penances and add a couple more for this last week. Get that house sparkling clean.

You can do this, it’s only five more days. You can do anything for five days, right?

It may be in this life you may be called to be a martyr, but you probably won’t. This is your chance to martyr yourself, to humble yourself before Him who is the source of all humility.

As a last thought, I want you to imagine an Olympic race. You know when they get to the end, they give it everything they’ve got. They are pushing so hard they don’t have the energy to sweat. You practically expect the winner to just fall down at the end, completely spent, but that is never what actually happens.

Instead, they shout with joy and exhilaration, they run an extra lap in victory, and smile like the sun.

“For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” 2 Timothy 4:7