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"Holiness is not the luxury of a few. It is everyone's duty: yours and mine."  ~Mother Teresa

Lent 2015

Lent 2015
Fr. Sebastian Vazhakala M.C.

 

"All Christ's faithful are obliged by divine law, each in his own way, to do penance...The days and times of penance for the universal Church are each Friday of the whole year and the season of Lent" (Can. 1249-1251).

The Imitation of Christ says: "What does it avail you to argue profoundly of the Trinity if you be wanting in humility, and consequently be displeasing to the Trinity? I would rather feel compunction, than to know its definition" (Book I, Ch. 1/3).


These and similar statements in the opening chapter of the Imitation of Christ make us ponder like our Lady who kept "all these things in her heart and pondered over them" (cf. Lk 2:19).

We have just started one of the most spiritually powerful seasons of the liturgical year, the season of Lent, which prepares us for the great Easter event. In fact, we have two days in every week to remind us of the importance of the two liturgical seasons for the believing Catholics: Friday and Sunday.

Since that first Good Friday, every single Friday reminds us of the Cross, the proof of the great love of the God-man Jesus Christ, who loved us to the very end. In the gospel of St. John we read: "Greater love than this no man has that a man lays down his life for his friends" (15:13). Jesus became the new and the true man, who is the true and authentic image of God.

Sunday is the other day, the first day of the week, which ever since Jesus rose has been celebrated in every corner of the world as a victory day. Since the resurrection of Jesus is the corner stone of our faith, one annual celebration is not enough, but every Sunday of the year is known and celebrated as the weekly Easter. So we have the weekly Good Friday and the weekly Easter.

Friday is the sixth day of creation and it is on that day that God created man and woman in his own image and likeness. And it is on the same day that the God-man Jesus Christ broke the old man and recreated the new man by becoming obedient unto death, death on a cross (cf. Phil. 2:6-11).

For us every Friday and Sunday are inseparable, like the two sides of the same coin. One makes us relive Jesus' passion and death, his death on a cross; one of sacrifice and penance; and the other makes us relive the hope and joy of life, reminding us of our eternal life. St. Paul expresses it very vividly: "All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and to become like him in his death" (cf. Phil 3:10).

The word "Lent" traditionally means "springtime". It is meant to be a real springtime for us to come out of a frozen spiritual life to a fervent, zealous and enthusiastic life in the Lord.

The season of Lent is an extended Good Friday for six long weeks. It is also a time to go with Jesus to the Judean desert of our spiritual life to be alone with the Alone. The Church, through the liturgical celebrations, makes us relive Jesus' forty-day retreat of prayer and fasting, fighting with the evil one and defeating the enemy, unlike Adam and Eve, unlike all other human beings, including ourselves. In Jesus and only in him and with him can we conquer our spiritual enemies who surround us from all sides, especially when we try to be more fervent and zealous. Jesus himself had the hardest battle with the evil one all through his life and stood his ground and beat the enemy for a great price. He alone could endure to such an extent of annihilation and humiliation, making himself utterly poor and powerless. He could save everybody else, but "he could not save himself" (cf. Mt 27:42). Even when he hung on a cross seemingly helpless, he still could save the good thief who asked for his help. The cross is a paradox. It is here we need silence to contemplate the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah and the Savour of the world.

The question for us is how to live the spirit of Lent in our everyday life without going to the desert, but trying to find the desert in the place where we live and work. We may have to create the desert in the cities, in the towns or villages of the world where we live and work.

We have to learn to do all things prayerfully, faithfully and perseveringly. It is here that we have to learn the art of contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer. We have to form ourselves into it.

Silence. The first and most important prerequisite to live the season of Lent is the observance of silence, both interior and exterior. No silence, no prayer. No silence, no listening to God's voice. Deep within us we hear the voice of God speaking. This hearing is only possible if we learn to listen to him in silence, like the prophets who spoke what they heard in prayer.

To live according to God's will one has to learn to listen to God. "Listen Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength. Take to heart these words, which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest" (Dt 6:4-.7).

This was and still is the heart of the teaching of the Old Testament, which Jesus renews when he said to one of the teachers of the Law. "Listen Israel..." and Jesus added the second most important commandment: "Love your neighbour as you love yourself" (cf. Mk 12:29-31).

Listening is an art and a gift. Listening demands love, humility, concern and consideration. First of all we must learn to listen to God in prayer and also learn to listen to God in one another. If we have the gift of listening, we see that God speaks to us in and through everyone, everything and in every situation. The situation can be very difficult and demanding, but if we have the gift and the habit of listening, somehow we can manage and can be channelized very positively. Saints like St. Thérèse of Lisieus knew how to listen to everything and everybody, above all to God. Bl. Teresa M.C. listened to Jesus' voice at Holy Communion as she writes: "Today at Holy Communion I heard him say:..."

Listening demands silence. It is one of the most important languages we have to learn during our years of formation, and it has to be kept throughout our life: silence of all five senses, especially of the eyes and tongue. We practice voluntary silence in:

- Imitation of the silence of Jesus in the Eucharist; the silence of Mary and Joseph in the Gospel;

- Solidarity with all those who are deprived of speech, sight, hearing, and of those who choose to practice silence for life, like the Trappists and other men and women religious;

- Reparation for all useless and harmful words written and spoken everywhere, and also by the members of the M.C. Family;

- As an absolute necessary condition for all forms of prayer, and in a special way for meditation, contemplation and any other forms of prayer.

We have to learn to appreciate the preciousness of silence:

The Silence is Meekness. When you do not defend yourself against offenses.
When you do not claim your rights. When you let God defend you.
The Silence is Meekness.

The Silence is Mercy. When you do not reveal the faults of your brothers to others.
When you readily forgive without inquiring into the past.
When you do not judge, but pray in your heart.
The Silence is Mercy.

The Silence is Patience. When you accept suffering without grumbling, without complaining.
When you do not look for human consolations. When you do not become too anxious,
but wait in patience for the seed to germinate.
The silence is Patience.

The Silence is Humility. When there is no competition.
When you consider the other person to be better than yourself.
When you let your brothers emerge, grow and mature. When you joyfully abandon all to the Lord. When your actions may be misinterpreted. When you leave to others the glory of the enterprise.
The Silence is Humility.

The Silence is Faith. When you keep quiet because you know that the Lord will act.
When you renounce the voice of the world, to remain in the presence of the Lord.
When you do not labour yourself to be understood because it is enough for you to know that the Lord understands you.
The Silence is Faith.

The Silence is Adoration. When you embrace the cross without asking "Why?".
The Silence is Adoration.
"But Jesus was silent."

In concrete terms, how do we live the Lent more prayerfully, more faithfully and more perseveringly? Here we need to point out a few traditional forms of living Lent:

1) Being faithful to one's duties of everyday life and doing them well.
2) Doing ordinary things with extraordinary love for the greater glory of God.
3) Doing all things prayerfully, faithfully and perseveringly.
4) Paying more attention to the observance of silence, both interior and exterior, in order to listen to the voice of God.
5) Meditating on he Passion of Jesus based on the Gospels (Mt 26 and 27; Mk 14 and 15; Lk 22 and 23; John 18 and 19).
6) Making devoutly the Stations of the Cross every day, if possible.
7) Praying daily the five sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary.
8) Practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy as far as possible and according to situation (cf. R. 101).
9) Trying to be kind, gentle and humble to one another in the community, movement, family.
10) Participating in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass with due preparation and greater attention.
11) Thanking God for the gift of the senses and making proper use of them to help others, to encourage and strengthen one another in love. In other words, making positive use of all our senses, including our mind, our hands and our feet. Remembering that it is better to light a candle than to curse darkness.
12) We try to learn to respect each other with love and humility, as each person has the inalienable right and duty, as well as the dignity of a human being, no matter where one comes from, what is his colour, etc.. Let us remember that the cows can be of different colours but milk is always white.
13) Let us more and more try to see the good in each other, appreciate and encourage each other, while following the practice of the evangelical teaching of fraternal correction (cf. Mt 18:15-17). Let us not spend our precious time in judging others, but let us use our time to love others (cf. Mt 7:1-2). "God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its Saviour" (Jn 3:17).

Wishing you all a very fervent and peaceful season of Lent. Love and prayers.

God bless you.