2nd Week of Lent, Wednesday

Prayer is a moment of quiet time with Our Lord where two close friends are totally open with each other because they know they can be. At the Last Supper Our Lord will tell the apostles that he considers them friends, not servants, because he has kept nothing back from them, a sign of friendship and trust (cf. John 15:12–15). So Our Lord decides in today’s Gospel that it is time to warn the Twelve about his impending Passion and Resurrection. In Matthew’s account there’s no sign of how the Twelve reacted, but in Luke’s account (Luke 18:31–34) it says they didn’t understand what he was saying. When something tragic happens in the life of a friend you often suddenly see in retrospect that he was alluding to it all along, but you just didn’t pick up on the signals. As Our Lord makes his final journey to Jerusalem he is doing more than sending out signals; he is trying to prepare them for what is about to happen, something that will shake all their convictions about the Messiah.

James, John, and their mother show that they still don’t get it. They remind us today that friendship is not just knowing you can ask your friend for something, but being attentive and listening to them as well and picking up on the signals. James and John were open to what Jesus wanted; they would also drink the “chalice”one day of suffering and martyrdom, whether red or white, but they were still filtering it through their expectations of glory that was still too earthly.

If Christian life is taking up our cross and following Christ, we shouldn’t be shocked if in a moment of intimate prayer he reveals to us the disquieting truth of the Cross. We’re all headed to Calvary. He wants to strengthen and prepare us as we bear our crosses, great and small. If we filter out what comes after the Cross, the Resurrection, it’s no surprise that we’ll balk. Let’s continue this time of Lent straining to listen to our Best Friend with no filters and no spin.

Readings: Jeremiah 18:18–20; Psalm 31:5–6, 14–16; Matthew 20:17–28. See also 8th Week in Ordinary Time, WednesdaySt. James the Apostle, and 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B.

2nd Week of Lent, Tuesday

One of the categories of Lenten resolutions is fasting, which we usually consider in terms of food, but really opens the door to various ways of practicing self-denial as a way of growing in spiritual self-mastery and not letting unhealthy or unholy passions drive us. We can live driven by passion, and some passions are good, because they are noble and holy, but we also know, as Our Lord reminds us, that other passions, such as selfish ambition, are bad. Whether we’re a hall monitor, manager, or CEO we know that ambition, pride, and vanity can blind us to the fact that the position of authority we hold is not just meant to be self-serving, but to serve others as well.

Honors, authority, titles and recognition should not be ends in and of themselves; that would be a sign that selfish ambition was driving us. We all have a tendency at times to seek self-promotion and self-aggrandizement. Why not “fast” from that this Lent? Why not take stock of whatever authority, duty, or responsibility you have received and make an effort to serve through it and to not be self-serving in carrying it out? Chances are that Lenten resolution will help your charity and prayer as well; charity in that you’re putting other people first, and prayer in that you’re asking Our Lord what you should do and how you should do it, not your ego.

Let’s ask Our Lord today how we can serve, not how we can be served, just as he taught the disciples to do.

Readings: Isaiah 1:10, 16–20; Psalm 50:8–9, 16b–17, 21, 23; Matthew 23:1–12. See also 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, and 9th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday.

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

Today we are celebrating more than a piece of furniture; we’re celebrating a special ministry established by Our Lord himself, as recalled in today’s Gospel, a ministry we refer to as the Petrine ministry because it was established by Our Lord in a moment of the apostle Peter expressing his faith that Jesus was the Christ, aided by the Heavenly Father’s grace. Even today this ministry continues through the Pope. When we speak of the Pope’s office, we speak of the Apostolic “See,” which means seat. When we speak of his work and the work of those who help him in the Vatican’s dicasteries, we speak of the Holy “See.” Aided by the Holy Spirit, when the Pope makes a doctrinal declaration regarding faith and morals that all Catholics are to believe in the faith, we say he’s speaking ex Cathedra (from the chair). All these things are represented by the Chair of St. Peter.

Ministry implies an office, a minister, and someone who needs to be ministered to. It is authority, but it is also service that bears with it a great responsibility. Peter showed himself weak and unsure frequently, but Our Lord promised him that he would be the one to strengthen his brethren and that the Church the Lord would build on Peter would withstand the powers of evil and death. Today we commemorate Our Lord handing over the keys to Peter, keys that would be handed over to his successors, the bishops of Rome, whom we call Popes, to ensure that the powers of evil and death would not prevail against the Lord’s Church and to continue the Petrine ministry that watches over the unity of faith and love in the Church.

Let’s pray today for the Holy Father and for everyone who works with him in the Holy See so that the unity of faith and love in the Church continues.

Readings: 1 Peter 5:1–4; Psalm 23:1–3a, 4–6; Matthew 16:13–19. See also Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul.

2nd Sunday of Lent, Cycle C

In today’s First Reading the Lord rewards Abram’s faith that the promise he had already made regarding Abram’s descendants would be fulfilled. This faith was seen as righteousness: it showed that Abram was pleasing to God, a thought St. Paul would later develop in his letters. We are those descendants, because we call Abram (later renamed Abraham by the Lord) our father in faith. The Lord also promised Abram that the land he was dwelling in would be his; his nomadic existence would one day end and he’d have a place he could truly call home. Abram asked how he would know and the Lord instructed him to prepare the ceremony for establishing a covenant. In Abram’s time, two people entering into covenant would walk between sacrificed animals that had been split in half as a way of saying they’d bring the same fate upon themselves if they broke the covenant. In this moment of salvation history this insight into God’s relationship with those who have faith is something murky, even terrifying. Abram didn’t even have to make the walk; the Lord offered freely to enter into the covenant, and it was a disproportionate act of generosity on his part. Abram persevered in his faith and God’s promises were fulfilled.

In a mysterious way, when covenants with God were broken left and right throughout salvation history, the Lord did take the punishment upon himself, sparing his people, to the point that the Son shed his bled to establish a new and everlasting covenant. In today’s Second Reading Paul laments those who have become enemies of the Cross of Christ and chosen comfort over the difficult path of renunciation that true glory requires. He reminds us that we are citizens of Heaven and that is where we should be headed. The Cross is the way, there are no detours, no shortcuts. The Lord in today’s Gospel is preparing his disciples for the trials of faith they’re about to endure when he is handed over in Jerusalem to suffer his Passion. They have an experience of God in great contrast from Abram’s experience: from something vague and confusing to something blindingly insightful, so much so that the confusion and fright comes from trying to process it all. On the mountaintop they see Christ in his glory; his divinity shines through. They see two of the greatest holy men of their salvation history flanking him: Elijah and Moses, who speak of what Our Lord must endure. They receive a revelation of the Trinity: the Son in his divinity, the Holy Spirit in the cloud overshadowing them, and the Father speaking from the cloud. It is all still veiled in mystery, but it’s like a light along a dark road that encourages you to keep moving forward.

We still have many weeks of Lent before Our Lord’s Passion and Glory. Let’s continue along the path of the Cross through contemplating these mysteries and living our Lenten resolutions well, knowing it is the only path to the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Readings: Genesis 15:5–12, 17–18; Psalm 27:1, 7–9, 13–14; Philippians 3:17–4:1; Luke 9:28b–36. See also Transfiguration of the Lord, Cycle B and 2nd Week of Advent, Saturday.

1st Week of Lent, Saturday

In yesterday‘s Gospel we considered the need to make an effort to reconcile and forgive anyone with which we’ve been in enmity. So what about when they don’t want to reconcile? What about if they’re hostile to us, or it might even be dangerous to us if we approach them? There are also faceless, anonymous enemies to our society and to our faith, faces we may never meet in this lifetime, but faces who seek some ruin for something we consider important. Despite our best efforts there are people, wittingly or unwittingly, who see the values reflected by the Gospel as a threat and want to respond with their own, often destructive, agenda.

If we live as Our Lord wishes, all the things Moses promises Israel on behalf of the Lord in the First Reading today will be fulfilled, and people who don’t share that joy will be jealous. Our light will shine, and people in darkness will either seek it out or curse it because it blinds them. We can’t know what’s going on entirely in a soul that’s battling darkness and sin, but we do know that the longer they’re exposed to that light, the greater chance their eyes will adapt to it and start to see by it. That light is charity. Charity toward those we love, charity toward those we’ve wronged, and charity toward those who hate us.

The exaltation, praise, and glory that the Lord promises us in today’s First Reading is due to out charity. Lent may be somberly penitential, but it should also be blindingly charitable. Let’s hold high the beacon of our charity so that everyone can see by its light.

Readings: Deuteronomy 26:16–19; Psalm 119:1–2, 4–5, 7–8; Matthew 5:43–48.  See also 11th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday and 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday.