In the most of the sports I have played the coaches seemed fixated on one issue: ‘the follow through’. “Follow through with your swing, follow through with your throw” they would say. The “follow through” was important because more than likely if you followed through with your swing, the ball would go further and your throw would be more accurate.
The same is true of our Lenten experience for our spiritual life. The “follow through” you might say is to bring us to the point of conversion. In the parable of the prodigal son Jesus describes the process of conversion and repentance. The young man attracted by an idea of freedom which he finds later to have been an illusion abandons his father’s house and family.
Lent Is a good time for us to try and discern what are some of the illusions, delusions, or expectations that have led us into sin in the past and are those same patterns of behavior still working within us? The young man comes to a point where he realizes how miserable he truly is, how poor and hungry. He is humiliated by the fact that he even hungers for the husks he feeds the pigs. He clarifies in his mind what really happened, he examines himself and is willing to go back and confess his guilt. The father never stopped loving him but the son had to return to know this and experience the Father’s love.
This is the process that we hopefully go through to some degree during Lent. We now begin the second part of Lent. The first part was focused on ethics. It is meant to puncture our pride, to help us understand that we cannot really meet the demands of discipleship without the help of Christ. The first part of Lent is to “bring home to us our radical need of salvation”.
The second part of Lent now focuses on the person of “Jesus as the Savior, but Jesus can only save those who know their need for salvation.” At the beginning of Lent I stripped the altar, switched to silver vessels and asked Bryan to tone down the music and stop playing the organ as much as possible. The reason I did this was in the hope that we might experience more a sense of joy and accomplishment at the Easter Vigil when the candles, the gold vessels, and the music blaring came together.
But this can only happen in a way that is truly meaningful if we are willing to strip ourselves of our pride, our self-justification, and our self-sufficiency. If we allow Lent to be a process of small humiliations and of many acts of sorrow and contrition, then we will experience that true inward burst of joy, new life, welcome, love and conversion to a deeper connection to the Father. Then Easter will be much more meaningful for us.
In the parable, the beautiful robe, the ring, and the festivities are symbols of that new life – pure, worthy, and joyful – of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of His family which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ who knows the depths of his Father’s love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so simple and beautiful a way.”
Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
March 10, 2013
Fourth Sunday of Lent
When we read the parables of Jesus, we need to remind ourselves that they are not accounts of historical events. Rather, they are stories with a spiritual lesson for all times and places. In most cases, these stories are not new to the audience. They are really old, familiar stories, which are much appreciated when they are told well. Jesus tells the stories very well indeed but he also adds a “twist” to the narrative. By telling the story so well he captivates his audience and then, once they are drawn into the story, he surprises them with a spiritual application.
4th Lent: The Prodigal Son and Beyond
When we call the parable the Prodigal Son, we focus on the younger brother. We consider his sins, his memory of his life with the father whom he offended, and his decision to return back to his father even if he were only to be treated as a servant instead of as a son. There are many, many times I’m sorry to say, that I have felt the way the prodigal did on his journey back home. Perhaps you have too. There are times that we all have recognized our sins, recognized how happy we were before we got mired in our own selfishness, and decided to do all we can to return to at least a small portion of that happiness. We are not seeking to be restored to mystic ecstacy. We just want to be on our father’s farm again, happy to be in His Presence, no matter how limited that Presence might be. And then we are welcomed back with more love, more joy, than we could have ever expected.
The Atonement and the Prodigal Son
“For our sakes God made him who did not know sin to be sin, so that in him we might become the very holiness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Some Christians reading these words over the last few centuries have gotten the wrong idea. They’ve put this Scripture together with Jesus’ cry from the cross “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me.” Plus they’ve added to the mix the Apostle’s Creed assertion that Jesus “descended into hell.” The result is a huge misunderstanding.
The Father’s Two Sons: What the Prodigal Son Tells us About Divine Sonship
In Exodus 32, Moses has gone up on Mount Sinai to talk to God. Almost immediately after he left, the Israelites fall into idolatry, worshiping a golden calf (Ex. 32:1-6). God is displeased, and says to Moses, “Go down; for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves” (Ex. 32:7). Moses responds by pointing the finger back at God: “O Lord, why does thy wrath burn hot against thy people, whom thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?” (Ex. 32:11).
On one level, this dialogue is almost comical, like two sleep-exhausted parents saying to one another: “your son is crying again, you’d better go take care of him.” But there’s an important message being conveyed. We belong to God, we belong to the Church, and we belong to one another. We are our brothers’ keepers (Gen. 4:9).
My Friend And The Eucharist
I have a friend and I am not sure, but I think she is a little younger than I am now. I won’t pursue this too much except to say that both of us have matured. She was injured in an automobile accident years ago and suffers from pain resulting from that accident, on top of the pains that senior citizens seem to acquire. She has had an active life and still tries to pursue her long time interest of painting. You may have a friend in a similar situation. My wife often complained of the same thing and used to say, “I know what I want to do but my body just won’t cooperate.” My friend has to use an electric scooter to get around although she can walk some, but with more pain.
The Pope is Not as Powerful as You Think
Even as the Cardinals meet in the Conclave to elect the next pope, misunderstandings about the nature of the papacy abound.
For example, many people believe that the pope wields a strong and potentially tyrannical power over his flock. The concept of an infallible teacher leads them to imagine a dictator (even if benevolent) who can force doctrines upon Catholics at whim, leaving the faithful either anxious and uncertain about what dogmatic changes will come next to disturb their lives, or ready to run like lemmings off whatever cliff the Supreme Pontiff decides to lead them. Sure, maybe one pope is mentally and emotionally stable, but what of the next? And the next? Think of the havoc he could wreak! Who in his right mind would put his life under the pope’s authority?
In reality, however, the pope is not quite as powerful as one might think.
The Baptism Betrothal
When we consider the Sacrament of Baptism, two things become readily apparent. The first is how important baptism is in the Scriptures. Out of all the sacraments, none are foretold more than the sacrament of Baptism. (See Gen 1:2, Ez 36:25, 2 Kings 5:10-15, Is 1:16 to name but a few examples.) The other is that in our own lives, we all too often give far too little importance to this sacrament. We typically treat the sacrament as a past event with little importance in our current life. We should compare this attitude to that of saints like St. Louis De Montfort, whose “Total Consecration to Mary” devotion was viewed as the perfect way to renew and live out our baptismal vows every year.
99 and Half Won’t Due. On the Infallibility and the Indefectibility of the Church
Let’s say you have a choice to take one of two airplanes to take to a distant city, lets call our destination, “Heavenly City.”
The one plane (Church Airlines) gets there 100% of the time. The other plane (Alsoran Airlines) gets there sometimes, but other times it is in disrepair, or it lands in the wrong city, or at still other times it crashes.
OK, which plane are you going to take?
All the Days of My Life: A Chastity Tale
Imagine my surprise when a friend who works with the parish youth group asked me to give a chastity talk to the middle and high school aged girls. “Who, me?” I said, raising an eyebrow suspiciously. I thought, Why not someone who has actually lived chastely her whole life? Me? I did it all wrong.
I was not a virgin on my wedding day. I wasn’t a virgin beyond my first week of college. I had every intention of being a virgin on my wedding day. But after having too much to drink at my first college party, and a senior who wouldn’t take no for an answer, that was that. Then came the shame that crawls under your skin and won’t be washed away. Then, the resignation. Well, I’ll never be able to give that gift. So why not? Why not became my mantra for the next two years.
The Prophetic Nature of the Male Celibate Priesthood
At a time when Catholicism is under intense scrutiny, the traditions of the male priesthood and celibacy often bear the brunt of secular ire. Father Damian Ference offers not so much a defense of the traditions, but an explanation of why they are both practiced and of utmost importance, especially now.
Rediscovering Mariology: Going Beyond Apparitions
Recently while perusing Marian books at a Catholic gift store, I discovered many of the topics pertained to Marian apparitions, some approved and others not.
Over dinner, I mentioned that I enjoyed the study of Mary, known as Mariology, and the other person shared with me that he had visited Lourdes.
After giving a talk on the rosary, someone from the congregation asked, “What do you think about Medjugorje?”
The Three Most Profound Ideas I Have Ever Had
Ideas are more precious than diamonds. The three most precious ideas I have ever discovered all concern the love of God.
None of them is original. But every one is revolutionary. None of them came from me. But all of them came to me with sudden force and fire: the “aha!” experience, the “eureka!” experience. They were all realizations, not just beliefs.
Is Your Spiritual Life Like a Sailboat or a Motorboat?
When I was very young, perhaps 10 years old, I took some sailing lessons, and once again when I was in my early 30s. Sailing involves a kind of romancing the wind wherein one observes the wind as it is, and then adapts to it, wooing it, learning its moves, its vicissitudes, and its often subtle and changing signs.
Why Love Is the Secret to Conversion
“God is love.” I heard the phrase countless times when I was growing up. Even as an atheist, I couldn’t avoid the concept: I’d see it on youth group pamphlets, bumper stickers, and the occasional Precious Moments figurine. It certainly didn’t have any impact on me as a nonbeliever, and even when I began to research religion I didn’t think much about it. The way I interpreted the phrase, it seemed to be a nice, throwaway statement that believers used to describe their deity: God (that Guy we believe in who’s kind of like a dad, only nicer) is love (meaning he’s really, really, really loving).
The Apostolate of Suffering
The topic for discussion at my local Theology on Tap recently was evangelization and Christ’s instructions to His Apostles to go out and spread the Good News:
Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:18-20)
Purgatory Part 3: Faith and Love
This is the third in a series in which I attempt to address the question, “What is purgatory, and why is it necessary?” by expanding on the simple answer that Purgatory is the state, place, or process by which a soul is purified for entrance into heaven. Part 1 is here and Part 2 can be found here.
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Yet man is not perfect, nor are men sinless. Furthermore, we read that “nothing unclean will enter” heaven (Revelation 21:27), elsewhere that
Blessings That are Difficult to Receive
When our prayer takes us to the Mount of Olives, we discover the mystery of the Cross in all kinds of trials. Before that impending evil life throws at us, we often find our desires on a collision course with God’s desires. Some of these trials come from “without” in the form of difficult circumstances. This could be in the form of a grave injustice or natural catastrophe. The Lord does not always shield us from disaster or illness or the loss of possessions or reputation. He allows us to be vulnerable to the betrayal of those we trust and even abandonment by both friends and family when we most need them. As challenging as such changes in fortune might be, the mystery of Gethsemane also suggests that the Father can even ask us to patiently endure many extremely painful interior trials, hardships from “within,” spiritual difficulties so overwhelming that we can only face them with special divine assistance.
Playing God Without the Wisdom of God
The dominant secular culture portrays the world of In vitro fertilization (IVF) and surrogate pregnancies as a great advance for mankind, even as it generates a stream of horror stories beyond the imagination of Greek tragedians.
Not a week passes, it seems, without a new disturbing permutation to this culture. “Surrogate offered $10,000 to abort baby,” reported CNN this week.
So now surrogates are offered money not just to carry children but to abort them. A more complete headline on CNN’s story would have been: “Surrogate offered $10,000 to abort baby diagnosed as disabled.” Untroubled by eugenic abortion, CNN doesn’t even bother to engage that obvious element in the story.
The Earth Is a Rare Jewel: A Meditation on the Glory of God in a new Discovery about our Planet
Over at Space.com there is an article that sets forth a recent discovery of a new but fleeting set of Van Allen belts around the earth. These radiation belts have a critical role in our ability to survive since they help deflect most of the more harmful rays of the sun. Without these radiation belts we would “cook” in the harmful radiation of unfiltered sunrays.