Lent 2020 – Journey to the Heights

Imagine, Easter arrives and you’re at a new spiritual level, a spiritual height that you’ve never been before.  A journey upwards though, is really a journey—inwards—a journey to the interior life.  Don’t settle for spiritual mediocrity; that’s what the devil wants, don’t give in to his lies.  We can do this!  So let’s journey upwards together this Lent.  Let us be intentional in being in touch with what’s going on interiorly inside of us and taking them to Jesus.

In addition to the themed homilies, during these six weeks of Lent, each Monday we will focus on one of the Seven Deadly Sins so as to climb to new spiritual heights.

7 Deadly Sins Taken Down by 7 Lively Virtues

God does not need you. God created you out of a sheer act of love, not because He needs you.  He wants you to be fully alive.  When we forget that God is constantly loving us, we become afraid and seek consolation elsewhere.  That’s when the deadly sins enter our hearts.  Watch this short introduction video on the deadly sins to learn what keeps us from being alive.

Week 5 — Avarice is taken down by Generosity.
St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that avarice or greed is the “immoderate or unreasonable desire for riches.” Now the right to own property and explore entrepreneurial opportunities are good things. Even making a profit is fine. So, what makes wealth unreasonable or immoderate, when does it become a sin?

It is when we love these created things more than we love God or our neighbor. The moment we care more about riches than about how to use those riches for the common good is the moment we are opening the door to avarice. This Catholic attitude is grounded in creation – God made everything for common use.

The moment we start recognizing our wealth as a gift from God given to us both for our good and for the good of our neighbor—and begin finding ways to share that wealth with our neighbor—is the day we begin to live generously and imitate God, who became poor for our sake that we might become rich.

Avarice prevents you from seeing that your resources were given to you for God’s purposes. It also prevents you from seeing and working towards the common good.  In a materialistic culture, those seeking to grow spiritually must search their hearts honestly and frequently to uncover any tendency to be greedy.
Is money playing too great a role in my life? How much time do I spend worrying about it? Do I often compare my wealth to others? How painful is it when I have to give money away?

Antidote: Generosity.  The Trinity is a community of divine generosity. God is generous love. The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves Him back. The Holy Spirit is the result or outpouring of their love. All lively virtues spring from love and are attempts to imitate God.  Another counter-example to avarice is the Marian way of how Mary gives birth to the King of kings in poverty, while Caesar Augustus, the reigning Roman king, lives in wealthy splendor.

Following the movement towards generosity, here are a few steps to take to cultivate it:

\_Give away your goods and money on a regular basis.

\_Clean out your closet and give away something you like each month.

\_When shopping for larger ticket items, find the one you want and can afford, and then buy the next one down (i.e., lower in price), and give the dollar difference to the poor.

\_Place a poor box next to your door, and put something in it every time you leave the house.

\_Factor the common good into every one of your economic decisions. Review your checkbook to see how well you are serving the common good.

For further reflection, watch this short video by Bishop Barron https://bit.ly/2w0OvlX

Week 4 — Sloth is taken down by Zeal
People often confuse the sin of sloth with laziness.  Sloth is actually when one is lukewarm and indifferent to  spiritual things. It is when a human heart becomes bored with and inert to the things of God.  A person can be mired in the depths of sloth while filled with energy for video games, TV, career, money, and all the other distractions the world provides, which keep us numb to the voice of God and the desire for holiness. It is said to be the deadliest sin because the slothful are bored and indifferent with nothing to shake them out of it. Other deadly sins, such as pride, envy, or anger, usually lead to a fall in which you recognize your sin and fervently seek to go back to God. Sloth abounds in our secular society because many are indifferent to spiritual, transcendent things. Absolute, objective truth is no longer accepted culturally, replaced with relativism (i.e., your truth can be different than my truth and we’re both right).

Even in the U.S. Catholic population, sloth predominates as more than 75% of Catholics don’t go to Mass regularly.  And given the times we are living in now, perhaps this crises will create a hunger for Jesus in the Eucharist.

Antidote: Zeal.  Zeal is best kindled by fervent prayer for God to reveal our mission in life and if you add to that an ardent pursuit of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, overcoming sloth is feasible.  As Christ followers, we’re called to be on fire for the Good & Saving News of Jesus Christ, our King of Kings!  And that we’re all made for a definite purpose and each person’s purpose revolves around being a conduit of God’s love in some particular way.  Here are ways to overcome sloth.

\_Taking a page from Mama Mary. “She proceeded in haste” (Luke 1:39). When Mary received her mission at the Annunciation, she knew what she needed to do. The next thing we hear is that “she set out in haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Work hard to find and pray to understand your mission. Once you find your mission, get to it right away. God will respond to your prayer using secondary causes. Pick up the Bible and read it with the urgent question of “What is my mission?”

\_ Participate in our Daily and Sunday live streamed Mass to receive inspiration from Scripture, and spiritual energy from the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
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\_Perform the corporeal and spiritual works of mercy (CCC 2447) on a regular basis. Most likely, you’ll find your mission revealed through these works as it will look like one of them in some way.

For further reflection, watch this short video by Bishop Barron to learn more how zeal for God eradicates sloth: https://bit.ly/2vIOZNr

Week 3 Anger is taken down by Forgiveness.
Anger is a natural part of human nature. “Be angry but do not sin” Ephesians 4:26.  It is also a legitimate response to injustice; we are right to be angry at injustices as this type of anger is a passion to set things right.  It becomes a sin when it becomes vengeful; St. Thomas Aquinas describes the sin of anger as “an unreasonable, irrational, and immoderate desire for vengeance.”  It is not helped when we give in to the tendency of clinging to our anger and our resentment.

Antidote: Forgiveness.  Forgiveness is an active engagement of evil in order to undue it; it is interrupting the horrible rhythm of anger and violence by forgiving and not seeking revenge. When you meet fire with fire, you enflame and awaken the blaze. If you meet it with forgiveness, you diffuse the power anger can have.  Here are ways to conquer anger.

\_Take a concrete step today to heal a broken relationship, such as writing a note or making a phone call. Don’t let forgiveness be just a vague abstraction; do something concrete.

\_When you’re offended, forgive quickly, and don’t brood in your anger. If you hold on to your anger and withhold your forgiveness, the devil has more time to work on you, tempting you to sin.

\_Get in the way of gossip or scapegoating. St. Augustine had a sign over his dinner table: “No one speaks ill of his brother at this table.” St. Augustine enforced this as he would ask brothers to leave if they spoke ill of one another.

\_Keep your own sins in mind as this helps you realize that you have been forgiven far more than others have offended you. Really listen and reflect on your sins during the confiteor at Mass (“I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned…”) Go to confession. Forgiveness is made palpable through this great sacrament, and it makes you a better forgiver.

For further reflection, watch this short video by Bishop Barron to learn when anger is justified and when it’s sinful  https://bit.ly/3aBCli0

Week 2 Envy is taken down by Admiration.
Envy can be defined as sorrow at another person’s success. That success is threatening because in comparing myself to someone else, I find myself lacking.  I fear that I am not good enough and I forget that God loves me.

Antidote: Admiration.  Combat envy by going out of your way to praise whomever you envy. If you are in a group that is scapegoating someone, purposely put a wrench in the discussion by interrupting it with praise for the scapegoat. Realize that the dispensing of different gifts is linked to different missions from the Lord, but all are in one Body of Christ. Concentrate on your unique role in this mystical Body and stop comparing yourself to others. It is not a zero-sum game if we realize that we are all being loved and blessed by God; you succeed, I succeed, you suffer, I suffer. Our true happiness is found by joining our lives in love with God and others, who also have been loved into being by God.

For further reflection, watch the short talk by Bishop Barron on Envy & Admiration https://bit.ly/3cMkEyk

Week 1 Pride is taken down by Humility.
Pride is known to be the most serious of the seven deadly sins. It is an excessive love of self and irrationally believing that one is better, superior, and more important than others.

Antidote: Humility. Ask God for the grace to grow in the virtue of humility. Practice this week in praising, encouraging, and honoring those around us.  Purposely take the lower place at gatherings.  Consciously opt out of the ego game, refusing to scramble for honor and status. Learn to love simple things in the way that children do.

For further reflection, watch this short video by Bishop Barron  to learn about pride and what counteracts it https://bit.ly/39DkffD

Spiritual Nourishment

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Lenten Guidelines

  • Everyone 14 years of age or over is bound to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent.
  • All from the age of 18 years up to the beginning of their 60th year are bound to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
  • On these two days of fast and abstinence, only one full meatless meal is allowed. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted on these two days, but liquids, including milk and fruit juices are allowed. When health or ability to work would be seriously affected, the law does not oblige.
  • To disregard completely the law of fast and abstinence is sinful.
  • Lent is the principal season of penance in the Church year. Therefore, all of the faithful are strongly urged to develop and follow a program of voluntary self-denial. All Catholics are encouraged to support generously the charitable works of the whole Church, pray and perform works of charity and mercy.
  • Those who are sick, pregnant, or nursing, or whose health would adversely be affected by fasting or abstinence, should not consider themselves bound by these norms.