Posted in ON the SAINTS, Papa FRANCIS, PAPAL HOMILIES, St JOHN HENRY Cardinal NEWMAN!, The WORD

Pope Francis celebrates Canonisation Mass of 5 New Saints and says “Let us ask to be like that, “kindly lights”

Pope Francis celebrates Canonisation Mass of 5 New Saints and says “Let us ask to be like that, “kindly lights.”

HOLY MASS AND CANONISATION OF THE BLESSEDS:
JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, GIUSEPPINA VANNINI,
MARIAM THRESIA CHIRAMEL MANKIDIYAN, DULCE LOPES PONTES, MARGUERITE BAYS
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
St Peter’s Square
XXVIII Sunday of Ordinary Time
13 October 2019CANONISAITION MASS JOHN HENRY NEWMAN 13 oct 2019

“Your faith has saved you” (Lk 17:19).   This is the climax of today’s Gospel, which reflects the journey of faith.   There are three steps in this journey of faith.   We see them in the actions of the lepers whom Jesus heals.   They cry out, they walk and they give thanks.

First, they cry out.   The lepers were in a dreadful situation, not only because of a disease that, widespread even today, needs to be battled with unremitting effort but also because of their exclusion from society.   At the time of Jesus, lepers were considered unclean and, as such, had to be isolated and kept apart (cf. Lev 13:46).   We see that when they approach Jesus, they “kept their distance” (Lk 17:12).  Even though their condition kept them apart, the Gospel tells us that they “called out” (v. 13) and pleaded with Jesus.  They did not let themselves be paralysed because they were shunned by society, they cried out to God, who excludes no-one.   We see how distances are shortened, how loneliness is overcome – by not closing in on ourselves and our own problems, by not thinking about how others judge us but rather by crying out to the Lord, for the Lord hears the cry of those who find themselves alone.

Like those lepers, we too need healing, each one of us.   We need to be healed of our lack of confidence in ourselves, in life, in the future we need to be healed of our fears and the vices that enslave us, of our introversion, our addictions and our attachment to games, money, television, mobile phones, to what other people think.   The Lord sets our hearts free and heals them if only we ask Him, only if we say to Him : “Lord, I believe you can heal me.   Dear Jesus, heal me from being caught up in myself.   Free me from evil and fear”.   The lepers are the first people, in this Gospel, who called to the name of Jesus. Later, a blind man and a crucified thief would do so, all of them needy people calling on the name of Jesus, which means:  “God saves”.   They call God by name, directly and spontaneously.   To call someone by name is a sign of confidence and it pleases the Lord. That is how faith grows, through confident, trusting prayer.   Prayer in which we bring to Jesus, who we really are, with open hearts, without attempting to mask our sufferings. Each day, let us invoke with confidence the name of Jesus, “God saves”.   Let us repeat it: that is prayer, to say “Jesus“ is to pray.   And prayer is essential!   Indeed, prayer is the door of faith, prayer is medicine for the heart.

The second word, is to walk.   It is the second stage.   In today’s brief Gospel, there are several verbs of motion.   It is quite striking is that the lepers are not healed as they stand before Jesus, it is only afterwards, as they were walking.   The Gospel tells us that:  “As they went, they were made clean” (v. 14).   They were healed by going up to Jerusalem, that is, while walking uphill.   On the journey of life, purification takes place along the way, a way that is often uphill since it leads to the heights.   Faith calls for journey, a “going out” from ourselves, and it can work wonders if we abandon our comforting certainties, if we leave our safe harbours and our cosy nests.   Faith increases by giving, and grows by taking risks.  Faith advances when we make our way equipped with trust in God.   Faith advances with humble and practical steps, like the steps of the lepers or those of Naaman who went down to bathe in the river Jordan (cf. 2 Kings 5:14-17).   The same is true for us.   We advance in faith by showing humble and practical love, exercising patience each day and praying constantly to Jesus as we keep pressing forward on our way.

There is a further interesting aspect to the journey of the lepers: they move together.   The Gospel tells us that, “as they went, they were made clean” (v. 14).   The verbs are in the plural.   Faith means also walking together, never alone.   Once healed, however, nine of them go off on their own way and only one turns back to offer thanks.   Jesus then expresses His astonishment:  “The others, where are they?” (v. 17).   It is as if He asks the only one who returned, to account for the other nine.   It is the task of us, who celebrate the Eucharist as an act of thanksgiving, to take care of those who have stopped walking, those who have lost their way.   We are called to be guardians of our distant brothers and sisters, all of us!   We are to intercede for them, we are responsible for them, to account for them, to keep them close to heart.   Do you want to grow in faith?   You, who are here today, do you want to grow in faith?   Then take care of a distant brother, a faraway sister.

To cry out.   To walk.   And to give thanks.   This is the final step.   Only to the one who thanked Him did Jesus say:  “Your faith has saved you” (v. 19).   It made you both safe and sound.   We see from this, that the ultimate goal is not health or wellness but the encounter with Jesus.   Salvation is not drinking a glass of water to keep fit, it is going to the source, which is Jesus.   He alone frees us from evil and heals our hearts.   Only an encounter with Him can save, can make life full and beautiful.   Whenever we meet Jesus, the word “thanks” comes immediately to our lips, because we have discovered the most important thing in life, which is not to receive a grace or resolve a problem but to embrace the Lord of life.   And this is the most important thing in life – to embrace the Lord of life.

It is impressive to see how the man who was healed, a Samaritan, expresses his joy with his entire being – he praises God in a loud voice, he prostrates himself and he gives thanks (cf. vv. 15-16).   The culmination of the journey of faith is to live a life of continual thanksgiving.   Let us ask ourselves – do we, as people of faith, live each day as a burden, or as an act of praise?   Are we closed in on ourselves, waiting to ask another blessing, or do we find our joy in giving thanks?   When we express our gratitude, the Father’s heart is moved and He pours out the Holy Spirit upon us.   To give thanks is not a question of good manners or etiquette, it is a question of faith.   A grateful heart is one that remains young.   To say “Thank you, Lord” when we wake up, throughout the day and before going to bed – that is the best way to keep our hearts young, because hearts can grow old and be spoilt.   This also holds true for families and between spouses.   Remember to say thank you.   Those words are the simplest and most effective of all.

To cry out.   To walk.   To give thanks. Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new Saints.   They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession.   Three of them were religious women, they show us that the consecrated life is a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world.   Saint Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress, she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving.   That is how the Lord made the splendour of Easter radiate in her life, in her humbleness.   Such is the holiness of daily life, which Saint John Henry Newman described in these words – “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not… The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming, has no pretence… with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing, that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, V, 5).
Let us ask to be like that, “kindly lights amid the encircling gloom.”   Jesus, “stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest, so to shine as to be a light to others”  (Meditations on Christian Doctrine, VII, 3).   Amen … Vatican.va

Saint John Henry Newman, Pray for Us!st john henry newman pray for us 13 oct 2019.jpg

 

Posted in PAPAL HOMILIES, Pope BENEDICT XVI, St JOHN HENRY Cardinal NEWMAN!, VATICAN Resources

Thought for the Day – 13 October – Praise to the Holiest in the Height! for our Beloved Saint John Henry

Thought for the Day – 13 October – Twenty Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C and today, John Henry Newman will be Canonised

Today, at 10.30 Roman time, John Henry Newman and 4 others will be Canonised by Pope Francis.   They are:

– English Cardinal John Henry Newman, Founder of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri in England

– Italian Sister Giuseppina Vannini (born Giuditta Adelaide Agata), Founder of the Daughters of Saint Camillus

– Indian Sister Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family

– Brazilian Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes (born Maria Rita) of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God

– Marguerite Bays of Switzerland, Virgin of the Third Order of Saint Francis of Assisi.

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13 oct 2019 - today we call you st john henry newman praise to the holiest.jpg

Excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI’s Beatification Homily
Birmingham, Sunday, 19 September 2010

newman and benedict

Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or “Heart speaks unto heart”, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God.   He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness.   As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, “a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualising and elevating the soul.   A man is no longer what he was before, gradually … he has imbibed a new set of ideas and become imbued with fresh principles   (Parochial and Plain Sermons, iv, 230-231).   Today’s Gospel tells us that no-one can be the servant of two masters (cf. Lk 16:13) and Blessed John Henry’s teaching on prayer explains how the faithful Christian is definitively taken into the service of the one true Master, who alone has a claim to our unconditional devotion (cf. Mt 23:10).   Newman helps us to understand what this means for our daily lives – he tells us that our divine Master has assigned a specific task to each one of us, a “definite service”, committed uniquely to every single person:   “I have my mission”, he wrote, “I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.   He has not created me for naught.   I shall do good, I shall do his work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place … if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling” (Meditations and Devotions, 301-2).

The definite service to which Blessed John Henry was called involved applying his keen intellect and his prolific pen to many of the most pressing “subjects of the day”.   His insights into the relationship between faith and reason, into the vital place of revealed religion in civilised societ, and into the need for a broadly-based and wide-ranging approach to education were not only of profound importance for Victorian England but continue today to inspire and enlighten many all over the world.   I would like to pay particular tribute to his vision for education, which has done so much to shape the ethos that is the driving force behind Catholic schools and colleges today.   Firmly opposed to any reductive or utilitarian approach, he sought to achieve an educational environment in which intellectual training, moral discipline and religious commitment would come together.   The project to found a Catholic University in Ireland provided him with an opportunity to develop his ideas on the subject and the collection of discourses that he published as The Idea of a University, holds up an ideal from which all those engaged in academic formation can continue to learn. And indeed, what better goal could teachers of religion set themselves than Blessed John Henry’s famous appeal for an intelligent, well-instructed laity – “I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it”  (The Present Position of Catholics in England, ix, 390).   On this day when the author of those words is raised to the altars, I pray that, through his intercession and example, all who are engaged in the task of teaching and catechesis will be inspired to greater effort by the vision he so clearly sets before us.

While it is John Henry Newman’s intellectual legacy that has understandably received most attention in the vast literature devoted to his life and work, I prefer on this occasion to conclude with a brief reflection on his life as a priest, a pastor of souls.   The warmth and humanity underlying his appreciation of the pastoral ministry is beautifully expressed in another of his famous sermons:  “Had Angels been your priests, my brethren, they could not have condoled with you, sympathised with you, have had compassion on you, felt tenderly for you, and made allowances for you, as we can; they could not have been your patterns and guides, and have led you on from your old selves into a new life, as they can who come from the midst of you” (“Men, not Angels – the Priests of the Gospel”, Discourses to Mixed Congregations, 3).   He lived out that profoundly human vision of priestly ministry in his devoted care for the people of Birmingham during the years that he spent at the Oratory he founded, visiting the sick and the poor, comforting the bereaved, caring for those in prison.   No wonder that on his death so many thousands of people lined the local streets as his body was taken to its place of burial not half a mile from here.   One hundred and twenty years later, great crowds have assembled once again to rejoice in the Church’s solemn recognition of the outstanding holiness of this much-loved father of souls.   What better way to express the joy of this moment than by turning to our heavenly Father in heartfelt thanksgiving, praying in the words that Blessed John Henry Newman placed on the lips of the choirs of angels in heaven:

Praise to the Holiest in the height
And in the depth be praise.
In all his words most wonderful,
Most sure in all his ways!
(The Dream of Gerontius)Praise to the Holiest in the Height - bl john henry newman - 9 oct 2018.jpgJOHN HENRY CANONISATION TAPESTRY NEWMAN 13 OCT 2019

Posted in MARIAN QUOTES, ON the SAINTS, PAPAL HOMILIES, PRAYERS to the SAINTS, QUOTES of the SAINTS, SAINT of the DAY, St Pope JOHN PAUL

Thought for the Day – 10 October – “All through the Heart of Mary in honour of the Most Blessed Sacrament”

Thought for the Day – 10 October – The Memorial of Blessed Angela Truszkowska (1825-1899)

Excerpt from the
Address of the Holy Father JOHN PAUL II
to the Sisters of Saint Felix of Cantalice

Friday 16 June 2000

“Your Foundress would often take the children in her care to the Capuchin Church in Warsaw where Saint Felix is shown bearing the Infant Jesus in his arms.   In the figure of the Holy Child, Blessed Maria Angela recognised the little ones she was called to serve. She knew that Saint Felix was shown bearing the Infant Jesus in his arms, because, in bearing the burdens of the needy, he had carried in his arms the poor Christ Himself and she recognised this as her own calling.   By bearing the burdens of the weakest she and her Sisters would bear in their arms the “little” Lord Jesus.   Blessed Maria Angela knew too, that it was Mary who had placed the Holy Child in the arms of Saint Felix and that, it was Mary, who was now placing her Infant Son in the arms of the Sisters of Saint Felix. How right then that she should dedicate the Congregation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

3. Yet the sword which pierced Mary’s heart (cf. Lk 2:35) pierced the heart of the Foundress too.   “Love means giving”, she wrote, “giving everything that love asks for, giving immediately, without regrets, with joy and wanting even more to be asked of us.”   In obeying the logic of the Incarnation and bearing in her arms, the Lord himself, Blessed Maria Angela became a victim of love.   Step by step she ascended the hill of Calvary, in a journey of suffering, both physical and spiritual, until her life was ablaze with the mystery of the Cross.

As she journeyed more deeply into Calvary’s darkness she became more insistent, that at the heart of the Congregation’s life, there should be devotion above all to the Holy Eucharist and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.   She bequeathed to her Sisters the motto: “All through the Heart of Mary in honour of the Most Blessed Sacrament”.   In long hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, she learnt that she and her Sisters were called to “reproduce the pattern of the Lord’s death” (Phil 3:10) so that they might become the Eucharist.   And in the Mother of Christ, Blessed Mary Angela recognised, the one who shared in her Son’s Passion most intimately and she knew, that this was the Sisters’ calling as well.   In Mary Immaculate she recognised the woman of the Magnificat, the woman whose self-emptying, allowed God to fill her with the joy of the Holy Spirit.   This was to be the life of the Sisters of Saint Felix.

4. Ours is a very different world but we are no less challenged by the spiritual lethargy of our time and by the question of where true freedom lies.   It is the Church’s sacred duty to proclaim to the world the true answer to that question and Religious men and women, are crucial in that task.   For the Felician Sisters, this must mean, an ever more radical fidelity to the program of life bequeathed to you by your Foundress, since, if there is not this fidelity among you, then you too can fall victim to the spiritual confusion of the age and there may emerge among you, the anxiety and disunity which are its fruits.

I urge you, therefore, dear Sisters, at this critical time in the life of your Congregation, to commit yourself in this General Chapter to more ardent worship of the Most Blessed Sacrament, to deeper devotion to Mary Immaculate and to a more radical love of the charism of your Foundress.   Embrace the Lord’s Cross as Blessed Angela did!   Then you will become the Eucharist your whole life will sing Magnificat, your poverty will be filled with “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8).   Entrusting the General Chapter and the entire Congregation to Mary, Mother of Sorrows and Mother of all our joys and to the intercession of Saint Francis, Saint Felix and your Blessed Foundress, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing, as a pledge of endless grace and peace in Jesus Christ, “the faithful witness and firstborn from the dead” (Rev 1:5).

Prayer for the Intercession of Blessed Angela

God our Father,
we praise and thank You
for the gift of Blessed Angela,
who lived Your will,
in faith and trust
and lived Your love,
in service to others.
I pray, in confidence,
that through her intercession
You will grant me
the favour which I request.
I ask this,
through Christ our Lord.
Amen

Blessed Angela Truszkowska, Pray for Us!
Amenall through the heart of mary in honour of the bl sacra -blangla truszkowska 10 oct 2019 pray for us.jpg

Posted in MARTYRS, ON the SAINTS, PAPAL HOMILIES, SAINT of the DAY, St Pope JOHN PAUL, The HOLY CROSS

Thought for the Day – 23 July – Hail, O Cross, our only hope!

Thought for the Day – 23 July – The Memorial of Blessed Vasil’ Hopko (1904-1976) Bishop and Martyr

Excerpt from St Pope John Paul’s Beatification Homily
Bratislava, Esplanade of Petržalka
Sunday, 14 September 2003

“O Crux, ave spes unica!   Hail, O Cross, our only hope!”

On the Cross, human misery and divine mercy meet.   The adoration of this unlimited mercy, is for man, the only way to open himself to the mystery which the Cross reveals.

The Cross is planted in the earth and would seem to extend its roots in human malice but it reaches up, pointing as it were to the heavens, pointing to the goodness of God.   By means of the Cross of Christ, the Evil One has been defeated, death is overcome, life is given to us, hope is restored, light is imparted.   O Crux, ave spes unica!

O Crux, ave spes unica!   Saint Paul speaks of the same theme in the letter to the Ephesians which we have just heard.   Not only did Christ Jesus become man, in everything similar to human beings but He took on the condition of a servant and humbled Himself even more, by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:6-8).

Yes, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16).   We admire – overwhelmed and gratified – the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge (cf. Eph 3:18-19)!   O Crux, ave spes unica!

4. Certainly, it was meditation on this great and wonderful mystery that sustained Blessed Bishop Vasil’ Hopko and Blessed Sister Zdenka Schelingová in their choice of the consecrated life and, especially, in the sufferings endured, during their terrible imprisonment.

Both shine before us as radiant examples of faithfulness, in times of harsh and ruthless religious persecution.   Bishop Vasil’ never repudiated his attachment to the Catholic Church and to the Pope.   Sister Zdenka did not hesitate to risk her life so as to assist God’s ministers.

Both faced up to an unjust trial and an ignoble condemnation, to torture, humiliation, solitude, death.   And so the Cross became for them, the way that led them to life, a source of fortitude and hope, a proof of love for God and man.   O Crux, ave spes unica!

Blessed Vasil’ Hopko, Pray for Us!BL VASIL HOPKO PRAY FOR US 23 JULY 2019.jpg

Posted in CHRIST, the WAY,TRUTH,LIFE, EASTER, Papa FRANCIS, PAPAL HOMILIES, The RESURRECTION, The WORD

Quote of the Day- 5 May – “…Become witnesses of His Resurrection”

Quote of the Day- 5 May – Third Sunday of Easter, Year C

“The Gospel of Easter is very clear –
we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen
and to become witnesses of His Resurrection.
This is not to go back in time, 
it is not a kind of nostalgia.
It is returning to our first love,
in order to receive the fire which Jesus
has kindled in the world
and to bring that fire to all people,
to the very ends of the earth.”

Pope Francis

(Easter Vigil Homily, 2014)pope-francis-easter-vigil.20 april 2017 and again 5 May 2019.jpg

“…He certainly meets us
where we are in life – and –
He will never leave us
where He found us!”

Fr Mark J Hunt STDhe certainly meets us where he found us - 5 may 2019.jpg

Posted in PAPAL HOMILIES, QUOTES of the SAINTS, SAINT of the DAY

Thought for the Day – 14 March – God’s Works

Thought for the Day – 14 March – the Memorial of Blessed Giacomo Cusmano (1834-1888)

St Pope John Paul on the Beatification of Blessed Giacomo, 30 October 1983

“To heal the wounds of poverty and misery which were afflicting such a large part of the population because of recurring famines and epidemics but also because of social inequality, (Blessed Giacomo Cusmano) chose the way of charity – love for God which was translated into effective love for his brethren and into the gift of himself to the most needy and suffering in a service pushed to the point of heroic sacrifice.

After opening a first “House for the Poor”, he began a broader work of social promotion by instituting the “Morsel for the Poor” Association, which was like the mustard seed from which a very vigorous plant sprung up.   Making himself poor with the poor, he did not disdain begging in the streets of Palermo, soliciting everyone’s charity and collecting food which he then distributed to the innumerable poor who gathered around him.

His work, like all of God’s works, encountered difficulties which severely tested his will but with immense confidence in God and with his indomitable will power, he overcame every obstacle, giving origin to the Institute of the “Sisters Servants of the Poor” and to the “Congregation of Missionary Servants of the Poor”.

He led his spiritual sons and daughters to the practice of charity in fidelity to the evangelical counsels and in striving for holiness.   His rules and spiritual letters are documents of an ascetic wisdom in which strength and gentleness are merged.   The central idea was this – “To live in the presence of God and in union with God, to receive everything from God’s hands, to do everything out of pure love and the glory of God.”

Blessed GIACOMO CUSMANO, PRAY for US!bl giacomo cusmano pray for us 14 march 2019.jpg

Posted in LENT 2019, LENTEN THOUGHTS, Papa FRANCIS, PAPAL HOMILIES

Lenten Thoughts – 8 March – “‘Return to me,’ says the Lord. ‘To me.’”

Lenten Thoughts – 8 March – “‘Return to me,’ says the Lord. ‘To me.’”

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

Basilica of Santa Sabina
Ash Wednesday, 6 March 2019lent is the time to free ourselves - pope francis ash wed 6 march 2019 - 8 march 2019.jpg

“Blow the trumpet […] sanctify a fast” (Joel 2:15), says the prophet in the first reading. Lent opens with a piercing sound, that of a trumpet that does not please the ears but instead proclaims a fast.   It is a loud sound that seeks to slow down our life, which is so fast-paced, yet often directionless.   It is a summons to stop, to focus on what is essential, to fast from the unnecessary things that distract us.   It is a wake-up call for the soul.

This wake-up call is accompanied by the message that the Lord proclaims through the lips of the prophet, a short and heartfelt message:   “Return to me” (v 12).   To return. If we have to return, it means that we have wandered off.   Lent is the time to rediscover the direction of life.   Because in life’s journey, as in every journey, what really matters is not to lose sight of the goal.   If what interests us as we travel, however, is looking at the scenery or stopping to eat, we will not get far.   We should ask ourselves – On the journey of life, do I seek the way forward?   Or am I satisfied with living in the moment and thinking only of feeling good, solving some problems and having fun?   What is the path? Is it the search for health, which many today say comes first but which eventually passes?   Could it be possessions and wellbeing?   But we are not in the world for this. Return to me, says the Lord. To me.   The Lord is the goal of our journey in this world.   The direction must lead to Him.

Today we have been offered a sign that will help us find our direction – the head marked by ash.   It is a sign that causes us to consider what occupies our mind.   Our thoughts often focus on transient things, which come and go.   The small mark of ash, which we will receive, is a subtle yet real reminder that of the many things occupying our thoughts, that we chase after and worry about every day, nothing will remain.   No matter how hard we work, we will take no wealth with us from this life.   Earthly realities fade away like dust in the wind.   Possessions are temporary, power passes, success wanes.   The culture of appearance prevalent today, which persuades us to live for passing things, is a great deception.   It is like a blaze – once ended, only ash remains Lent is the time to free ourselves from the illusion of chasing after dust. Lent is for rediscovering that we are created for the inextinguishable flame, not for ashes that immediately disappear;  for God, not for the world;  for the eternity of heaven, not for earthly deceit, for the freedom of the children of God, not for slavery to things.   We should ask ourselves today – Where do I stand?   Do I live for fire or for ash?

On this Lenten journey, back to what is essential, the Gospel proposes three steps which the Lord invites us to undertake without hypocrisy and pretense – almsgiving, prayer, fasting.   What are they for?   Almsgiving, prayer and fasting bring us back to the three realities that do not fade away.   Prayer reunites us to God;  charity, to our neighbour; fasting, to ourselves.   God, my neighbour, my life – these are the realities that do not fade away and in which we must invest.   Lent, therefore, invites us to focus, first of all on the Almighty, in prayer, which frees us from that horizontal and mundane life where we find time for self but forget God.   It then invites us to focus on others, with the charity that frees us from the vanity of acquiring and of thinking that things are only good if they are good for me.   Finally, Lent invites us to look inside our heart, with fasting, which frees us from attachment to things and from the worldliness that numbs the heart.   Prayer, charity, fasting – three investments for a treasure that endures.

Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mt 6:21).   Our heart always points in some direction, it is like a compass seeking its bearings.   We can also compare it to a magnet, it needs to attach itself to something.   But if it only attaches itself to earthly things, sooner or later it becomes a slave to them, things to be used become things we serve.   Outward appearance, money, career or hobby, if we live for them, they will become idols that enslave us, sirens that charm us and then cast us adrift.   Whereas if our heart is attached to what does not pass away, we rediscover ourselves and are set free.   Lent is a time of grace that liberates the heart from vanity.   It is a time of healing from addictions that seduce us.   It is a time to fix our gaze on what abides.lent is a time of grace - pope francis - friday after ash wed 8 march 2019.jpg

Where can we fix our gaze, then, throughout this Lenten journey?   Upon the Crucified One. Jesus on the cross is life’s compass, which directs us to heaven.   The poverty of the wood, the silence of the Lord, His loving self-emptying show us the necessity of a simpler life, free from anxiety about things.   From the cross, Jesus teaches us the great courage involved in renunciation. 

We will never move forward if we are heavily weighed down.  We need to free ourselves from the clutches of consumerism and the snares of selfishness, from always wanting more, from never being satisfied and from a heart closed to the needs of the poor.   Jesus on the wood of the cross burns with love and calls us to a life that is passionate for Him, which is not lost amid the ashes of the world, to a life that burns with charity and is not extinguished in mediocrity.

Is it difficult to live as He asks?   Yes but it leads us to our goal.   Lent shows us this. It begins with the ashes but eventually leads us to the fire of Easter night;  to the discovery that, in the tomb, the body of Jesus does not turn to ashes but rises gloriously.   This is true also for us, who are dust.   If we, with our weaknesses, return to the Lord, if we take the path of love, then we will embrace the life that never ends.   And we will be full of joy.