Sunday, March 05, 2006


Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms,
do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast,
do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.
They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.” (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18)

Lent is upon us.

Lent is a time of conversion. It's a time of living simply. This is the reason why the Mardi Gras/Carnivale celebrations are so festive. It's the last celebration before Lent begins.

During Lent, we are called to focus ourselves more on God and help us prepare ourselves for the Easter Sunday. In order to prepare, we must truly recognize what God did for us through His sorrowful Passion.

For in order for Christ to Resurrect on Easter, He had to die on Good Friday. And in order to die, He had to suffer. And His suffering was brutal. And His suffering was for me (and all of us) for which I should be truly sorry.

On Ash Wednesday at Mass, the above Gospel passages were read all over the world from the largest cities to the smallest towns on all the continents. The passages are a reminder of what Catholics are called to do during Lent to help us prepare and to help us grow closer to God as we reflect on His sorrowful death. We are asked to grow in conversion and righteousness specifically through increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

When all three are combined and bound together. We grow in the Lord and are graced with His presence in ways that are astounding (and sometimes truly humbling). Of course, we are always called to prayer but during Lent, we are more focused through our Liturgies and activities on Christ's Passion. At Catholic Churches worldwide, The Way of the Cross is celebrated throughout Fridays during Lent. When praying the Rosary, we have more focus on the Sorrowful Mysteries at this time and our Liturgical readings are all focused on repentance and preparation for Christ's crucifixion.

Fasting is a process that can be used to purge ourselves of anything that may keep us away from God. It's not the traditional fasting (although it can be if you choose) but rather something that one gives up during Lent as a sacrifice. Why do we give it up? Because we love God and we show our love through the sacrifice. If a person enjoys morning coffee, they may sacrifice drinking it during Lent as a minor offering to God to show their love for Him. Whatever is given up should be something that's meaningfully significant to the individual. If a person hates going to the opera and decides they're giving up going to the opera, that's probably not a worthy sacrifice. When we fast (or sacrifice), we should tie it with our prayer. Whatever it is that we're praying for, we should offer our fast for that prayer. Example, if we're praying for an individual, fast for the healing (or conversion) of that individual.

Almsgiving should be done because we love our neighbors and through the lowliest of men, we can find God...and perchance bring them closer to Him too.

Above all, we do these things privately. We don't do them to show off or to compare ourselves to our neighbors. We do them because we love God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our strength.


Daniel said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Lent. We have several Catholic students that are involved with our youth group so it's been good to interact with them on this subject.

Modern Day Magi said...

thanks again theden,
this entry really gives my protestant mind a greater understanding and appriciation of the motives behind Lent. We protestants tend to miss out on so much imagry and symbolism in our worship. The 14 stations of "the way of the Cross" and the 5 "sorrowful mysteries" really swoh a dedication to truly understanding and appriciating the crucifixion of Jesus. Each component event is significant in its own right, rather than as a single three day "Easter weekend".

PS. is the napkin Veronica handed to Jesus the 'Shroud of Turin'? or is this a different item?


Modern Day Magi said...

sorry I googled it and the shroud was the burial clothes.
I remember the scene from the 'Passion of the Christ' where Jesus was handed the cloth to wipe His face and had the person sitting with me incorrectly identified it as the Shroud of Turin. this must be where I got mixed up.

TheDen said...

Hey Daniel,

You're welcome. During Lent, I will try to focus my writings more on Lent related items...God willing. That's great that you have Catholic students involved with your youth group. I will pray that you bring them (and all of your students) closer to God.

Hey MDM,

The kerchief that Veronica handed to Jesus is non-Biblical. It's been handed down from tradition. Doing a little research, it can be traced back to at least 325 A.D. Did it actually happen? I don't know. I guess it's in the realm of possibilities. It doesn't sound far fetched that as Christ was laboring with His cross that someone would wipe His face. Her name was not Veronica though (as Veronica is a modification of the name "Vera Icon" or "True Face".) That is the name that is attributed to her.

What we are asked to do is to reflect on what she did. If we see Jesus Christ suffering the way He did, would we help Him? Would we wipe His face clean? Would we help Him carry His cross? Would we be there at the foot of His cross as He dies or would we run away like the other ten apostles did (except for John)? When our faith is tested, where do we go? These are the questions we should reflect on during Lent (which I hope to address).

The Vatican claims that they have the actual kerchief but they only show it on occasion. I think I saw it once on TV on the Discovery Channel.

In regards to the Shroud, yes, you are correct that that is the burial cloth of Jesus. Is it? Again, I don't know. If one day they absolutely prove 100% that it's not, it would not shatter my faith in Christ. I would say that it would be one heck of a forgery. In Oviedo, Spain, they have a cloth that covered His face and the blood matches that of the shroud (AB-...I think). Again, it doesn't really prove anything. I don't really know if it's real.

Modern Day Magi said...

like many holy relics they probably are not real. I think I heard once that if all the pieces of the 'true cross' were put together there would be about 3 tonnes of it. Anyway it is the symbolism of these objects which is important, although we should be wary of idolitary.
One holy relic I would really like to get one day though is one of the stones that didn't cry out during the triumphat entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. I'd love to have it framed with the plaque "This rock did't speak" what a great conversation and witnessing starter to have hung in an office.

"When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
"Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
"I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
- Luke 19:37-40

TheDen said...

Hey MDM,

I agree about the idolatry part. Catholics are not called to worship these items. They are meant to remind us of a part of Christ's Passion. Worship is reserved solely for God.

Are there some Catholics out there who carry the Shroud of Turin--or even their devotion to the Virgin Mary a bit too far? Probably...if they focus so much on the Shroud (or the Virgin Mary...or anything other than God) that it turns their focus away from Him. Note that this is not what the Church is asking from us.

Modern Day Magi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Modern Day Magi said...

I hope you didnt feel critisized by my idolitary comment. it was menat in a general sence not aimed at Lent or Catholic Christians.
I do think that as Christians we generally don't properly appriciate imagry and symbolism. The Old testament is full of it and there have been many wonderful worship services I have attended which looked at some of the Israelite traditions. Jesus is on every page of the Bible and we miss much of Him if we ignore the imagry and symbols and types from the Old Testament.
I really would love on of those rocks though.

God Bless