Quinqagesima Sunday-22 February AD 2009
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Lent brgins this Wednesday!
"Behold, we are going to Jerusalem, and all the
things that have been written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be
accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles, and will be mocked, and
scourged, and spit upon; and after they have scourged Him, they will put Him to
death; and on the third day He will rise again."
We are only two or three days away from the beginning of
Lent. We are, in a sense, setting out on this journey to Jerusalem with our
Lord. We can think of the next fifty days as just that; a preparation to join
Him in His crucifixion, death, and resurrection at Holy Week.
That is the essential theme of Lent; to reorient our
attentions away from the material things of the world; to redirect them to the
spiritual realities which will bring us to heaven.
It is, of course, quite deliberately that the Church has
us read this passage from St. Paul's Epistles in this morning's Mass. All the
fasting and penance in the world will be of absolutely no use if it is not
directed toward the proper end: "If I distribute my goods to feed the poor,
and if I deliver my body to be burned, yet do not have charity, it profits me
What is this thing which we call charity? First of all, it
is not primarily the giving of material things to the poor-although that may
arise from true charity.
Over and above everything else, charity is love; and
specifically, the love of God. Remember that God created us to demonstrate His
glory, and to be happy with Him in heaven. We are made for God. We are not
capable of happiness without God-indeed, that is how we define Hell: the absence
or loss of God. All other happiness is merely partial. If we derive happiness
from any created thing, it is because these things are God's creations, and
they, therefore, reflect some of God's glory.
So, the most important thing we can do to make a good Lent
is to concentrate on, and deepen, our love of God. This is why we are urged to
spend some part of each day in prayer, meditation, and spiritual reading. Only
by knowing God through these means can we grow to love Him. And, we can be
assured that by knowing Him, we will grow to love Him-for He is infinitely
loveable, and we are made for Him.
This Charity, or love of God, should also motivate us to
love our neighbor for the love of God. That might even serve as a good indicator
of how close we are coming to God. As we approach Him more closely, we should
begin to see something of what He sees in our neighbors. The man next door
should start to become someone who has an immortal soul to us-rather than just
that fellow who stays up too late at night, playing his radio too loudly.
This Charity should certainly spill over to those of us who come together each
Sunday to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass together. For the Mass is the
ultimate expression of God's love for His people-and should also be an
expression of His peoples' love and concern for one another.
We don't have to become back slappers and hand shakers,
displaying external affections like the Modernists. But we should take a measure
of delight in one another, knowing that we share the same common love of God.
And, of course, we shouldn't ignore the common meaning of the word charity. If
we can, we should do something for the poor. Lent is certainly a time to
practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
This epistle on Charity is one of St. Paul's most
beautiful writings-many would say the most beautiful. Some of his other epistles
are incredible run on sentences, while this is a beautifully balanced piece of
poetry. In fact, this prompts some of the Modernists to claim that Saint Paul
didn't write the piece, but rather someone else.
They are clearly mistaken. The literary style may be
different-put, clearly, we can see Saint Paul's heart in these words. It is not
very difficult to listen to this enthusiasm for the love of God and be reminded
of the adventure story we heard last week: shipwrecked, and stoned, and beaten
with a lash, and escaping from cities in a basket through a hole in the wall.
The same enthusiasm, motivated by the love of God is
surely there. May God grant us a share in that same enthusiasm during this