Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Quinquagesima Sunday--2 March AD 2014

“God is Love”

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

Lenten Observance--Lent brgins this Wednesday!

    St. Paul's epistle on charity is so beautiful—so uncharacteristic of his usual style, that there is a temptation to preach about it every year, and ignore the Gospel of this Sunday.  I'll resist the temptation, but mention to you that you can go back and read it for yourself sometime in the near future.  Its from First Corinthians 13.

    It is important to note, however, that the sentiment of this epistle is extremely important for a good Lent.  As St. Paul uses it, the word “charity” means “love,” and specifically the love of God.  And we should be aware that whatever we do to observe Lent, it must be done for the love of God—otherwise it is useless.

    But the Gospel is an important one to understand, as well.  It is set at a time just before our Lord made his last trip to Jerusalem with the Apostles.  They have been with him for a few years, but yet they don't fully understand the events that will have to play out in the near future.

    For the religious Jew, the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Jerusalem was an necessity.  If at all possible, he made the trip at the time of the Passover, or perhaps for Yom Kippur, the day of Atonement.

    To understand the Gospel, we need to know a little about the Old Testament.  These two days were what we call “types,” or foreshadowings of the action of our Lord on the cross.  At the Passover, a lamb was sacrificed, and its blood smeared over the doorposts to keep the angel of death from the homes of the Israelites—a foreshadowing of the Lamb of God.

    On the day of atonement, the priests of the Temple would place their hands on the head of a goat—known as the “scapegoat” or “emissary goat” —this symbolized that the priest was transferring the sins of the people to the goat—the goat—and then the goat was driven out into the desert to die.  Just as our Lord took our sins upon Himself, and died for our sins.

    The religious Jew was also quite aware of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac if God had willed it—a type of God the Father's willingness to sacrifice His only begotten Son.  On the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, they might recall the event in the desert when the Israelites were being bitten by vipers, and God had Moses produce a bronze serpent and raise it up on a stick—something like a crucifix—and those who looked upon it were healed of their snakebites.

    As they walked on their journey, they probably sang some of the Psalms—the musical poetry of the Jews—which prophesied the betrayal, the false witnesses, the scourging and the crucifixion of our Lord.

    And now, Jesus and the Apostles were making this centuries old journey themselves—for the last time.  Our Lord was keenly aware that He was the one that they were singing about in the Psalms, and that He was the one foreshadowed in those old stories.

    Perhaps as God these events held no particular terror—but certainly as man—and our Lord was truly a man—there was a terrifying dimension in making that trip—step by step approaching an absolutely certain, and certainly painful death.  Yet he persisted.  He continued on to Jerusalem, calmly continuing His normal routine of teaching and healing the sick.

    Even though He knew that He was to be “mocked, and scourged, and spit upon . . . and put to death” —He went willingly—offering Himself just as Abraham offered Isaac—taking the sins of others upon Himself, just as the emissary goat—shedding His Blood for the deliverance of His people, just like he Passover Lamb of God.  Just like the bronze serpent, He would be lifted up to cure the ills of a world made sick through sin.

    The Church offers us this picture of our Lord's sufferings to prepare us for Lent.  If we are to do everything for the love of God, we should be keenly aware that God loved us—loved us enough to die for us—the painful death of the cross.

    It asks us to be aware that our Lord's death—indeed all of His pains and sufferings—are the result of our sins.  Guilt is a powerful thing.  And it can be a good thing—we should feel remorse over the painful death we have caused our Lord to endure.

    Just as He willingly made the pilgrimage to suffer and die, we should view Lent as a pilgrimage—a pilgrimage of penance, and prayer, and good works to take some of the sting out of our Lord's suffering—above all, a pilgrimage of to take some of the sting out of our Lord's suffering—above all, a pilgrimage of charity, so that by loving God on this earth, we may love Him in eternity.


* M. Disdero, From a stele on Mount Nebo. 19/02/2007 "ό θεòς αγάπη έστίν (ho theos agape estin). God is love." 1 John iv: 16.

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