Tag Archives: Lent

Sunday Sermon: In the end, we all become one with God

Today marks the final Sunday in the liturgical year of the Catholic Church.

Next Sunday begins the season of Advent, the four-week period leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ.
As Advent begins, the readings at Mass will begin to lead us towards that most important and holy moment in the history of humanity.

Today, however, we peer into the future, to the end of time itself.

The second reading today was from the first letter, sometimes called an epistle, written by Saint Paul to the Church at Corinth.

The Yale Divinity School calls this first letter from Paul to the Corinthians “a masterpiece of pastoral theology.” Of this important and lengthy 16-chapter work, Yale further states:

“It challenges us to think about how we relate to the wider world that we fully engage even if it does not always share our values, provoking us to imitate Paul’s pastoral logic, which probes fundamental convictions to see how they apply in difficult situations.”

Corinth today lies in south-central Greece, approximately 48 miles west of Athens. But the Corinth of Paul’s time could be located about two miles southwest of today’s city.

Paul himself founded the original church in Corinth around 50 A.D., less than two decades after Christ’s death. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written during one of his stays at Ephesus. It includes a number of important teachings, and contains a handful of famous sayings that have survived through today.

The focus of my piece today comes from near the end of Paul’s letter, and relates to the end of time. Here, Paul talks of Christ’s return at the second coming, stating that he will destroy “every sovereignty and every authority and power” before finally destroying the “last enemy”, death itself.

Paul then finishes by stating that once everything has been subjected to Jesus Christ, then Christ himself will be subjected to God. This is, as Paul puts it, “that God may be all in all.” In the end, we will all become one with God, through Christ.

You can choose to interpret the exact physical and meta-physical mechanics of that merger with our Creator in a number of ways. However you choose to do so, the fact is that we don’t know when these events will take place. Will they even take place in our lifetimes?

The more important point is that, no matter when the end times come, there is something that we can all and should all be doing right now. We should all be preparing now by subjecting ourselves to Christ.

Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Clearly the most important thing that we can do right now is ensure that we are believers. That we recognize that Christ gave up his life so that we could be freed from sin.

This acceptance, this subjecting of ourselves to Christ in accepting and celebrating his role in our lives, gives us a chance to join God as one of those “all in all” at the end.

A joyous season is about to begin. The birth of your Savior is not far off. As this holy time of year approaches, remember exactly whose birth it is that we will be celebrating.

In the end, we all become one with God. That is only made possible by the one who is about to be born.

Lenten Sacrifice

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the holy Christian season covering approximately six weeks until Easter.

During the Lenten season, Christians traditionally prepare for Easter through a process of increased prayer, penance, and sacrifice.

Of course, we are all supposed to be praying regularly, asking repentance and making atonement for our sins, and finding ways to sacrifice some part of our own blessings in the form of charity all during the year.

Lent is a good time to both get yourself back on track if you have let some of that spiritual responsibility slip, and also a good time to strengthen your commitment to areas of your life that perhaps need more attention.

To meet these increased spiritual goals during Lent, Christians often make what amount in the secular world to New Year resolution-type promises of change. Only these are promises to God from themselves. The promises can involve saying a daily rosary, returning to Church and the sacraments, and giving up something of importance to them.

That last part, the giving up of something important, is known as a Lenten sacrifice. Remember, the whole point is to prepare for the events of Good Friday and then Easter, when Jesus Christ sacrificed his own life for your sins. Keeping that much sacrifice in mind, how tough is your own?

Each year, I also try to make a Lenten sacrifice. I’ve usually had success in the past, but this year I am going a little more ambitious. I am personally building a number of elements into my Lenten sacrifice. Maybe one or more will inspire you as well.

First, I am actually simply going to continue a spiritual exercise which I began all the way back in November. At some point in mid-November of 2013, I began to say a full rosary each day. Somehow, I have been able to keep it up every day. I have found lately that there were a couple times where I almost just let it go. Lent will be a good time to increase my commitment to it.

Next, I am going to commit to going to Church more often. My own local St. Christopher’s Roman Catholic parish will be offering Mass on a nightly basis. I will be going a few times. I am also volunteering more in my role as a church Lector to do the readings at Mass during this period.

Also during Lent, I am going to make sure that I participate in appropriate sacraments more often. Most specifically, going to Confession, doing Penance, and sincerely attempting to stay away from the occasion of sin. I’m planning on making a Confession now, at the start of Lent, and again closer to Easter.

These things should go a long way towards meeting my goals of increased prayer and penance during Lent, and your own adoption of any would help you do the same. So now, on to the sacrifice part. What am I “giving up for Lent” this year?

First, we’ll start with the treats/goodies category. I will be giving up all cakes, cookies, pies, candy, ice cream, and other similar desserts and treats. Only exception will be for breath mints, which some might consider as “candy”, but which I slot into their own special category as someone who has a lot of dealings with the public.

Next, a bit tougher one thanks to specific circumstances. I will be giving up soda as well. However, I am giving myself a “special dispensation” on St. Patty’s Day weekend to allow for drinking soda at events surrounding that upcoming celebration. Better that than imbibe in too many “adult beverages”, especially when driving. Outside St. Patty’s weekend, no soda either.

Not just a “don’t do that” period, Lent is a time to “do”, to take action where it may be needed. I am going to begin seriously getting back into a regular physical workout routine. Starting with daily walking, and then building up to more as the Lenten season advances and I get in better physical conditioning.

And then I added on a new one this year, limiting my use of personal social media, particularly by refraining from Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media during the Lenten season with two exceptions only.

Those two social media exceptions will be this blog, where I will actually attempt to write MORE, something that I have been trying to get myself to do anyway. And also my professional Twitter account @PPDMattVeasey, where I have an expected responsibility to participate for my employer.

I have also undertaken a couple of more personal restrictions for Lent, and we’ll just keep those between me and the Lord at this point. Oh, and all of my fellow Catholics should remember to refrain from eating meat today, Ash Wednesday, and every Friday through Good Friday. Also, today and each Friday you should limit yourself to one full, large meal.

I think that if I can successfully accomplish all of that, it adds up to a solid, legitimate personal Lenten observance. Prayer, penance, and sacrifice all built into the plan. So, there’s my plan for Lent – what’s yours?

Lent: Still time to re-dedicate yourself

You’ve had two shots at it now. First came your ‘New Year Resolution’ to quit smoking, begin a diet, start exercising, read more, go back to school, end a damaging relationship, whatever. Then came Ash Wednesday, and with it the beginning of Lent, and yet another chance to give something up, this time sacrificially.

Okay, so maybe you’re 2010 batting average is suffering with an ‘0 for 2’ start to the year. Or maybe you wish that you had added some other item to your list of things to give up or begin as that new beginning or that sacrifice. Maybe you never made any resolution or made any Lenten sacrifice to begin with. It’s not too late to begin to dedicate yourself, or to re-dedicate yourself.

As for the idea of a resolution, it’s still very early in 2010. We just began March this past week. Almost 10 full months remain in the calendar year. There is plenty of time to make the positive changes to your life that you wanted to make, plenty of opportunity to make 2010 a different year than any other.

And as for a Lenten sacrifice, there is still a full month until Easter Sunday. If you ‘gave up’ something for Lent but then backslid or caved in to whatever the temptation, you can still make a statement that means something.
Whatever your vice, be it smoking, alcohol, dietary, sexual, habitual, giving it up as a sacrifice to the Lord for a full month is a legitimate sacrifice.

Remember what Lent really is all about. It is a time of voluntary self-denial, a time to reflect on that ultimate sacrifice that Jesus Christ is about to make for you as an individual. He is about to go through the process of being imprisoned, publicly mocked, tortured, and put to an agonizing death, all so that you might have an opportunity to have your sins forgiven and may earn a place in Heaven for eternity.

Whether it be something as mundane as giving up drinking soda beverages or something as sexually addicting as viewing pornography, your personal sacrifice can never equate to what Christ went through on your behalf. The important thing is to focus on making a sacrifice, and then doing your personal best to stay with it for a month.

And also remember that your attitude during this sacrificial period is important. It matters that you don’t pull out the “I Survived Lent” t-shirt on Easter Sunday morning and shovel a pile of jelly beans into your mouth. It is not enough to simply give something up, or make increased church donations, or whatever your sacrifice, but you should do so joyfully in the knowledge that God is recognizing your change.

If you began a period of sacrifice a few weeks back when Lent officially began, but fell off the wagon, get yourself right back up and get back on. There is a four weeks long journey ahead to Good Friday and Easter, and your slightly shortened time of sacrifice would be no less valid. It’s the idea of caring about it that matters. Don’t give up, there’s still time.

NOTE: this is the continuation of the regular ‘Sunday Sermon’ series, all entries of which can be enjoyed by clicking on that label below this entry at the http://www.mattveasey.com website

Our Lenten burden is light

Yesterday was ‘Ash Wednesday’ which marks the beginning of the 40-day period leading up to Easter marked by sacrifice and fasting known as Lent.

The origins of this pre-Easter fasting period have been disputed. Some feel that Lent traces back to the Apostolic era of Jesus’ followers themselves during the years immediately after his death. Others feel that it developed later, perhaps around the time of the Council of Nicea in the early fourth century.

Whatever the origins of the custom, it has become a period of forty days based on various Biblical examples provided for such a period by Moses, Elias, and Jesus Christ Himself, who was said to have laid in the tomb for forty hours.

In the early years the actual fasting periods and methods varied in many places, but of course it generally involved someone intentionally ‘giving something up’ from their regular daily lives as a sacrifice in remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice that Christ had made on the cross.

Socrates spoke of the practice in the fifth century when he described some who “abstain from every sort of creature that has life“, meaning that these people would eat only fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and things of this nature. Still others, he said, ate fish only, or ate only birds and fish, or abstained from eating eggs, or ate only dry bread.

There were still others in those times who were even more strict in their fasting, taking only a couple of meals each week. The early rules of the Church on fasting said that you could only take such meals in the evening, and that meat and wine were forbidden during fasting.

It was during the sixth century that Saint Gregory laid down what has become considered as common law within the Church. In a letter to Saint Augustine of England, Gregory stated “We abstain from flesh meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese, and eggs.” 

Exceptions were made traditionally as ‘dispensations’ for special circumstances, as well as in exchange for gifts to the greater Church. There has still been a general prohibition on eggs and milk observed by many during the Lenten period. From this over the centuries evolved the practice of the ‘Easter egg’ as a return to eating produce on Easter Sunday.

Many different customs and rulings from the Church Fathers evolved over the centuries, and the Holy See, the central administration of the Church, has modern rulings in place for Americans.

In the United States today, the official Church position is that working men and women and their families may use flesh meat once a day throughout the year, except on Fridays, Ash Wednesday, Holy Saturday, and the Christmas Vigil. During Lent we are not supposed to take both fish and flesh at the same meal.

Besides the traditions and customs of sacrifice and fasting, since Vatican II the Church has emphasized Lent as a preparation period for the Baptism of catechumens, those individuals who are first coming in to the Catholic Church voluntarily as adults or older children.

Lent is about conversion, the turning over of our lives more completely and fully to Christ. Nowhere is that process more full and complete than in the willing Baptism into the Church, which is itself the very body of Christ, of new believers.

But it is not just for these ‘newbies’ that the conversion aspect is important. All believers are urged during Lent to not just give something up, but also to recommit to Christ and to our faith.

We should all be encouraged to make a good, full Confession, do Penance, and thus receive forgiveness for our sins and make a new beginning. For many who have been away from the sacrament for a long time, that overcoming of your fear and your ego is a wonderful sacrifice in itself.

The Lenten sacrifice lasts for a period of forty days, but you will have many more opportunities during the period to recognize your need for conversion. Not just on Ash Wednesday, or on Fridays, or on Sundays. Not even in your daily lives when you give up that candy, or soda, or smoking, or some other habit or sin.

Every intentional act of drawing closer to Christ, be it increased prayer, the saying of the rosary, going to Confession, watching EWTN on television, being nicer to the people in your life. All of these things are acts of conversion, and all can be considered as a part of the Lenten sacrifice.

Remember that whatever you give up, or whatever new you take on, none of your sacrifices could ever compare with the sacrifice that God has made for you. He gave up His only begotten Son that you might live.

Jesus Christ suffered severe persecution and ultimately died on the cross so that your sins would be washed away. With this in mind we should all realize that our Lenten burden is indeed a light one.

Goodbye again to ‘Ordinary Time’

The Church has divided her year into periods of time, and the most common of those is about to call it quits once again. ‘Ordinary Time’ occurs in 33-34 weeks each year, and will make its final appearance next Sunday, November 23rd.

Ordinary Time occurs just after Christmas season, and then again just after Easter. It covers a large period at the end of winter, through the entirety of spring and summer, and into mid-fall. It is the entirety of the year outside of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter.

The name of Ordinary Time does not denote that there is something less special, or in other words the common meaning that we give to the word ‘ordinary’. Instead it draws its name from the word ‘ordinal’, which means ‘numbered’, because the Sundays that make up Ordinary Time are indeed numbered.

During this time all the days, but especially the Sundays, are devoted to the mystery of Jesus Christ in every aspect of His existence. The first Ordinary period of a calendar year begins after Mass is said on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which falls the Sunday after the Epiphany. Thus the Mass on that day is said to be in Christmastide, but the Evening Prayers would fall in Ordinary Time.

This first period will then last until what has become commonly known as ‘Fat Tuesday’, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. At that point, Lent begins, and Ordinary Time will not return until Pentecost. When this second Ordinary period begins, it will then run right up until Advent.

During these Ordinary Time periods, the Church may indeed emphasize those ordinary aspects of Christ’s life. The teachings and verses of Scripture that cover his interactions with his family and friends, his day-to-day life and teachings, those things that occurred outside of his birth, death, and resurrection.

Prior to the Second Vatican Council closing in 1965, the Church called these periods of the year ‘Season after Epiphany’ and ‘Season after Pentecost’, and there remain some Anglicans and other groups who still recognize these older terms. But in the broader Church, a new Catholic Calendar was issued beginning in 1969, and the Ordinary Time designations have been used ever since.

So next Sunday you can go to Church and say goodbye to Ordinary Time. In so doing, you will also be anticipating one of the most joyful times of the year, what has become known even in the secular world as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. The following week, the first Sunday of Advent is observed, and we begin the run-up to the greatest event in the history of mankind, the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

NOTE: This is another in the ‘Sunday Sermon’ series which comes each Sunday. Simply click on that below Label to visit all of the previous entries in the Series.