Growth Toward Full Stature with God’s Mercy This Lent, Lenten Night of Recollection, March 1, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Holy Innocents Church, Manhattan
P3 (Prayer, Penance, Pub) Young Adult Recollection & Holy Innocents Parish Mission
March 1, 2016

 

To listen to an audio recording of the conference please click below: 

 

The outline for the talk was as follows: 

  • Growth in the Christian Life
    • Lent is a season of growth. Word for Spring. Go back to the Fundamentals.
    • A Parish Mission is likewise a time to grow.
    • Two principles:
      • Maturity:
        • What St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians called, “mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ,” which he says is the opposite of “infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching” but “rather, living the truth in love” as we “grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ” (Eph 4:13-15).
      • Spiritual childhood.
        • “At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:1-4).
        • Therese. Totally dependent on, and trusting in, God’s mercy and providence.
      • We mature the more childlike we are. We become more like Christ the more we enter into his filiation. This doesn’t mean we become like gullible infants but learn to live the truth lovingly, humbly, trusting in all God reveals.
    • Maturity in Lent
      • Need for growth, for childlike maturity, in the way we live Lent, so that we can grow to full stature in Christ and live the truth in love.
      • Point of Lent is to help us become like Christ. Lenten practices help us to do this:
        • His constant prayer in deserted places, on mountains, in the Synagogues and Temple area, in the Upper Room, Calvary and elsewhere.
        • His fasting for 40 days in the desert and on other times to drive out demons.
        • His almsgiving to the last drop of his blood.
      • Point of these practices is to help us:
        • Put on the mind of Christ through prayer, to recognize his ways are not our ways, that his thoughts are not our thoughts, but to begin to align our whole existence with the truth he is and announced.
        • Fasting to hunger for what he hungers.
          • Only hunger when the Bridegroom isn’t with us. Parts of us are not in union with the Lord.
          • Hunger and thirst for holiness.
          • Begin to seek what God seeks.
            • Is 58: Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins. They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God. “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high! Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am! If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday; Then the LORD will guide you always and give you plenty even on the parched land. He will renew your strength, and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails.
          • Recognizing that devil’s hold is only lessened through prayer and fasting. Two candles. Must keep the one for God burning and extinguish the one for the devil, for worldliness, for the ways everyone else lives.
        • Almsgiving
          • Sharing in God’s providential care that he puts as a depository in our hands.
          • Ultimately dying for others.
          • Rich Man and Lazarus. Mt 25. Corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
          • Aelmesse, from eleison, from a merciful heart.
        • These practices link with the theological virtues, with the evangelical counsels, as remedies against the three fold concupiscence.
          • Prayer
            • Faith, because prayer is faith in action
            • Poverty, dependent on God
            • Which is the opposite of presumption, and throwing ourselves down from precipices
          • Fasting
            • Hope, because we live off of every word of God, and trust in the Lord’s daily provision.
            • Obedience, to help us to control our appetites to obey God
            • For man doesn’t live on bread alone.
          • Almsgiving
            • Charity
            • Chastity, to help us love others purely, reverence them and give of ourselves for them rather than instrumentalize or use them.
            • Which helps us not desire to have everyone else serve them, but to serve God alone and in him serve others.
    • What type of Lent do we live?
        • The reality is that many people don’t live Lent the way we ought. Sometimes it’s because of a lack of formation. Sometimes it’s because of inadequate formation. Sometimes it’s because of outright bad formation.
        • But we can describe various types of Lent by the various stages of Lent that once upon a time was the common, general pattern of growth. It was, to a large degree, what I experienced and what I’ve seen many Catholics I’ve served over the course of time, of various ages and backgrounds, experience.
        • The way we first experience Lent as children.
          • A limit.
            • Can’t have meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent. An experience like Eden, when Adam and Eve couldn’t eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Helps us to learn a spiritual limit. Conveys a type of identity. Even if what it means is that you have pizza instead of hamburgers and hotdogs, it’s still a limit.
            • Children themselves aren’t bound to fast but in many homes they do, giving up sweets with the whole family. Learning to say no to something good. Disciplining appetites.
            • Again, nothing much, but for young people it’s a lot.
          •  Almsgiving
            • Rice-bowl.
            • Money saved from food we’ve given up.
            • Again, nothing much looking back, but for young people, quite a lot.
          • Prayer
            • Going to the Stations of the Cross on Friday nights.
            • A second time at Church?
            • A different type of worship, following the priest around the Church, or remaining in the pew but making an interior journey. We learn that prayer is not just about Mass and that we’re called to pray in a different way, a deeper way.
        • The first step in maturity
          • When we begin to choose our Lenten practices, which is generally a “sacrifice.”
          • Even if it’s light, giving up sugar, giving up chocolate, giving up Coca Cola, it’s a big step in Christian maturity, seeking to do it for 40 days.
          • Many, however, never mature from here. They live Lent lightly. They don’t challenge themselves to change.
        • Recognizing it’s not a multiple choice test
          • Beginning to grow and challenge ourselves more.
          • Make something with regard to prayer, something with regard to fasting and sacrifice, something with regard to almsgiving.
          • Normally irregular, but our attention span has chosen.
        • Putting out into the deep
          • Next step, especially for those hungry for holiness, especially among guys, is to get serious in Lent and push toward heroism. Generally make bold commitments.
            • Holy Hour, and Mass, and Rosary, and Stations
            • Fasting on bread and water a couple of days a week. Or giving up sweets, and booze, and FaceBook, and Television, and smoking.
            • Making a big sacrifice of money, or time, something that really hurts and inconveniences.
          • But often done in a Pelagian way, focusing on one’s own actions. Rather than truly conforming one to Christ, one is thinking about how hungry he is, how much time he’s praying and that he’s missing March Madness, and battling to see whether one can still give alms while not sacrificing quite as much.
        • Final stage
          • When we begin to do something that transforms our will, that isn’t quite so bold, but is designed to challenge us to grow to conform ourselves more to Christ.
            • Mass or Holy Hour lived not as a practice but contemplatively.
            • Fasting in a way that gets us to discipline our appetites without leaving us proud, irritable/uncharitable, or incapable of doing work. I like to propose no condiments, just water, no sweets.
            • Almsgiving of money generously, but a real almsgiving of time, to train one to share oneself and avoid putting too much of an emphasis on material goods.
    • What’s different this year.
      • Jubilee of Mercy is meant to influence everything the Church does this year, including the way we live Lent, like Holy Week, live the Triduum, experience Easter and more.
      • How could the Year of Mercy influence our Lent?
        • Conversion in response to God’s mercy
          • If God’s mercy endures forever, our conversion must be constant.
        • Prayer
          • Prayer of contrition, prayer of intercession for others.
          • Prayer specifically geared toward the Lord’s mercy.
          • Already have a series of devotions given to us by the Lord to do just this.
            • Image of Mercy, beholding him, blessing us with his mercy, stepping toward us to come into our life, pouring out on us his water and blood, reminding us of Baptism and the Eucharist, and inviting us to trust in Him.
            • Hour of Mercy, stopping each day to unite ourselves to Christ’s passion.
            • Chaplet of Mercy, offering the Eucharist to God the Father in expiation for our sins and the sins of the world.
            • Novena of Mercy, praying for groups that need Christ’s mercy. The groups, for each of the days, are all humanity, especially sinners; priests and religious; the pious and faithful; those who do not believe in Jesus and who don’t yet know him; our separated Christian brothers and sisters; the meek and humble and children; those who venerate the mercy of Jesus; those in Purgatory; and the lukewarm
            • Sunday of Mercy, celebrating it as the culmination of Easter.
        • Fasting
          • Far greater hunger to care for those who are hungry.
          • Far greater hunger for those who don’t live on every word that comes from God’s word.
          • Recognizing our own need for mercy.
        • Almsgiving
          • Merciful heart.
          • Corporal and spiritual works of mercy
          • Corporal
            • Give alms — not just during Lent
            • Feed the Hungry and give drink to the thirsty — So many go hungry, here in our country and abroad!
            • Clothe the Naked — Sending used clothes to impoverished lands, making sure that those in wintry climates have winter clothing, and also fighting against those enslaved by the pornographic trade and prostitution.
            • Welcome the Stranger and Shelter the Homeless — This is a year to recognize Christ in the immigrant and to see the members of the Holy Family in those looking for an inn to stay
            • Visit the Imprisoned — This is the hardest of all of the corporal works of mercy to do, but there are many good ministries that serve the imprisoned. Most of us know people who are in jail and minimally we can write them, we can send them things to read, holy cards and the like, but how important it is for us to go visit as well, if even once a year.
            • Visit and Care for the Sick — So many are homebound! So many are in nursing homes! People never forget when we visit them in such circumstances.
            • Bury the Dead — Making sure we attend to the rites of burial very well and facilitate others’ doing so in an age in which funerals can be so expensive.
          • Spiritual
            • Instruct the Ignorant — So many don’t know the faith! Do we recognize that to step forward as a catechist or a tutor is a work of mercy? Do we realize that evangelization is one of the greatest works of mercy?
            • Admonish the sinner — To admonish doesn’t mean we channel our inner Jeremiah, but do we have the courage and the wisdom to make a fraternal correction with the charity with which Christ calls us to in the Gospel?
            • Counsel the doubtful — Do we patiently work with those who have doubts? In a broader sphere, do we make time to give others spiritual direction, in the most general sense?
            • Console the sorrowful and mourning — Do we draw close or run away from the emotional situations that take place when others are grieving? Do we attend wakes and funerals when we’re not celebrating? Do we send cards?
            • Comfort the afflicted — So many are in pain? Do we help them in material and spiritual ways?
            • Bear wrongs patiently — It’s hard to suffer wrongs. We naturally fight back. Do we even try to unite those circumstances to Christ who shows us how “freely to lay down” our lives?
            • Forgive injuries — We’ve already spoken above about forgiving others, but this is a necessity, we know, if we’re going to be forgiven by God.
            • Pray for the living and the dead — This is the most important work of mercy of all and what we’re supposed to be models at. Do we pray for the dead as if their lives depended on it? Do we pray for the living like Monica prayed for Augustine?
    • Three B’s of Lent
      • Be Holy as I the Lord your God am Holy
      • Be Perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect
      • Be Merciful as your Father in Heaven is Merciful.
    • That is the path of growth in Lent, in life, in this Year of Mercy!

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