Words of Eternal Life
By Fr. Nilo Belvis Macapinlac
My dear friends in the Christian world,
Prayerful Lenten season!
Our journey of faith for 40 days this Lenten season is crucial to our spiritual growth as God’s people who are pilgrims on earth to heaven. Let us observe it and not be stocked up in a ritualistic manner but in the spirit of love and freedom. It should be rooted in our love for the Lord and this will lead to grace coming to us manifold. Let God’s grace illumine our souls through confession knowing that sin darkens the image of God in us and even disfigures it. Thank you to your generous hearts in responding positively to the day of confession here in our Archdiocese of Edmonton last February 20th. We can also look forward to the Sacrament of Reconciliation unfolding as well as penitential services across the Archdiocese. For details, kindly see the diocesan website.
The season of Lent is full of grace-filled moments that combat temptations and make our faith fervent again. Expect distractions and temptations that they may lead you to give up but don’t surrender. Temptation is not a sin but to give in is the down fall of our souls. Remember, God counts on how much we struggle. In your prayer invite God to accompany you, be attuned to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Though God respects our human freedom, He is never tired of reaching out to us for our sakes and for our redemption. For no one can save himself or herself, we totally rely on God’s loving act of salvation and we need to cooperate. To rely solely on human flesh will lead to failure. We cannot reap the harvest unless we toil and do our portion of hard work. The trees and shrubs will not sprout unless there is water, moisture, soil, minerals and sunlight. We need to wait, and patience is the key until the time of harvest. In the springtime of your spiritual life you will bloom and be filled with joy that comes directly from God. You will never regret.
The first Sunday of Lent leads us directly to the wilderness of our spiritual life and we need to acknowledge our human weakness and vulnerability. We need God and His necessary graces for us to persevere. Jesus is our model and guide, let us turn to Him in silent prayer. “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by satan” (Mk 1:12-13). Having introduced the season of Lent with the imposition of ashes, the Church points out the path for us to journey along. She also tells us the nature of this journey and how we might go about following it.
The Gospel reading shows us how the journey of Lent consists in letting ourselves be led into the desert, allowing ourselves to remain there for forty days, and challenging ourselves to face the temptations of Satan. It is like the Exodus of Israel towards the Promised Land; it is the exodus of humanity with each of us journeying as pilgrims towards heaven. We don’t look forward to this journey for its own sake, but we are led along it by Another. The journey is sign posted by our combat with the temptation of Satan and – with all that implies in terms of fatigue and suffering. It is a long journey with only our sure hope allowing us to undertake it with faith and courage.
The nature of this Lenten journey is revealed in the collect, the opening prayer, addressed to God, Our Father, that “we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and by worthy conduct pursue their effect”. This Lenten journey is a “sacramental sign” of our conversion. What does this mean? “Sacramental sign” means that on this road, that is common to every person, God has preceded us and has done something for us and now He asks us to play our part. He has already fulfilled this journey of conversion for us.
The model to follow is Jesus Christ. “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert.” It is Christ, true God and true Man, “the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous” (1 Pt 3:18) who has taken upon Himself our sins and by His free choice, as He was without sin and totally immune to it, has decided to also face our temptations. St. Augustine wrote: “Christ took his flesh from you and in return gave you the salvation that resides in him; he took your death for himself and gave you his life; he took the share you deserved and gave you the honor that was his. Consequently, he took your temptation and gave you his victory.” (Comm in Ps., 60). It is not asked of us, therefore, to make this journey simply by ‘doing likewise’. There would be nothing new in that, because, whether we like it or not, our daily life is already like this with all its hard work and hopes! We are asked, in fact, to welcome what is new about Lent: the Other on this path, who is our companion, who has already journeyed on the path of the Exodus, and who has associated us, by our Baptism, with His Victory.
We are all called to stay close to Christ, giving over everything to him – our flesh, our sin, our humiliations, and our temptations – so that we can receive so much more. He offers us His Salvation, His Life, His Glory, His Victory! Let us therefore, give everything to the Lord in the great gift of sacramental Confession, in Eucharistic adoration and in frequent Communion, where Jesus takes our entirety and gives us His Very Self. Let us trust everything to our “greatest friend”, that God has placed at our side. Let us pray fervently for our catechumens and candidates that they may not only fully embrace the richness of our Catholic Faith but they may totally embrace God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit who loves us first and initiated us to walk humbly in this noble vocation to love.
And so we offer all our sacrifices and hardships to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, because she who is the treasurer of heaven, will distribute to humanity the merits of her Son. Obtain for us, we pray, O Mary, that we will keep our eyes fixed on Christ so to defeat, along with Him, the temptations of Satan and thus we may enter into the victory of the Easter Resurrection and gain the gift of Eternal Life through Christ, our Lord. Amen. May the burning love of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of His Mother enrich you with spiritual gifts and heavenly favours! God truly loves you dearly! In advance, may the Resurrected Christ smile upon you on Easter and lift you up in all your struggles and difficulties in life. Believe Him, Trust in Him, Love Him. For truly He will enrich you with heavenly blessings! In the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus wounded out of love for us, let us place our confidence in Him. Amen
Yours in the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Fr. Nilo Macapinlac, pastor