Share your favorite prayers and your most cherished means of connecting with God, including prayers that you wrote.

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By athenacp

While we take comfort from much of the Bible's message, the Bible is not always comforting news. It often carries a message of warning and danger. During this penitential season, it's good for us to attend to the darker side of the biblical message.

When we read about the pollution of the Lord's Temple, we discover a familiar prophetic theme: the people have wandered from the ways of God, rendering impure what God intends to be just and upright. God sends prophet after prophet in order to bring his people back, but they are ignored, mocked, and rejected. Then God's judgment falls on the unfaithful nation.

What is the instrument of God's justice? In one case, it was the Chaldeans, one of the heathen nations. They came and destroyed the city of Jerusalem, burned the Temple, carried off its most sacred objects, and led the people into exile.

What was this? Dumb bad luck? Just the give and take of geo-political forces? No! The Bible insists that this should be read as God's action, more specifically, as God's judgment and punishment. How at odds this is with the typically modern Enlightenment view, according to which religion is a private matter, confined to the heart and the mind of the individual. For the biblical authors, God is the Lord of history and time, and hence the Lord of nations and the Lord of nature. His works and actions must be discerned in all events.

If you want an example of a boldly theological reading of political events, look to Karl Barth, widely considered one of the greatest Protestant theologians of the twentieth century. At the start of the First World War, Barth was a country pastor in Switzerland who had been trained in the confident liberal theology that was all the rage around the turn of the last century. This theology shared the common view that with the rise of the natural sciences, the development of technology, and with political and cultural liberation, human beings could build the Kingdom of God here on earth.

From the quiet of his parsonage in Switzerland, Barth followed the horrors of the First World War, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands, the devastation of nations, the collapse of the European social order. Then something dawned on him: it was precisely the inflated self-regard and hubris of nineteenth-century liberalism that led to this disaster.

He saw the European powers as descendants of the Tower of Babel builders, attempting to reach up to God on their own terms and in their own way. Behind the sunny confidence of the liberal period, he discerned arrogance, imperialism, and colonialism. The advances of science were made possible through the rape of the environment and economic comfort for some was made possible through the enslavement of others.

In the end, bad personal habits have bad consequences, but bad national habits have bad consequences as well.
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By athenacp
The Cross Is . . .

the cross is the hope of Christians
the cross is the resurrection of the dead
the cross is the way of the lost
the cross is the savior of the lost
the cross is the staff of the lame
the cross is the guide of the blind
the cross is the strength of the weak
the cross is the doctor of the sick
the cross is the aim of the priests
the cross is the hope of the hopeless
the cross is the freedom of the slaves
the cross is the power of the kings
the cross is the water of the seeds
the cross is the consolation of the bondsmen
the cross is the source of those who seek water
the cross is the cloth of the naked.
We thank you, Father, for the cross.
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By athenacp
Interesting Insights into Jesus' Life and His Death

Jesus began His ministry by being hungry,
Yet He is the Bread of Life.

Jesus ended His earthly ministry by being thirsty,
Yet He is the Living Water.

Jesus was weary,
Yet He is our rest.

Jesus paid tribute,
Yet He is the King.

Jesus was accused of having a demon,
Yet He cast out demons.

Jesus wept,
Yet He wipes away our tears.

Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver,
Yet He redeemed the world.

Jesus was brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
Yet He is the Good Shepherd.

Jesus died,
Yet by His death He destroyed the power of death.

*Written by Gregory of Nazasazus A.D. 38

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By athenacp
Mother of Sorrows
My Son, could I have climbed this hill for You,
How willingly had I endured each stone:
Yet, I too struggled up steep Calvary;
You have not climbed alone!

Could I have borne the monstrous cross for You,
I would have carried it unto my death.
Though I could not, still I have felt its weight,
My Son, with every breath!

Oh, could I pluck these nails from Your loved flesh,
And driving them through mine, make them a part
Of my own body's pain, I would! But Son,
I wear them in my heart!

Virginia Moan Evans
St. Anthony Messenger
March 1958
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By athenacp

The Parable of the Prodigal Son tells us practically everything we need to know about our relationship to God, if we attend to its details.

"A man had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that is coming to me.'" To live properly in God is to live in an attitude of receptivity and generosity, receiving a gift from God and being always ready to give it away. God respects our freedom and so "the father divided up the property." But this is a tragic moment. What is meant to be a flow of grace becomes divided, separated, riven into yours and mine.

Where does the son then go? He wanders with his fortune into the "far country." In Greek this is the chora makra, the great wide-open emptiness. There he quickly squanders his inheritance, and so it always goes. When we cling to the divine life as our own, we lose it. He was forced to hire himself out so as to become a feeder of pigs. In the chora makra, there are only relationships of economic calculation, each one striving to hang on to what is his. "No one made a move to give him anything," and so it goes in the far country. It is the place of no giving.

Coming to his senses at last, he decides to break away and return to his father, saying, "Treat me like one of your hired hands." He knows that even the slaves are in a life-giving relationship.

The father sees him from a long way off (he had obviously been looking for him) and then, throwing caution and respectability to the winds, he comes running out to meet him. The Bible is not the story of our quest for God, but of God's passionate, relentless quest for us. The father exclaims, "Put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet." Some Church Fathers saw this as the ring of marriage, symbolizing the re-establishment of right relation between us and God.

The parable then turns to the older son. Though superficially different from his brother, they are actually in the same spiritual space for he too sees himself in an economic relationship to his father. Like most upright, religiously respectable people, he is put off by this celebration for someone who most assuredly does not deserve it. Listen to his language: "For years I have slaved for you. I never disobeyed any of your orders, yet you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends." He is a slave, and one who carefully obeys - not one who has caught the spirit of his father. He feels that he has to earn or deserve his father's love. He hates his brother and is resentful of his father's generosity. "Then when this son of yours returns after having gone through your property with loose women, you kill the fatted calf for him." When we fall out of love with God, we fall into hatred of one another.

The father patiently explains: "My son, you are with me always, and everything I have is yours."

In the end, this is the key to the entire parable and is true for both sons, though they don't realize it.

Everything that God has is given to us. His whole being is "for-giving."
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By athenacp
Psalm 79:1–9
Remember not our past sins; let your compassion be swift to meet us; for we have been brought very low (v. 8).

“Everyone complains of a lack of memory,” the American humorist Ken Hubbard wrote, “but nobody of a want of judgment.” Indeed a photographic memory is an envied ability—unless it enables you to remember something you want to be forgotten. You might wish for some things to be left in the past. Or feel haunted by the memory that “we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and done those things which we ought not to have done,” as the traditional Prayer Book confession puts it. As you journey through Lent, reflect on what you carry with you, particularly the memory of sin. Ask for healing strength to carry on. You’ll be asked to repent and then to accept that God not only forgives us but forgets your sins, even if others do not. Then use God’s compassion for you as a blueprint for the way to forgive others.
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By athenacp
A Prayer for Lent

O God, You know my weaknesses, that I am poor and destitute, that I cannot do, nor even think any good without You. Arise up then; strengthen me with grace, that I may fervently execute what I have firmly resolved, and not only avoid all evil You forbid, but also perform all the good You command towards others, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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By athenacp
A Prayer for Lent

Lord Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief. The time may be delayed, the manner unexpected but the answer is sure to come. Not a tear of sacred sorrow nor a breath of holy desire, poured out in prayer to You, will ever be lost. Help me Lord to move with You. Sacred Heart of Jesus I place all my trust in Thee.
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By athenacp
The Cross

The Cross is the coin of inestimable value and if I, Holy Spouse, shall have the fortune of possessing it, I shall enrich myself with eternal coins unto making myself the richest of Paradise, for the money that circulates in Heaven is the Cross that is suffered on earth.
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By athenacp

During Lent we are often asked to confront our spiritual blindness. One story from the Gospels, about the man blind from birth, offers us new perspective.

The first thing to note is that the blind man symbolizes all of us. We are all blind from birth, affected negatively by original sin.

What does Jesus do when he confronts this man? He announces who he is: "I am the light of the world." In John's Gospel there are a series of "I am" statements: "I am the bread of life; I am the Good Shepherd; I am the way, the truth and the life." And here he issues another of those powerful claims: "I am the light."

Jesus is the way to see. When we are grafted onto him, when we assume his mind and his attitude, when we live his life, we are able to see the world as it is, and not through the distorting lens of our fear and our hatred.

In the story, Jesus makes a mud paste by spitting on the ground. Many Church Fathers saw this as the mixing of divinity and humanity (the Incarnation) which effectively saves us. God bends low in order to show us what he looks like. Then he smears the paste on the man's eyes becoming the salvator, the bearer of the salve. After the man washes in the pool of Siloam, he comes back and he is able to see.

Now at this point, we would expect that everyone around the cured man would rejoice, but just the contrary; they are infuriated and confounded. The Pharisees try first to deny that a real healing took place: "He is not really the one; he just looks like him." But the man himself corrects them, "No, I'm the one alright."

Then they try to tie him up in legal knots. "This man cured on a Sabbath; only sinners cure on the Sabbath; therefore, your cure came from an evil source." Once more, the man's response is a masterpiece of constraint and understatement: "I don't know whether he was a sinner or not; all I know is that I was blind and now I see."

Why are the Pharisees so reactive? Why don't they want this man to be cured? I suggest it's because we sinners don't like the ways of God; we find them troubling and threatening because they undermine the games of oppression and exclusion that we rely upon in order to boost our own egos.

But God doesn't come to play these games. He comes to help us see.
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By athenacp
What To Give Up For Lent

Give up grumbling. Instead "In everything, give thanks."
Give up 10 to 15 min. in bed. Instead, use that time in prayer.
Give up looking at other people's worst points. Instead, concentrate on their best ones.
Give up speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding.
Give up your worries. Instead, trust God with them.
Give up hatred or dislike of anyone. Instead learn to love.
Give up the fear which prevents Christian witness. Instead, seek courage to speak of your faith to others.
Give up spending so much time with newspapers and magazines. Instead, use some of that time to study your Bible.
Give up TV one evening a week. Instead, visit some lonely or sick person.
Give up buying anything but essentials for yourself. Instead, give that money to God's work or to someone in need.
Give up judging by appearances and by the standards of the world. Instead, learn to give up yourself to God.
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By athenacp
Meditation on Death
"The Imitation of Christ"
By Thomas á Kempis

Very soon the end of your life will be at hand: consider, therefore, the state of your soul. Today a man is here; tomorrow he is gone. (I Machabees 2:63) And when he is out of sight, he is soon out of mind. Oh, how dull and hard is the heart of man, which thinks only of the present, and does not provide against the future! You should order your every deed and thought, as though today were the day of your death. Had you a good conscience, death would hold no terrors for you; (Luke 12:37) even so, it were better to avoid sin than to escape death. (Wisdom 4:16) If you are not ready to die today, will tomorrow find you better prepared? (Matthew 24:44) Tomorrow is uncertain; and how can you be sure of tomorrow? Of what use is a long life, if we amend so little? Alas, a long life often adds to our sins rather than to our virtue!
Would to God that we might spend a single day really well! Many recount the years since their conversion, but their lives show little sign of improvement. If it is dreadful to die, it is perhaps more dangerous to live long. Blessed is the man who keeps the hour of his death always in mind, and daily prepares himself to die. If you have ever seen anyone die, remember that you, too, must travel the same road. (Hebrews 9:27)

Each morning remember that you may not live until evening; and in the evening, do not presume to promise yourself another day. Be ready at all times, (Luke 21:36) and so live that death may never find you unprepared. Many die suddenly and unexpectedly; for at an hour that we do not know the Son of Man will come. (Matthew 24:44) When your last hour strikes, you will begin to think very differently of your past life, and grieve deeply that you have been so careless and remiss.

Happy and wise is he who endeavours to be during his life as he wishes to be found at his death. For these things will afford us sure hope of a happy death; perfect contempt of the world; fervent desire to grow in holiness; love of discipline; the practice of penance; ready obedience; self-denial; the bearing of every trial for the love of Christ. While you enjoy health, you can do much good; but when sickness comes, little can be done. Few are made better by sickness, and those who make frequent pilgrimages seldom acquire holiness by so doing.

Do not rely on friends and neighbours, and do not delay the salvation of your soul to some future date, for men will forget you sooner than you think. It is better to make timely provision and to acquire merit in this life, than to depend on the help of others. And if you have no care for your own soul, who will have care for you in time to come? The present time is most precious; now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2) It is sad that you do not employ your time better, when you may win eternal life hereafter. The time will come when you will long for one day or one hour in which to amend; and who knows whether it will be granted?

Dear soul, from what peril and fear you could free yourself, if you lived in holy fear, mindful of your death. Apply yourself so to live now, that at the hour of death, you may be glad and unafraid. Learn now to die to the world, that you may begin to live with Christ. (Romans 6:8) Learn now to despise ail earthly things, that you may go freely to Christ. Discipline your body now by penance, that you may enjoy a sure hope of salvation.

Foolish man, how can you promise yourself a long life, when you are not certain of a single day? (Luke 12:20) How many have deceived themselves in this way, and been snatched unexpectedly from life! You have often heard how this man was slain by the sword; another drowned; how another fell from a high place and broke his neck; how another died at table how another met his end in play. One perishes by fire, another by the sword, another from disease, another at the hands of robbers. Death is the end of all men (Ecclesiasticus 7:2) and the life of man passes away suddenly as a shadow. (Psalm 38:7; 143:4)

Who will remember you when you are dead? Who will pray for you? Act now, dear soul; do all you can; for you know neither the hour of your death, nor your state after death. While you have time, gather the riches of everlasting life. (Luke 12:33; Galatians 6:8) Think only of your salvation, and care only for the things of God. Make friends now, by honouring the Saints of God and by following their example, that when this life is over, they may welcome you to your eternal home. (Luke 16:9)

Keep yourself a stranger and pilgrim upon earth, (I Peter 2:11), to whom the affairs of this world are of no concern. Keep your heart free and lifted up to God, for here you have no abiding city. (Hebrews13:14) Daily direct your prayers and longings to Heaven, that at your death your soul may merit to pass joyfully into the presence of God.
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By athenacp
This Week's Morning Offering Lenten Challenge

Each day this week, give away something that is valuable to you. Give away a piece of clothing. Donate your time to a worthy project. Instead of eating out, give the cost of that meal to someone in need. Ask your patron saint to help you make hard sacrifices just as they did, and to help you detach from your possessions in order to be more free to think of the needs of others.

Challenge your friends and family to do the same on your favorite social media channel. Spread the love this Lent!

"Little things done out of love are those that charm the Heart of Christ.”

- St. Therese of Lisieux

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By athenacp

We are halfway through Lent which means the passion and death of Christ are slowly coming into view. At this point, I would like to spend a little time contemplating what God thinks of death.

To put it simply, God hates death and wants nothing to do with it. Listen God speaking through the prophet Ezekiel: "I will open your graves and have you rise from them." These words are spoken just after the marvelous scene of the enlivening of the dry bones.

There is an important clue here, by the way. Those dry bones were there because a battle had been fought on that spot. Death, the fear of death, the threat of death-all of this broods over human life and grounds sin and oppression. All sin, which involves the terrible clinging to self and attacking of others, ultimately flows from a fear of death. Every tyrant who has ever ruled has succeeded only by instilling in people the fear of death.

But what if death - as we know it and experience it - is not at all what God intended? What if it were something that God wanted to deal with once and for all, to get rid of? The book of Genesis tells us clearly that death came from sin. Death as we experience it - as something fearful, horrible, terrifying - comes from having turned from God.

But Jesus came primarily as a warrior whose final enemy is death. I know how easy it is to domesticate Jesus, presenting him as a kindly and inspiring moral teacher, but that is not how the Gospels present him. He is a cosmic warrior who has come to do battle with all of those forces that keep us from being fully alive.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus deals with the effects of death and a death-obsessed culture: violence, hatred, egotism, exclusion, false religion, phony community. But the final enemy he must face down is death itself.
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By athenacp
The Cross is fire and reduces to ashes all that is not of God, unto emptying the heart of the smallest blade of grass that could be there.
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By athenacp
A Prayer for Lent

Lord our God, you formed man from the clay of the earth
and breathed into him the spirit of life,
but he turned from your face and sinned.
In this time of repentance we call out for your mercy.
Bring us back to you and to the life your Son won for us
by his death on the cross,
for he lives and reigns for ever and ever.
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By athenacp

Jesus raises three people from the dead in the Gospel stories: the daughter of Jairus, the son of the widow of Naim, and Lazarus. In the symbolic language of the Gospels, these physical resuscitations are evocative of raisings from sin to spiritual health.

First, St. Augustine says that the young daughter of Jairus, who dies inside her house, symbolizes the sin that takes place in our thoughts and our hearts. That sin has not yet borne fruit in action.

Second, the dead son of the widow of Naim, carried to the gate of the house, represents sin that has expressed itself concretely in action. This dead man is raised and given back to his mother, who stands for the Church.

Thirdly, and most drastically, we have the case of Lazarus. He stands for the worst kind of moral and spiritual corruption, sin that has been expressed in the world and become embedded in evil custom and habit. This is the rot that has really set in, producing a spiritual stink.

In the Gospel of John, the raising of Lazarus takes place just before the Passion, just before the climactic moment when Jesus defeats death by succumbing to it. When told that Lazarus has died, Jesus says, "Our beloved Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him." With these words, he signifies we are in a new world. Within the confines of the old world, the old consciousness, death is ultimate, and its very finality gives it its power. However, by referring to it as "sleep," Jesus is signaling that through God's power and purpose, death is not ultimate; it is not the final word.

When Jesus first arrives at Bethany, he learns that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. This is to signal that there is no mistake; the man is truly and definitively dead. But it is no concern for the one who transcends both space and time, whose power stretches beyond life and death as we know them.

Martha comes out to meet Jesus and indicates her incipient belief in his identity and power: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother never would have died. Even now, I am sure that God will give you whatever you ask him." Jesus replies, "Your brother will rise again...I am the resurrection and the life." God hates death and doesn't want its phony finality to ruin human life.

Coming to Lazarus's tomb, Jesus feels the deepest emotions and begins to weep. This is God entering into the darkness and confusion and agony of the death of sinners. He doesn't blithely stand above our situation, but rather takes it on and feels it. But then, like a warrior, he approaches the enemy. "Take away the stone," he directs.

Those who are stuck within the confines of this world protest, "Lord, surely there will be a stench." They are essentially saying, "Don't mess with death; you can't reverse it. Its power is final."

But Jesus is undaunted. He commands, "Lazarus, come out!" This is the voice, not simply of a hopeful human being, not simply of a great religious figure; this is the voice of God who hates death and has dominion over it. And therefore, "The dead man came out." Jesus then orders the onlookers to, "Untie him and let him go free."

That command still echoes today. Just as he did with Lazarus, Jesus sets us free from death and the ways of death.
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By athenacp
A Prayer for Lent

Dear Lord, I thank You for all the favours You have bestowed upon me. Help me always to praise and thank You in both the good times and the bad, to offer every part of my life to You, even the sad and sorrowful parts. Thanks from the bottom of my heart for having created me ... for all the joys of life and for all the sorrows ... for the home You gave me, and for all the love that surrounded me in the home ... for the friends I have made through life. You have dealt very generously and very tenderly with me; I cannot hope to thank You as I ought, but, with Your help, my future life will be one long thanksgiving. I beg Your sweet Mother Mary to thank You for me out of her heart of hearts for all Your gifts of love to me
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By athenacp

The story of Lazarus is rich in meaning for us, especially during Lent. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus "groaned in spirit." Jesus' trouble here is the result of his identification with sinful humanity. He goes all the way to the bottom of it, letting its truth affect him. Jesus does not just love us abstractly or from a distance. He comes close to us.

More to the point, this groaning of Jesus signals the pain that God feels at our imprisonment. If his glory is our being fully alive, then his agony is tied to our sin. How salvific it can be to listen to this groaning of the Lord at our own lack of life.

In the same vein, Jesus weeps for his friend. There is something heartbreaking about this for it is the only time in the Scripture that Jesus is described as weeping. Whatever form death takes within us - physical, psychological, spiritual - it is something deeply troubling to God.

One detail is particularly moving: Jesus asks, "Where have you laid him?" Sin alienates us from our God, making us strangers to him. Just as in the book of Genesis, God looked for Adam and Eve, who were hiding from him, so here God incarnate doesn't know where his friend Lazarus is.

Then the Lord comes to the tomb. We hear that it was a cave with a stone laid across it. When things are dead, we bury them away, we hide them. When we feel spiritually dead, we lock ourselves up in the darkness of our own anxiety and egotism and fear. But there is a power, a divine power, sent into this world whose very purpose is to break through all such stones. "Lazarus, come out!" Are there any words more beautiful and stirring in the whole New Testament? From whatever grave we are lying in, Jesus calls us out.

"And the dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth." Lazarus comes out with all of the signs of death still clinging to him. So Jesus says "Untie him and let him go." Here we see it: Whatever limits, binds, controls, orders, dominates us - these are the enemies of God.
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By athenacp

What is our greatest fear? Ultimately, it's the fear of death. The final dark power that rends the world is the power of death.

What flows from our fear of death? The spiritual masters all agree that what flows is sin and division in all its forms.

I lash out in violence and retribution because I'm afraid to die. The same fear causes me to turn in on myself, becoming self-absorbed as you become an enemy. The fear of death is like a dark cloud that broods over human life. Therefore, when God's warrior arrives, the ultimate enemy he comes to face is death itself. And he engages the enemy at close quarters.

A warrior who never fights at close quarters won't win. So Jesus goes into violence, into dysfunction, and into the lack of forgiveness, and that's where he brings God's love. In fact, he must go all the way into the power of death itself in order to wrestle it to the ground. That's the language the Church Fathers use, by the way. The cross is Jesus going into the very lair of death. He goes to meet head-on that which frightens us the most. And what does He do? He battles it. He engages it. And finally he conquers it.

Remember Jesus Himself said that, "No one can plunder the house of a strong man unless a stronger one comes and ties him up." The strong man is death itself. No one will conquer death until a stronger one comes and ties him up. Jesus is the very strength of God now tying up the strong man of death.
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By athenacp
Lenten Prayer

God of all compassion, Father of all goodness, to heal the wounds our sins and selfishness bring upon us you bid us turn to fasting, prayer, and sharing with our brothers. We acknowledge our sinfulness, our guilt is ever before us: when our weakness causes discouragement, let your compassion fill us with hope and lead us through a Lent of repentance to the beauty of Easter joy. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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By athenacp

During Lent, we may spend time doing battle with what we call our "animal passions." But this may not be the right way to put it because God's covenant is made, not just with men and women, but with the animals as well.

I know this sounds strange to us, but that is because we are the heirs of modernity, a philosophical movement that tends to separate human beings radically from other animals and from nature. Modernity sees them as, at best, things that might serve us or be mastered by us. But God has a much more integrated vision of things. All creatures, coming forth from God, are ontological siblings - brothers and sisters of the same Father. In finding oneness with God, we find, ipso facto, oneness with the rest of creation.

This idea is reflected in much of the great tradition prior to modernity. St. Thomas Aquinas says that vegetable, plants, and animals are ensouled like us. In fact, the word "animal" just means "thing with an anima [a soul]". Thomas saw us as part of a great chain or hierarchy of being. But for the modern consciousness, we are disconnected from this chain. We have so mastered nature that we are, effectively, alienated from it.

In biblical terms, this alienation is an outgrowth of sin. Sin is the caving in on oneself, prompted by fear and pride, effectively cutting us off from each other. But sin also cuts us off from the non-human world around us. It cuts us off from our love for it, our curiosity about it, our care for it, and our fascination with it.

But Jesus, in his own person, joins together the disparate elements of creation, the spiritual and the material, angels and wild beasts. He brings them together and re-links the chain of being.
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By athenacp

Medieval scholars said that the human being was a kind of microcosm, since he bore within himself the spiritual and the physical. Through his body, man reached down to the lower elements and was one with the animals and minerals, but through his mind, he reached upwards to God and the angels.

We know instinctively how right this is. On the one hand, we can explore the intricacies of mathematics and geometry. We can soar with Mozart and Shakespeare. We can design high-level computers and machines that can move through the galaxy. We can enter into the depth and silence of prayer, becoming as much like the angels as possible. In so many ways, we strain upward to our home among the spirits.

On the other hand, we are, like it or not, animals. We need food and drink. We get too hot and too cold. We experience instincts and emotions that often get the better of us. We revel in the sheer pleasure of the senses and the thrill of being touched. We love to run, to exercise our muscles. We exult in the rough and tumble of very physical competition and play.

This is our glory - we combine the best of both worlds - but it is also our agony, the source of much of our sadness and conflict, for it entails that we are a hybrid, a half-breed, something of a metaphysical mongrel. We bring together two qualities that are at odds with each other. The spirit strains against the body, and the body strains against the spirit. Sometimes the spirit commands and the body refuses to obey; sometimes the body makes demands that the spirit cannot or will not accommodate. This tension is one of the faces of sin. It is the result of the dislocation between ourselves and God.

The harmony of the spiritual and the physical seems to be what God savors and intends. The spirit commanding the body, but the body also informing the spirit. There is a proper hierarchy between them, but it must never become a tyranny. The demands and goods of the body must always be respected and must even, to some degree, shape the life of the spirit. We were made as embodied spirits, or if you prefer, as spiritualized bodies. And we will be saved as spirit-body composites.
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By athenacp

This great identification of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is one that has captivated the Christian imagination for two thousand years. One of the most beautiful depictions of Jesus from the early centuries is a statue of a young, beardless man holding a sheep over his shoulders. It's an image, of course, which has come out of the agrarian culture of the first century, and one that ancient Israelites would be very familiar with.To the rural people who were his first followers, this image was natural. Shepherds guarded, guided, protected, and watched over their flocks - just as God guards, guides, protects and watches over Israel.

Now what precisely makes Jesus the Good Shepherd? The Good Shepherd is so other-oriented, so devoted to his sheep that he is willing to surrender his life that they might live. Now this sounds nice at first blush, but the longer you think about it, the stranger it becomes. Sure, a good shepherd should do all that he can to protect and guide his flock, but who among us would really expect him to give his life for them? Suppose a pack of wolves descended on the flock. Would we really expect the shepherd to throw himself in front of the ravenous creatures in order to protect the sheep? At the limit, we might expect him to give his life for his human family, or for other human beings, but for animals.

But this is precisely what Jesus claims to do. Imagine the difference between humans and sheep and now multiply that difference infinitely. That would give you some idea of the difference between God and humanity. And yet God is willing to lay down his life for the likes of us.
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By athenacp

A good shepherd who is really attentive to his sheep knows the distinctive voices of his charges. Just as a mother knows the voices of her children, so the shepherd can recognize the call of his sheep. And wonderfully, the sheep know the shepherd's voice. When they hear it, they joyfully fall in line, for they know that the shepherd is the key to their flourishing.

Jesus Christ, as the Good Shepherd, says that he has come to gather the nations, and the nations, by implication, will recognize his voice when they hear it.

What is it that leads people to accept Jesus Christ? What is it that appeals to them when they read the Scripture or they approach the sacraments?

We could say that it is only custom or background or luck but I think that something much deeper is going on. There is a resonance when Christ's voice is heard precisely because the whole world has been wired to hear it. The voice of Jesus is the voice of the gatherer. We lost sheep implicitly recognize it and respond.

Jesus is so much more than an inspiring moral example and much more than a saint whose dedication and love we admire. Jesus is someone who knows us personally. He is the one who can pick out our voices from the hubbub around us; who knows our names and distinctive needs and desires. We are known by him. When we pray in our distinctive way, we are heard.

And more to it, we hear his voice and recognize it as the key to our flourishing. We have been wired for the Word of God, and Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. We instinctively know that he has the words of everlasting life. And just as the sheep long to be commanded, so we long to be ordered by the Word of God.
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