Reflections on Blessed John Henry Newman’s Lenten Sermon

Sermons

According to the English Catholic priest-cardinal John Henry Newman, “Growth is the only evidence of life.” Life is then most apparent in the springtime with the bursting and budding of flowers, trees, and whistling of birds. Winter precedes this era of new life. Is it not interesting that within nature newness of life springs forth from the cold, dark, dreariness of the death of winter? Currently, we live in a time of transition—March, the chimeric month whereby it begins calmly like a lamb and ends ferociously like a lion or vice versa! I do not think it is a coincidence that the Holy Spirit guided the Early Church, and sustained the ekklesia through the ages to place Lent during the lowest point (CLIMATICALLY SPEAKING) of the calendar year!

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Lent is a time of wandering in the hope it leads to the wonderment of Easter Sunday. Blessed John Henry Newman began his Sermon for the First Sunday of Lent with this key reminder, “The season of humiliation, which precedes Easter, lasts forty days, in memory of our Lord’s long fast in the wilderness.” When you actually think about it, wintertime can be a source of humiliation as well.

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Tired from the lack of sunlight and seemingly endless shoveling you may oversleep your alarm clock and rush out the door to work. In that panic of celerity you may have slipped on a patch of ice and fell quickly on your butt— all the while your careful neighbors gaze at you! Well, this actually happened to me, except instead it happened in the busy parking lot of a grocery store! I felt quite foolish and embarrassed. Our 40 day sojourn in the “desert” is a call to unite ourselves in prayer and fasting to Christ’s ultimate humiliation—His violent death on the Cross.

Here is an excerpt from Newman’s Lenten Homily:

For what we know, Christ’s temptation is but the fulness of that which, in its degree, and according to our infirmities and corruptions, takes place in all His servants who seek Him. And if so, this surely was a strong reason for the Church’s associating our season of humiliation with Christ’s sojourn in the wilderness, that we might not be left to our own thoughts, and, as it were, “with the wild beasts,” and thereupon despond when we afflict {10} ourselves; but might feel that we are what we really are, not bondmen of Satan, and children of wrath, hopelessly groaning under our burden, confessing it, and crying out, “O wretched man!” but sinners indeed, and sinners afflicting themselves, and doing penance for sin; but withal God’s children, in whom repentance is fruitful, and who, while they abase themselves are exalted, and at the very time that they are throwing themselves at the foot of the Cross, are still Christ’s soldiers, sword in hand, fighting a generous warfare, and knowing that they have that in them, and upon them, which devils tremble at, and flee. 

Again, the holy priest guides us to focus on Lent as a time to link our personal embarrassment with Jesus’ humble time in the desert. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son Jesus. As a model and giver of hope for humanity, Jesus endured human things like hunger, thirst, and temptation. The only difference between Christ and us is that He never, ever succumbed to the wiles of the Devil. Blessed Cardinal Newman reminds us to humble ourselves before the foot of the Cross.

eucharist

May we endure the harsh realities of this wintery world through the refreshing oases of the sacraments this Lenten season. To read Blessed John Henry Newman’s entire Lenten Sermon click on this link: http://www.newmanreader.org/works/parochial/volume6/sermon1.html#note

 

 

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