The Link Between Lent and Confession—by Guest Blogger William Hemsworth

On March 6 we celebrated Ash Wednesday.  That great day marks the beginning for the season of Lent.  For some Lent is a season that brings to mind drudgery and self deprecation, but is this what Lent is all about?  Is it about us merely giving something up, or is there much more to it?  Lent reminds us that spiritual warfare is real.  It is a call to arms in which we latch on to Jesus and head into battle.  We are not alone in this fight.  We have the communion of saints and our Lord Jesus Christ by our side.

spiritual warfare

Perhaps we should start with what Lent is not.  Lent is not a time to give up something in an attempt to be fashionable.  Many give up a favorite food or desert and call it a day.  The whole point of giving up something is to replace it with a spiritual practice.  What spiritual practice you take up is totally up to you.  Maybe you find yourself too busy to pray.  As a result, you may wake up 10 minutes early to pray to replace the 10 minutes you take eating your favorite candy bar.  My wife recently gave up Starbucks, and she has chosen to take the money she would normally spend and give it to the St. Vincent De Paul Society at our parish.  You may choose to take time throughout the day and pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  As previously stated, that is up to you and what you feel called to do.  However, fasting without prayer is merely dieting.  If you are obtaining or fasting, but not praying you are dieting.

prayer fasting almsgiving

Lent is an ancient practice that goes back to the earliest days of the church. In Luke 4:1-2 we read “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished” (NRSV).  I was always intrigued as to why the sinless and divine Son of God went into the wilderness to be tempted.  This is something that Jesus did to prepare himself for ministry.  He was at his weakest after fasting for so long, and Satan knew that this may be his only chance.  Jesus did this as an example for us.  He knows how we are tempted because he experienced it first hand.  

If Jesus was tempted, do we think we are somehow exempt?  I certainly hope not, but as our Good Shepherd he is leading the way through danger.  By doing so he is stating that he is with us and beside us on this tough journey.  If you are a follower of Christ the evil one will come after you.  That is a guarantee.  We will get beat up at times, but we must get back up and dust ourselves off.

When I was in the military, we were taught to always keep your equipment in top condition.  Whether it was out Kevlar helmet, rucksack, or weapon everything had to be maintained.  Lent reminds us that there is more to life than the things of this world.  It is a time to reflect and evaluate our equipment.  

spiritual battle

In the spiritual life our equipment is our mind and hearts.  What are they preoccupied with?  What filth have they accumulated over the past year?  A weapon will not work if it is grungy and filthy.  Likewise, our souls get dirty from venial sin.  If we become complacent with venial sin it is much easier to fall into mortal sin.  Regarding this 1 John 5:17 states, “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not mortal” (NRSV).  Mortal sin severs our relationship with God.  Essentially, we have made our choice, and it wasn’t God.

There is hope.  The hope is Jesus Christ and the sacraments that he established.  As previously stated, Lent is a time to reevaluate our spiritual lives.  It is a time to reflect on the things we have done and not done.  We all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23).  This does not mean that God does not want us anymore.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  

Our Lord has established the sacrament of reconciliation so we can once again be in fellowship with him.  The great church father St. John Chrysostom put it this way, “And though every day a man lives may rightly be a day of repentance, yet is it in these days more becoming, more appropriate, to confess our sins, to fast, and to give alms to the poor; since in these days you may wash clean the sins of the whole year”.

The evil once tries to tempt us in our weakness, just like he tried to tempt our Lord.  A lion attacks the member of heard that is sick, weak, and alone.  Satan tries to do the same thing.  He will try to make us feel alone and like we are too messed up to be reconciled to God.  That is one of his greatest lies.  Jesus wants you!  In the sacrament of confession, we are absolved over the sins that we have committed, both venial and mortal.  We have a clean slate and are once again reconciled with the church (in the case of mortal sin).  

Partaking of the great, and underutilized sacrament, assists us by strengthening our resolves against Satan and his temptations.  It is a crucial weapon in our daily spiritual warfare.  Without it we are taking a knife to a gunfight.  A few months ago a priest told me “Take advantage of the sacraments.  They are there to help us.  A priest will make the time.”  I implore you to make the sacrament of confession a key part of your Lenten journey this year.  Go during scheduled times, make an appointment, and make the time to make a good confession.  You will be happy that you did.  There is nothing greater than the love of God, and we feel it especially after He forgives us.


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!

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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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3 Reasons Lent 2019 is a War with Satan

time for war.jpg

War, battles, and conflicts have occurred through the entirety of human history. From the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to the religious war of the Reformation era people do not get along. According to Guinness World Records, World War II took the most lives of any war in history!


Note: For more information please refer to the link in the resource section at the end of this post.


While the atrocities of the last century still linger, a large portion of society may not believe it is possible for our new more civilized 21st century to fall into such incivility, cruelty, or violation of human rights on the scale of the Holocaust. Philosopher George Santayana, warned ,”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

gandalf prepare for battle.gif

Without knowledge of previous failing it is quite difficult to equip ourselves sufficiently for the battles that lie ahead. Today Catholics, and Christianity as a whole, around the world  celebrate Ash Wednesday— the beginning of the 40 day Lenten season. Being marked on the forehead with ashes in the shape of a cross, Christians will be reminded, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This phrase actually is a reference to Genesis 3:19. Shortly after Adam and Eve disobey God the side-effects of sin involve an earthly death. Going back to the start human history we get reminded that the Devil, the prime Adversity of both God and humanity, sought conflict and that spiritual war continues into 2019. This post will examine three specific reasons we know war with Satan is guaranteed this Lent!

for-the-bible-tells-me-so-htbnt-mber-blrlin-ibatae-8858900

  1. For the Bible Tells Us So:  Genesis 3 involves the Fall of humanity from original communion with God into a separated sinful state. Verse 15 specifics points out the divisive between the offspring of the Woman (prefigured to be Mary) and the serpent (symbolic of the Devil). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 497, “After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall.304 This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (“first gospel”): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers.”

While the victory over Satan is guaranteed through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the war still continues for Christians on an individual level. Salvation history from Abraham to Moses and David to John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ. The manual on how to triumph over Satan began with the Bible and continues to be safeguarded by the Church. Next, we will examine how the Catholic Mass demonstrates the war is not over with the Enemy.

 

2. Learning from the Liturgy: While the entire Mass contains spiritual riches including the readings, homily, and reception of the Most Holy Eucharist, a simple prayer at the beginning of the liturgy, known as the collect, is something you may want to pay attention to next Sunday. The General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) as this to say about the Collect prayer,


54. Next the Priest calls upon the people to pray and everybody, together with the Priest, observes a brief silence so that they may become aware of being in God’s presence and may call to mind their intentions. Then the Priest pronounces the prayer usually called the “Collect” and through which the character of the celebration finds

time for war.jpg

War, battles, and conflicts have occurred through the entirety of human history. From the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to the religious war of the Reformation era people do not get along. According to Guinness World Records, World War II took the most lives of any war in history!


Note: For more information please refer to the link in the resource section at the end of this post.


While the atrocities of the last century still linger, a large portion of society may not believe it is possible for our new more civilized 21st century to fall into such incivility, cruelty, or violation of human rights on the scale of the Holocaust. Philosopher George Santayana, warned ,”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

gandalf prepare for battle.gif

Without knowledge of previous failing it is quite difficult to equip ourselves sufficiently for the battles that lie ahead. Today Catholics, and Christianity as a whole, around the world  celebrate Ash Wednesday— the beginning of the 40 day Lenten season. Being marked on the forehead with ashes in the shape of a cross, Christians will be reminded, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” This phrase actually is a reference to Genesis 3:19. Shortly after Adam and Eve disobey God the side-effects of sin involve an earthly death. Going back to the start human history we get reminded that the Devil, the prime Adversity of both God and humanity, sought conflict and that spiritual war continues into 2019. This post will examine three specific reasons we know war with Satan is guaranteed this Lent!

for-the-bible-tells-me-so-htbnt-mber-blrlin-ibatae-8858900

For the Bible Tells Us So

 Genesis 3 involves the Fall of humanity from original communion with God into a separated sinful state. Verse 15 specifics points out the divisive between the offspring of the Woman (prefigured to be Mary) and the serpent (symbolic of the Devil). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 497, “After his fall, man was not abandoned by God. On the contrary, God calls him and in a mysterious way heralds the coming victory over evil and his restoration from his fall.304 This passage in Genesis is called the Protoevangelium (“first gospel”): the first announcement of the Messiah and Redeemer, of a battle between the serpent and the Woman, and of the final victory of a descendant of hers.”

While the victory over Satan is guaranteed through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the war still continues for Christians on an individual level. Salvation history from Abraham to Moses and David to John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ. The manual on how to triumph over Satan began with the Bible and continues to be safeguarded by the Church. Next, we will examine how the Catholic Mass demonstrates the war is not over with the Enemy.

Learning from the Liturgy

While the entire Mass contains spiritual riches including the readings, homily, and reception of the Most Holy Eucharist, a simple prayer at the beginning of the liturgy, known as the collect, is something you may want to pay attention to next Sunday. The General Instruction for the Roman Missal (GIRM) as this to say about the Collect prayer,


54. Next the Priest calls upon the people to pray and everybody, together with the Priest, observes a brief silence so that they may become aware of being in God’s presence and may call to mind their intentions. Then the Priest pronounces the prayer usually called the “Collect” and through which the character of the celebration finds expression. By an ancient tradition of the Church, the Collect prayer is usually addressed to God the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit,[56] and is concluded with a Trinitarian ending, or longer ending, in the following manner:

• If the prayer is directed to the Father: Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever;

• If it is directed to the Father, but the Son is mentioned at the end: Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever
and ever;

• If it is directed to the Son: Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The people, joining in this petition, make the prayer their own by means of the acclamation Amen.

At Mass only a single Collect is ever said.


Read the following Collect from today’s Ash Wednesday Liturgy and pay attention to the theme of war/conflict with evil:

Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. 

I highlighted key words and phrases that stood out to me as the priest recited the Collect. Those of you steeped in video-game culture will recognize the term campaign. Defined as a “series of military operations intended to achieve a particular objective, confined to a particular area, or involving a specified type of fighting” to here Lent referred to as a campaign is intriguing. Prior to this year, I never truly would think of fasting as a WEAPON against spiritual evil! I have always known the benefits of fasting for growing in the spiritual life, however, hear phrases such as “may be armed with weapons of self-restraint” really takes the spiritual battle and makes it more tangible and digestible to understand.

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Advice from Saintly Soldiers

 Along with Sacred Scripture and the Mass, the saints throughout history support the notion that Lent is a time of war with the Devil. According to St. Philip Neri, “There is nothing the devil fears so much, or so much tries to hinder, as prayer.” Prayer is listed as the first of the trifecta of weapons to overcome evil during Lent. St. Alphonsus De Ligouri also spoke of the how gluttony (the inverse of fasting) acts as a doorway to other sins, “He that gratifies the taste will readily indulge the other senses; for, having lost the spirit of recollection, he will easily commit faults, by indecent words and by unbecoming gestures. But the greatest evil of intemperance, is that it exposes chastity to great danger.”

St. Teresa of Avila had this  to say about fasting, “Our human nature often asks for more than what it needs, and sometimes the devil helps so as to cause fear about the practice of penance and fasting…My health has been much better since I have ceased to look after my ease and comforts.” For the sake of brevity, I will stop here. As you can see though the saints in unison with the Bible and Sacred Tradition reiterate the importance of fasting and prayer to battle the Evil One! Be careful to not boast of your Lenten sacrifices as Jesus warned in today’s Gospel. Instead, ask the Holy Spirit for the virtue of humility as you don the spiritual armament of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in the War on Satan this Lent!  

war on satan meme

Resources/Related Links:

http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/highest-death-toll-from-wars/

https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/06/07/satan-past-present-and-future/

http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/general-instruction-of-the-roman-missal/girm-chapter-2.cfm

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2019/02/28/say-yes-to-the-no-practicing-self-denial

 

 

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