• Father Michael J. Truong Luan Nguyen C.Ss. R.

40 ACTS OF REPENTANCE WITH PRIESTS - DAY 16


Introduction

Lent is here. It begins with our Lord Jesus Christ submitting himself under the prophetic call to repentance from his cousin, John, the Baptist, and allowing himself to be submerged in the water of the Jordan river for the ritual baptism, a commitment to convert and render his life to God.

We see the heavens opening up, the Holy Spirit descending upon him in the form of a dove; and we hear the gentle voice of God, the Father, declaring: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).

God the Father loves Jesus and declares to all creation of His love for His only-begotten Son. In so doing God the Father also declares His love for you. God loves you and He loves you first; that’s why He sent Jesus to you. So “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Love is the motif and the motivation for all that Jesus does for us. He loves God, the Father, and thus enters into this world to live, suffer and die for us. He reveals to us not only through His stories and examples, but also by His life and death, the love of God the Father reserved for us from all eternity.

The very first act of love Jesus wants to show us is fasting. He enters into the desert with the Holy Spirit for forty days and forty nights to confront His own human weaknesses and the Devil. He endures hunger and thirst, the lonely life in the howling desert and the assaults of the Devil. He fasts, He prays and He trusts in the Word of His Father. This is to show us how to repent and render to God what belongs to Him.

Following Jesus’ footsteps we are called to embark in this pilgrimage of forty days of Lent. With Jesus we listen to the loving voice of God, the Father; we do penance and deny ourselves. The following meditations are 40 straight-forward acts of repentance to help you look back and re-examine your own life with Jesus.

Let us take this pilgrimage of repentance to pray for our Catholic Church, especially for our priests.

O Mary, Queen of the Apostles: Walk with us on this pilgrimage.

Let us pray.

Grant us, O Lord, to begin our Christian warfare with holy fasts; that as we are about to do battle with the spirits of evil we may be defended by the aid of self-denial and the protecting gaze of our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

DAY 16

Bow

Serpent and worm share one common ground: dirt. They both lie on dirt and consume it as food.

Pinned down the head of a snake, He squeezes open its mouth and sees two extra nose holes inside on its palate (i.e., the “vomeronasal organ”). Its forked tongue keeps slithering outside to collect bits of dust with its tips and bringing them inside to the matching pair of olfactory organs to smell and swallow. Then immediately it cleans the tongue with its poisonous saliva so as to repeat the whole process. Literally the serpent licks and eats the dust. As for the earthworm, soil is its daily diet. Thus He calls them geophagous or soil-eating creature. God said to the serpent, “... on your belly shall you crawl, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:14). Through prophet Micah, He condemns the idolater and the arrogant as serpent: “They shall lick the dust like a serpent, like crawling things on the ground” (Micah 7:17).

Nonetheless Jesus sees the wisdom of His Father when He creates the serpent. He observes how wise it survives on the ground; it knows its own limits so it learns to lay low and still in the dark. One day He exhorts His disciples: “Be as wise as a serpent…” (Matthew 10:16) and later on He gives them the power, “They will pick up serpents with their hands, …, it will not harm them” (Mark 16:18).

Humbled Himself before the wisdom of the Father, Jesus prostrates His body on the ground to worship. He remains so still that He could feel the internal vibrations of the earth. His whole body becomes as hyper-sensitive as the eardrums. He could hear His own heart beats and the heart rhythm of every creature living on earth. He feels them all. But one day soon, He realizes that this body of His will be buried like a worm underneath the earth; He will then hear the cries of the dead as well. One day before surrendering His life, He will cry out to the Father: “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help, from my cries of anguish? .... But I am a worm, not a man, scorned by men, despised by the people” (Psalms 22: 2,7).

Will His body turn into dust and become food for the serpent and the worms? Will His body be like the rest of humankind? Will it decay into compost? No. It will not. The Holy Spirit dwells in it and calls it His Temple. He will allow nothing to corrupt it.

Take a deep breath…., say, “Jesus.” Bow down and breathe out…., say, “Mercy.”

Breathe and bow this way for today. You will become hyper-aware of where you are.

Let us pray for priests to be as wise as the serpent and learn to bow down before God like Jesus.

O Mary, Queen of the Apostles: Make your priests wise and bow down before God like you and your Son.

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