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.
The Devil in its doubt keeps doubling down on Him with the “if” demand. Its forked tongue wants to kill two birds with one stone. It doesn’t ask Jesus a close-ended question, “Are you the Son of God?” which demands only a straightforward yes-or-no answer. It doesn’t ask Him for a miracle for it can mimic the miracle of Moses by turning a staff into a serpent. It doesn’t even bother to ask Jesus a question at all, but rather it gives an order to the Lord by using the “if” statements: “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread” and “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down" from the temple top (Matthew 4:4-5).
Here’s how it wants to kill two birds with one stone. On the one hand, if Jesus does not do what the Devil tells Him to do, it forces Jesus to feel bad about Himself because if He doesn’t do it, the Devil could haunt Him and taunt Him, “You are no God. You have no power.” On the other hand, if Jesus obeys the Devil’s order, He only proves Himself to be an attention seeker or a street performer like any other magician. He poses no threat to the Devil because it can see a weakness in Him that it could exploit. But Jesus gives it no chance at all. It cannot use its cursed tongue to incite pride in Him. So it withdraws and looks for another way to destroy Him.
…“If you are the Son of God…,” the words keeps echoing in His mind. “Are you the Son of God?” the question grows on Him. “How do you know YOU are the Son of God? Are YOU the Lord God Himself, Jesus? How much of YOU is God? Is it only part of YOU or all of YOU? Is your soul, body, spirit God?” The idea of being “the Son of God” keeps blossoming into other questions.
Is this only an idea or is it reality? You may believe that “You are the Son of God” but You must prove it to all. Justice demands you backing up what you claim yourself to be, Jesus. How will you do it? With miracles? Others have done it. With healing? Healers do it as well. With power to raise the dead? Elijah and Elisha did it. With love? Yes but other religious founders also teach compassion and benevolence. Show us that YOU are God, Lord Jesus.
“Destroy this temple,” You say, “and in three days, I will raise it up” (John 2:18). You refuse to turn stones into loaves of bread or throw yourself off the temple top, but You tell us to destroy the temple and You will raise it in three days?! The temple of Jerusalem had been completely destroyed and now lays in ruin. It has not been raised over 2,000 years. You don’t mean that Temple, do You? But what do You mean by “this temple” Lord? John says, it means “Your Body” (John 2:21). Do You really mean it Lord Jesus? Do you mean for us to destroy “Your Body” and You will raise it up?
Indeed, that is what You mean. At the Last Supper, You give us a command: “Take and eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26). You want us to destroy You by consuming Your body. You even say: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (John 6:53-54). Now instead of turning stone into bread, you turn bread into Your Body. It is this Body Temple that You want us to consume and You will rebuild it again. You even show us a way to do it: Bleed it dry and drink from it!
This is beyond shocking, Lord! Who could believe Your Word unless someone is out of their mind? Either what you say is the truth or you must also be “out of your mind” as your own family and many of your disciples think so: “When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21) and “As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66).
You and I, who are reading this, must also be out of our minds, for we believe in what Jesus says is the truth. Even though the Temple of Jerusalem is completely destroyed, the Temple of His Body, the Church, continues to rejuvenate every time we destroy it by committing sins. Indeed, every time anyone commits a sin against God’s commandment, Jesus’s Body is pierced. This is how we bleed Him dry to death. But no one can kill Him. Jesus keeps giving Himself again at the Eucharist.
Lord Jesus, You pay for what You say. You pay with Your own Blood for the truth, that “You are the Son of God.”
Act of Repentance
Take a deep breath…., say, “O Sacred Heart.” Breathe out…, say, “I adore You.” Do this seven times. Practice it for the rest of the day. You will feel the abiding love of Jesus.
Let us pray for priests to do what Jesus does: to pay for the words they say and pray at Mass with their own life and blood.
O Mary, Queen of the Apostles: Help all your priests follow Your Son and pay for the words they say and pray at Mass.