The past couple of years I worked through Job and Amos. This Lent I’m going to look at the Book of Esther. Esther is one of the Five Scrolls or Megillah it is in the third section of the Hebrew Bible the Ketuvim or the Writings. In the Christian church it is one of the Historical books. This book is interesting as it deals with a woman Esther who becomes Queen of Persia and wife of Xerxes the great, perhaps. In Esther we hear about the events that are celebrated during the feast of Purim. This book is unique since it does not explicitly mention God.
There is an interesting thing about the book is that there are additional chapters of the book that are in the Greek Septuagint. In the Vulgate these are placed at the end of the book and depending on your translation these might be indicated by letters or as numbers. To make it more confusing some Bible translations put these within the text of the book so you get a like chapter A or 11 before the first chapter of Esther.
On Monday the season of Great Lent begin in the Eastern Church and two days later on Ash Wednesday Lent begins for the Western churches. Great Lent begins on Clean Monday which refers to the leaving behind of sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods, some individuals call it Ash Monday. Although the season liturgically begins at Vespers on Sunday night where the church is all decked out in Lenten colors and at the end of vespers there is a ceremony of mutual forgiveness, where everyone asks for forgiveness from one another. During Great Lent just like in Lent prayer, fasting and abstinence and almsgiving play a role, although in the Eastern church it is a abstinence from meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, wine, and oil. There are some caveats on this but in general it is no meat or dairy until Easter. In the West the rules get confusing sure there is the abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays during Lent, but There are other difference as in the West the alleluia disappears but in the East it actually increases since as the Bible says in Matthew that Christians should be joyous when fasting and the general since sense of unworthiness must always be tempered with hope in God’s forgiveness. Lenten Joy comes thorough where in the West there is only one week the pink Sunday and the fourth week of Lent.
In many ways they are similar and in several way the observance is different. This year both the Eastern and Western churches will celebrate the great feast of Pascha or Easter on 16 April. I hope that we all can use this Lenten season to grow deeper in our faith.
The fifth and final Luminous Mystery is the Institution of the Eucharist. This happened at the Last Supper so it’s perfect timing with Lent starting next Wednesday. If we remember that the word eucharist comes from the Greek and means thanksgiving or grateful. This is where we need to come from as we live our lives sure the world seems to suck but if we can go out there being thankful for another day and grateful to be alive. Let us remember the words of Jesus “Do this in memory of me” now this wasn’t just the sharing of the bread and wine but it points toward the general idea of giving of oneself for others just like Jesus does. The Eucharist and therefore the sacrifice of Jesus is the core of the Christian faith. This should be our focus during Lent to be more grateful and willing to sacrifice for others.
As we turn to the fourth luminous mystery, we reflect upon the Transfiguration. This is an event that seems like it would be interesting to actually be there, with Jesus, Moses and Elijah all coming together and talking to one another. It show that Jesus didn’t come to replace the Law or the Prophets but to add to them. All to often we like to think of Christianity as something completely different from the Jewish faith and in turn the Islamic faith as well. These other religions are our siblings so we should try to understand them at least a little bit better than most of us currently do. I’m sure many of us would be like Peter and would want to experience to last forever but it can’t while we are alive. We get brief mountaintop experience in our lives but we can’t stay there forever as if we did nothing gets done. Let us all think of our spiritual lives as a mountain that we are climbing sure some people we are all at different levels of our journey sure some climb faster and higher but we are all trying to get higher each year. Let us all take some time before Lent to look at our spiritual lives and see where we are and how we can improve.
We have made it to the third luminous mystery. This is a difficult one since it isn’t a single event that we can point to as “The Proclamation” Jesus does this in various ways notably in the parables. There are a bunch of parables just focusing on the Kingdom of God, the sower, the mustard seed, the pearl of great price, the hidden treasure, the leaven, and the growing seed are all great examples. In most of these the focus is on some small object a seed or yeast or some great treasure that although is small the individual takes all that they have to get the treasure or grows into something much larger. At the Easter Vigil we see this as the Pascal Candle is lit and from that single fire every candle in the church is lit as we pass on the fire up the rows of pews. Sure we all are hoping for the Kingdom to come but perhaps it is here in our small action (works of mercy) that we need to pass on to one another. Let us all keep this in mind as we begin our Lenten journey in about a month.
“Today bring to Me the Souls who have become Lukewarm, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’ For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.”
Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen.
This is the most difficult one to pray as we look inwards to ourselves. Since generally speaking we are all lukewarm at times, sometimes we burn for the faith but often times we focus more on the world around us. This is a hard things to remind us about a week after we all were being pious and serious about our faith during the season of Lent. With the fasting and the abstaining from meat along with whatever else we might have “given up” for Lent, but how many of us have already had/ done what they gave up for Lent sure the obligation is over but just because it’s not Lent isn’t an excuse for falling back to the person we were before Lent began.
This week’s reading come from Luke’s Gospel 19: 28-40, Isaiah 50: 4-7, Psalm 22, Paul’s letter to the Philippians 2: 6-11 and Luke’s Gospel 22:14-23:56.
Yes, this week we have a bunch of readings and we the congregation has a part during the later Gospel reading. We hear about suffering this week but it all begins with Joy. One would expect that Holy Week would be all about the solemnity that ends the week but we begin with the joy of the entrance into Jerusalem with the crowds shouting “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord” and spreading out their cloaks over the road. These same people would most likely be in that crowd of people at the end of the week who are clamor for Barabbas to be released and shout “Crucify him” when Pilate asks what to do with Jesus. We are the crowd cheering for Christ when he arrives but we all end up like Peter and denying that he knows Jesus even though there are people around him saying I saw you with Jesus. Sure the heart of the Mass is the Last Supper but we live our lives like it’s Good Friday/Holy Saturday not knowing what will happen to Jesus. Often times we keep our religion a secret doing about an hour on Saturday or Sunday and then forgetting about it over the week. We need to live our faith our in the world, Jesus taught us how to do this through the works of mercy. In this Year of Mercy we should be reminded of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Dives in Misericordia which says “Jesus Christ taught that man not only receives and experiences the mercy of God, but that he is also called to practice mercy towards others.”
The fruit of this mystery is Salvation and Forgiveness.
This is the final Sorrowful Mystery and the fruits are apt. With his death leading us all to salvation as St. Paul says it is through the death of Jesus that leads us to life eternal. This is the turning point in Salvation History we are living in the aftermath of this as we try to build the kingdom here on earth. Forgiveness is another thing that stems from the death of Christ. As we inch closer to the end of the season of Lent if you have the chance to go to Confession by all means go and do it. Let us also take some ownership in building up the kingdom by making the world a better place.
This week’s readings are Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Paul’s letter to the Philippians 3:8-14 and John’s Gospel 8:1-11. This week is also the Third Scrutiny so you might get the readings from Year A instead of these.
Today, the readings have us reflecting upon the past but also looking towards the future. In Isaiah we hear that we should not remember the things of the past since the Lord will make all things new. Paul tells us to live in Christ because life before that is meaningless and in John we hear about forgiveness when the woman caught in adultery is about to be stoned, Jesus says to the crowd “Let those who haven’t sinned cast the first stone.” These readings are a reminder to all of us about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it that thing that important but not many of us are keen to actually go. This is where the hope and the promise to make all things new begins by admitting that we’ve made mistakes and trying to do better in the future. All to often we are the ones with the stones wanting to throw them at someone else for their sins but we are all that woman who Jesus is willing to forgive as well. We all are sinners but we can improve ourselves and hopefully by transforming ourselves we can change the world for the better.
The fruit of this mystery is Patience.
This is one of the things that we all could ask for more of. Patience is a virtue it’s also one of the fruits of the Spirit. Of all the virtues and fruits of the spirit this is the one that it would be nice if we could have more in the world. For many of us living in a world surrounded by instant gratification and doing multiple things at the same time patience can seem like a bizarre concept. Francis de Sales once wrote “Be patient with everyone but especially with yourself; I mean that you should not be troubled about your imperfections and that you should always have courage to pick yourself up afterwards.” Let us keep this in mind as we anxiously await the end of the season of Lent, and just in general.