Our last Lent?

Our Last Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday.

We “do” this every year at the beginning of the season of Lent. It is a tradition and marker. Green gives way to purple, fish frys blosom, Stations of the Cross are observed, we will go to confession, Easter Sunday is in the distance. Today, don’t focus on all of that. Today, focus on the Big Picture™.

When you go to church today, look at the lines of people waiting to receive ashes. They are from every culture, rich and poor, young and old. Not all will be with us next year. For some, while they don’t know it yet, this is their last Ash Wednesday. I wonder how many truly understand that possibility. Most are probably in reasonably good health and believe it likely that their earthly pilmgramage has at least a few more years. I hope so, but have been to enough funerals to know how wrong that can be.

Consider too, this could be your last Ash Wednesday. If by God’s grace it isn’t, then know for certain that some future one will be. Today we should reflect on that.

Dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.

Funerals

Funerals

Have you been to a Catholic funeral? Like every funeral there are the deceased’s friends and loved ones who feel the pain of their loss. There is the final goodbye and some closure that will never be enough. They will be missed and the world feels somehow less with them no longer in it.

All certainly true, but that must NOT be the primary focus of their funeral. Nor is it remotely correct to canonize the person as a saint (“they are in heaven now,” “they are with the Lord,” or the wrong on several levels “they are an angel now”). That is for God to judge. In fact, if we assert that the person is in heaven then we deny any need to do what we actually can and should do: pray for them. Pray that they died in God’s friendship in final perseverance. Pray that they will soon be at true peace with Him.

We do this in the context of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The most sublime prayer we can offer to God, in the presence of His Son on the altar of sacrifice before us. We are joined by all the angels and saints in offering worship and thanksgiving to our most merciful judge.

Fr. Mike Schmitz just posted this piece on The Real Purpose of Funerals:

Here is the outstanding homily (begins around the 2:25 mark) by Fr. Paul Scalia given at his dad’s funeral Mass:

Finally, funeral homilies are also an opportunity to reach people who have fallen away or who are otherwise not fully embracing their faith (or may never have had it). The end of one such homily given by Msgr. Charles Pope is an excellent example:

A Reminder

When you are done celebrating or protesting, remember this:

Hope Obama

Hope Trump Hope Jesus

Test Day

Tuesday is YOUR big test. As a Catholic or other Christian, will you pass?

Thou shall not kill.

One candidate has pledged to do everything in her power to promote and further entrench abortion. It is a top priority for her and if elected, she will be able to do great harm. Through her Supreme Court appointments the damage will last far, far beyond her presidency.

She can not do it without your help.

Life is a top priority for God Almighty. Will you be in obedience to His will when called before His throne to account for your vote?

Test Day

NBC Meet the Press

What saves us?

What saves us

We Christians are a confused lot. All of us would agree that we are saved by the cross of Christ, but many are fuzzy on the details. That extends to what we must do, if anything, to be saved.

Some would say we need not do anything. Many say we need only have faith. A few accuse others of trying to merit heaven by their works. Many say it is by baptism or perhaps only through baptism of those who have reached the age of reason. Others say that baptism is symbolic and we are saved only by accepting Christ as our Lord and Savior, typically responding to an “altar call.”

They can not all be right! Yet, there is some truth in all of these conflicting ideas.

The short answer is that the baptized are saved by grace through faith. Grace comes to us as God’s infinite divine mercy, fully merited for us by Christ. It is a pure gift which we are free to accept or reject. Grace is not forced upon us. We accept it — we “open the gift” — through faith.

Faith is believing, but alone without a living response would be but an empty declaration. Faith without works is dead. St. James is quite direct and powerful on this point (James 2:14-26). It is indeed, the only place in scripture where faith and works are mentioned together and only to stress the futility of “faith alone”. As St. James notes, even the demons believe in God.

This in no way implies that Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient or that we could merit salvation through our efforts. Rather, our faith must be fruitful (Matthew 7:16-20), reflecting God’s will:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’

Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

Consider two men, both of whom self-identify as farmers. The first man is a avid reader about all aspects of farming and knows the topic thoroughly. His fields however, lay uncultivated and bear no fruit. The second man may be less of a farming expert than the first, but works in the fields – plowing, planting, harvesting.

Both of these men know farming, but which one would we call a farmer? So it is with Christians.

Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.

As it is written: “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

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