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"Christ in the Desert," by Ivan Kramskoi, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

(LifeSiteNews) –– The station, in Rome, is in the Church of Saint Xystus, on the Appian Road. It now goes under the name of Saint Xystus the Old, in order to distinguish it from another church that is dedicated to the same holy pope and martyr.


Grant, Lord, we beseech thee, that being improved by this wholesome fast, we may abstain from all pernicious vice, and by that means, may easily obtain thy mercy Through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Lesson from the Book of Exodus 20:12-24

Thus saith the Lord God: Honor thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest be long lived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, neither shalt thou desire his wife, nor his servant, nor his handmaid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his.

And all the people saw the voices and the flames, and the sound of the trumpet, and the mount smoking; and being terrified and struck with fear, they stood afar off, saying to Moses: Speak thou to us, and we will hear; let not the Lord speak to us, lest we die.

And Moses said to the people: Fear not; for God is come to prove you, and that the dread of him might be in you, and you should not sin. And the people stood afar off.

But Moses went to the dark cloud wherein God was. And the Lord said to Moses: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: You have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. You shall not make gods of silver, nor shall you make to yourselves gods of gold. You shall make an altar of earth unto me, and you shall offer upon it your holocausts and peace-offerings, your sheep and oxen, in every place where the memory of my Name shall be.

The Church reminds us today of the divine commandments which relate to our duties towards our neighbor, beginning with that which enjoins respect to parents. Now that the faithful are intent on the great work of the conversion and amendment of their lives, it is well that they should be reminded that their duties towards their fellow men are prescribed by God himself.

Hence, it was God whom we offended when we sinned against our neighbor.

God first tells us what He Himself has a right to receive from our hands: He bids us adore and serve Him; He forbids the worship of idols; He enjoins the observance of the sabbath, and prescribes sacrifices and ceremonies: but at the same time, He commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and assures us that He will be their avenger when we have wronged them, unless we repair the injury.

The voice of Jehovah on Sinai is not less commanding when it proclaims what our duties are to our neighbor, than when it tells us our obligations to our Creator. Thus enlightened as to the origin of our duties, we shall have a clearer view of the state of our conscience, and of the atonement required of us by divine justice.

But if the Old Law that was written on tablets of stone thus urges upon us the precept of the love of our neighbor, how much more will not the New Law — that was signed with the blood of Jesus when dying upon the Cross for his ungrateful brethren — insist that our observance of fraternal charity?

These are the two laws on which we shall be judged; let us, therefore, carefully observe what they command on this head, that thus we may prove ourselves to be Christians, according to those words of our Savior: By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another. (Luke 13:35)


Sequel of the Holy Gospel according to Matthew 15:1-20

At that time: The Scribes and Pharisees came from Jerusalem to Jesus, and saying to him: Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the ancients? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread.

But he answering, said to them: Why do you also transgress the commandment of God for your tradition? For God said: “Honor thy father and mother:” and “He that shall curse father or mother, let him die the death.” But you say: Whosoever shall say to his father or mother, The gift whatsoever proceedeth from me, shall profit thee; and he shall not honor his father or mother, and you have made void the commandment of God for your tradition.

Hypocrites, well has Isaias prophesied of you, saying: “This people honoreth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines and commandments of men.” And having called together the multitudes unto him, he said to them: Hear ye and understand. Not that which goeth into the mouth, defileth a man; but what cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.

Then came his disciples, and said to him: Dost thou know that the Pharisees, when they heard this word, were scandalized? But he answering, said: Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.

And Peter answering, said to him: Expound to us this parable. But he said: Are you also yet without understanding? Do you not understand, that whatsoever entereth into the mouth, goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the privy? But the things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man. For out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man. But to eat with unwashed hands, doth not defile a man.

The Law that was given by God to Moses enjoined a great number of exterior practices and ceremonies; and they that were faithful among the Jews, zealously and carefully fulfilled them. Jesus himself, though He was the Divine Lawgiver, most humbly complied with them. But the Pharisees had added their own superstitious traditions to these divine laws and ordinances, and made religion consist in the observance of these fanciful inventions.

Our Savior here tells the people not to be imposed upon by such teaching, and instructs them as to what is the real meaning of the external practices of the Law. The Pharisees prescribed a great many ablutions or washings to be observed during the course of the day. They would have it that they who eat without having washed their hands (and indeed the whole body, some time during the day), were defiled, and that the food they thus partook of was unclean, by reason, as they said, that they themselves had become defiled by having come near or touched objects which were specified by their whims.

According to the law of God, these objects were perfectly innocent; but according to the law of the Pharisees, almost everything was contagious, and the only escape was endless washings! Jesus would have the Jews throw off this humiliating and arbitrary yoke, and reproaches the Pharisees for having corrupted and made void the law of Moses.

He tells them that there is no creature which is intrinsically and of its own nature unclean; and that a man’s conscience cannot be defiled by the mere fact of his eating certain kinds of food. Evil thoughts and evil deeds, these, says our Savior, are the things that defile a man.

Some heretics have interpreted these words as being an implicit condemnation of the exterior practices ordained by the Church and more especially of abstinence. To such reasoners and teachers we may justly apply what our Savior said to the Pharisees: They are blind and leaders of the blind.

From this – that the sins, into which a man falls by his use of material things, are only sins on account of the malice of the will, which is spiritual — it does not follow that therefore, man may, without any sin, make use of material things, when God or his Church forbid their use. God forbade our first parents, under pain of death, to eat the fruit of a certain tree; they ate it, and sin was the result of their eating. Was the fruit unclean of its own nature? No; it was a creature of God as well as the other fruits of Eden; but our first parents sinned by eating it, because their doing so was an act of disobedience.

Again, when God gave his Law on Mount Sinai, he forbade the Hebrews to eat the flesh of certain animals; if they ate it, they were guilty of sin, not because this sort of food was intrinsically evil or cursed, but because they that partook of it disobeyed the Lord. The commandments of the Church regarding fasting and abstinence are of a similar nature with these.

It is that we may secure to ourselves the blessing of Christian penance—in other words, it is for our spiritual interest that the Church bids us abstain and fast at certain times. If we violate her law, it is not the food we take that defiles us, but the resisting a sacred power, which our Savior, in yesterday’s Gospel, told us we are to obey under the heavy penalty which he expressed in those words: He that will not hear the Church, shall be counted as a heathen and publican.

Bow down your heads to God.

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we who beg the favor of thy protection, being delivered from all evils, may serve thee with a secure mind. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us take for today one of the solemn Supplications offered to God by the Gothic Church of Spain during Lent.

(Breviar. Mozarab. In Dominica Quadragesimæ)

℣. To thee, O Redeemer of all mankind! O sovereign King! we raise up our tearful eyes. Graciously hear, O Christ, the prayers of thy suppliants.

℟. And have mercy.

℣. O thou that art the right hand of the Father, the Corner Stone, the Way of Salvation, the Gate of heaven, wash away the stains of our sin.

℟. And have mercy.

℣. We beseech thy Majesty, O God! Bow down thy divine ear to our sighs, and mercifully pardon our crimes.

℟. And have mercy.

℣. We confess unto thee the crimes we have committed, we make known to thee, with a contrite heart, what is hidden in our conscience. Do thou, O Redeemer, in thy clemency forgive.

℟. And have mercy.

℣. Thou wast led captive though innocent; thou wast led, and didst not resist. Thou wast condemned by false witnesses for the wicked. O Jesus! Save us, whom thou hast redeemed.

℟. And have mercy.

This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875). LifeSiteNews is grateful to The Ecu-Men website for making this classic work easily available online.