(LifeSiteNews) — Today’s station is in the church of St. Laurence, in Paneperna, one of those which the piety of the Faithful of Rome has built in honor of this the most celebrated of the martyrs of the Holy City.
We beseech thee, O Lord, mercifully to regard the devotion of thy people; that mortifying their bodies by fasting, their minds may be refreshed by good works. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Lesson from the Prophet Ezekiel 18:1-19
In those days: The word of the Lord came to me, saying: What is the meaning that you use among you this parable as a proverb in the land of Israel, saying, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the teeth of the children are set on edge?’ As I live, saith the Lord God, this parable shall be no more to you a proverb in Israel. Behold all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth, the same shall die. And if a man be just, and do judgment and justice, and hath not eaten upon the mountain, nor lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, and hath not defiled his neighbor’s wife, nor come near to a menstruous woman; and hath not wronged any man, but hath restored the pledge to the debtor, hath taken nothing away by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment, hath not lent upon usury, nor taken any increase, hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, and hath executed true judgment between man and man, hath walked in my commandments, and kept my judgments, to do according to the truth; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God.
These words of the prophet declare to us the wonderful mercy of God towards the gentiles, who are preparing to pass from darkness to light by the grace of holy baptism. The Jews had a favorite proverb: “The Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the teeth of the Children are set on edge.” But God assures us, even in the Old Testament, that sins are personal, that is, they belong to him who commits them, and to no one else; so that the son of a wicked father, if he walk in the path of righteousness, shall find mercy and salvation.
The apostles and their disciples preached the Gospel to the gentiles, and the gentiles were obedient to the call; they were the children of idolaters, and yet they were seen flocking to the font of regeneration, abjuring the evil ways of their fathers, and becoming the objects of God’s love. The same happened in the conversion of the barbarians of the west; it is happening now in our own times, among infidel nations; and many will be the catechumens who, at the coming Easter, will receive the sacrament of baptism.
God frequently visits children with temporal punishments, because of the sins of their parents; it is a providence, which acts as a check upon men, deterring from them the evil out of fear of bringing misery upon their families. But in the moral order, each individual is treated according to his own merits or demerits; and as God does not impute to a virtuous son the iniquities of the father, so neither do the virtues of the father cover the son’s iniquity.
Philip the Fair was the grandson of St. Louis; and Wulfere, the wicked king of Mercia, was father of the two saints, Wulfhad and Ruffin. Similar contrasts are often found in families, for, as the Scripture says: “God hath left man in the hand of his own counsel… Before man is life and death, good and evil; that which he shall choose, shall be given unto him.” (Ecclesiasticus 15:14, 18)
And yet, such is the mercy of the Lord our God, that if a man have made a bad choice, but afterwards cast away from himself the evil, and turn to what is good, he shall surely live, and his repentance shall restore to him what he had forfeited.
Sequel of the Holy Gospel according to Matthew 15:21-28
At that time: Jesus went from thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And behold a woman of Canaan who came out of those coasts, crying out, said to him: Have mercy on me O Lord, thou Son of David: my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil. Who answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying: Send her away, for she crieth after us. And he answering, said: I was not sent but to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel. But she came, and adored him, saying: Lord, help me. Who answering said: It is not good to take the bread of the children, and to cast it to the dogs. But she said: Yea, Lord; for the whelps also eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters. Then Jesus answering, said to her: O woman, great is thy faith: be it done to thee as thou wilt. And her daughter was cured from that hour.
Jesus is in admiration at this woman’s faith; he praises her for it; he would have us imitate her. And yet she was a gentile; probably she had been an idolatress; but maternal love induces her to come to Jesus, and throw herself at his feet. She obtains from him her daughter’s cure, and undoubtedly her own conversion.
It is an illustration of the consoling promise we have just been hearing from the prophet Ezekiel – there are chosen souls in every race, even in that cursed one of Canaan. Our Lord treats this woman with apparent harshness, although he intend to grant her what she asks: he would have her faith gain strength by being tried, and, by the trial, deserve to be rewarded.
Let us pray during these days of mercy with persevering confidence. The daughter of this Canaanite woman was troubled by a devil, that is, her body was possessed by an evil spirit. How many are there, everywhere in the Church, whose souls are a prey to Satan, by their being in the state of mortal sin! Are they conscious of their misery? Do they beg of our Lord to have mercy on them, and deliver them? And if, at first, he defer their pardon, do they humble themselves like this woman of our Gospel, who confesses that she quite deserves this contempt wherewith Jesus seems to treat her?
Lost sheep of the House of Israel! make good use of this holy season, when your Good Shepherd is so nigh unto you. Before forty days are elapsed, he will be put to death, and the people that shall deny him shall not be His. (Daniel 9:26) Before forty days are over, we shall be celebrating the anniversary of this great sacrifice; and the sinner that shall not be converted from the error of his ways, and shall not have come to Jesus, as did this humble woman of Canaan – will deserve to be forever rejected.
Let us, then, be earnest in the great work of our conversion, and fit ourselves for pardon. Such is the generosity of our Heavenly Father, that if we desire, with all the sincerity of our soul, to be once more his faithful children, he will give us more than the crumbs which fall from his table; he will give us Jesus, the Bread of Life; and oh! what a pledge of reconciliation is that!
Bow down your heads to God.
Grant, Lord, we beseech thee, that all Christian people may acknowledge what they profess, and love the heavenly mystery they so often approach. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Let us read this admirable Preface, taken from the Mozarabic Missal. It shows us how Jesus is the Bread of Life, which supports us during our fast. It will not be the less acceptable, because it is almost word for word a repetition of one already given from the Ambrosian Rite.
(Illatio. Dominica III. Quadragesimæ.)
It is meet and just, yea truly right and available to salvation, that we should give thanks, O Almighty Father, to thee, and to our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son; in whom, they that fast, find the nourishment of their faith, the advancement of their hope, the strengthening of their charity. For he is the true and living Bread, who is the nourishment of eternity, and the food of virtue. For he is thy Word, by whom all things were made; the Bread, not only of the souls of men, but likewise of the very Angels. With this Bread with thy servant Moses fed, when, receiving thy Law, he fasted forty days and forty nights, and abstained from bodily food, that he might be the better able to partake of thy sweetness. He lived and grew strong on thy Word, of whose sweetness his spirit drank, and with whose light his face did beam. Hence, he felt not hunger, and forgot all earthly food, for the sight of thy glory shone upon him, and, through the infusion of the Holy Spirit, he ate interiorly of the word. To us, likewise, thou ceasest not to administer this Bread; yea, thou biddest us unceasingly hunger after it. When we feed on this Flesh, we are strengthened; when we drink of this Blood, we are cleansed.