(LifeSiteNews) — The station for today is in the celebrated Basilica St. Mary’s across the Tiber. It was consecrated in the third century under the pontificate of St. Callixtus, and was the first church built in Rome in honor of Our Blessed Lady.
Grant us, we beseech thee, Lord, the assistance of thy ice; that whilst we duly ply ourselves to fasting and prayer, we may be delivered from all enemies both of soul and body. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lesson from the Prophet Jeremias 17:5-10.
Thus saith the Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like tamaric in the desert, and he shall not see when good shall come; but he shall dwell in dryness in the desert, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed be the man that trusteth in the Lord, and the Lord shall be his confidence. And he shall be as a tree that is planted by the waters, and spreadeth out its roots towards moisture; and it shall not fear when the heat cometh. And the leaf thereof shall be green, and in the time of drought it shall not be solicitous, neither shall it cease at any time to bring forth fruit. The heart is perverse above all things, and unsearchable; who can know it? I am the Lord that search the heart, and prove the reins; who give to every one according to his way, and according to the fruit of his devices, saith the Lord Almighty.
The Epistle and Gospel for today are intended as instructions upon Christian morality. Let us, for a moment, turn away our eyes from the sad spectacle of the plot which is being got up against our Redeemer by his enemies; let us today think of our own sins, and how to apply a remedy.
The Prophet Jeremias here gives us the description of two classes of men: to which class do we belong? There are some men who make flesh their arm; that is to say, they only care for the present life and for created things; and this disposition of mind necessarily leads them to frequent violations of the commandments of their Creator. It was so with us, when we sinned: we lost sight of our last end, and the threefold concupiscence blinded us.
Let us lose no time, but return to the Lord our God; a delay might bring upon us that curse which our prophet says overtakes the unrepenting sinner: “he shall not see good, when good shall come.”
The holy season of Lent is fast advancing; the choicest graces are being daily offered us: woe to the man whose mind is distracted by the fashion of this world that passeth away, (1 Corinthians 7:31) and takes no thought for eternity and heaven and, even in this time of grace, is like tamaric, a worthless weed of the desert.
Oh! how numerous is this class! and how terrible is their spiritual indifference! Pray for them, O ye faithful children of the Church, pray for them without ceasing. Offer up your penances and your almsgivings for them. Despair not; and remember that each year, many straying sheep are brought to the fold by such intercession as this.
The prophet next describes the man that trusteth in the Lord; his whole hope is in God, and his whole care is to serve Him and do His blessed will. He is like a beautiful tree that is planted near a stream of water, with its leaf ever green, and its fruit abundant. “I have appointed you,” says our Redeemer, “that you should go, and should bring forth fruit, and your fruit should remain.” (John 15:16)
Let us become this favored and ever fruitful tree. The Church, during this holy time, is pouring out upon our hearts rich streams of God’s grace: let us faithful welcome them. The Lord searchest the heart: if he find that our desire to be converted is sincere, what an Easter will not the coming one be to us!
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke 16:19-31.
At that time: Jesus said to the Pharisees: There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and feasted sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table, and no one did give him; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the Angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died, and he was buried in hell. And lifting up his eyes, when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is fixed a great chaos; so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from thence come hither. And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house; for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. But he said: No, father Abraham, but if any one went to them from the dead, they will do penance. And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe if one rise again from the dead.
The commandments of God cannot be broken with impunity; he that sins, shall be punished. This is the teaching of today’s Gospel; and after reading it, we exclaim with the apostle: “How fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God!” (Hebrews 10:31)
What a terrible truth is here told us! A man is in the enjoyment of every comfort and luxury this life can give; when suddenly death surprises him, and he is buried in hell! In the midst of those eternal burnings, he asks for a drop of water, and that drop is refused him. Other men, whom he knew on earth a few hours ago, are now in the abode of eternal happiness, and a great chaos separates him from them forever.
Oh! what misery! To be in despair for endless ages! And yet there are men that live and die without giving so much as one day to think upon hell! Happy, then, are they that fear, for this fear will aid them to lighten that weight of their sins, which would drag them into the bottomless pit.
Alas! what strange darkness has come upon the mind of man as a consequence of sin! People that are shrewd, and prudent, and far-sighted in everything that regards their temporal concerns, are mere idiots and fools in every question that regards eternity. Can we imagine anything more frightful than their surprise when they awaken in the next world and find themselves buried in hell?
Observe, too, that our Savior, in order to make His instruction more impressive, has not here described the condemnation of one of those whose crimes scandalize the neighborhood, and make even worldlings look upon him as a pure prey of hell. The history he gives us is that of a man who led a quiet life; he was agreeable in company, and sought after; he was respected, and did honor to the position he held in society. He is not accused of any public scandals; there is no mention made of any atrocious crime; our Savior simply says of him: “He was clothed in purple and fine linen, and feasted sumptuously every day.”
It is true, he was not charitable to the poor man who lay at his gate; but he did not ill-treat him: he allowed him to lie there, and did not even insult his misery. When, then, was this rich man condemned to burn eternally in that fire which God created for the wicked
It is because a man who leads a life of luxury and feasting, such as he lived – never thinking of eternity – caring for nothing but this world, which we are told to use as though we used it not, (1 Corinthians 7:31) – with nothing about him of the spirit of the Cross of Christ: such a man as this is already a victim to the triple concupiscence of pride, avarice, and luxury; he is their slave, and seems determined to continue so, for he never makes an effort to throw off their tyranny.
He has yielded himself up to them; and they have worked their work in him, the death of the soul. It was not enough that he should not ill-treat the poor man that sat at his gate, he ought to have shown him kindness and charity, for such is God’s commandment. His very dogs had more compassion than he; therefore, his condemnation and perdition were most just.
But, had he been told of his duty? Yes, he had the Scriptures; he had Moses and the Prophets; nay more, he had Jesus and the Church. Men who are leading a life like this are now surrounded by the graces of the holy season of Lent. What excuse will they have, if they so far neglect them, that they do not even give themselves the trouble to think of them? They will have turned their Lent into judgment against themselves, and it will have been but one great step nearer to eternal misery.
Bow down your heads to God.
Be favorable, O Lord, to thy servants, and hear their prayers in the grant of everlasting mercy; that glorying in thee their Creator and Governor, they may have all things perfected and perpetuated to them. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Hymn of Prudentius, which we have followed with so much interest during this week, thus closes.
O Jesus! Teacher of holy doctrine! grant that we may all now walk courageously in the path thou hast marked out or thy followers; that our spirit, having subdued gluttony, may in all things triumph and be master.
O blessed fasting! It is the object of the devil’s hatred: it is dear to the King of earth and heaven; it makes the great sacrifice of the altar acceptable; it stirs up the faith of the drowsy heart; it takes from the soul the rust that clogs her power.
As fire is quenched by water, or as snow is melted by a scorching sun; so, (but by higher law,) are the wild weeds of our base sins uprooted by the sacred power of fasting, when joined with charitable alms unstintingly bestowed.
For this, too, is a great virtue, — to clothe the naked, to feed the hungry, to kindly help the needy, and to behave towards all, both rich and poor, as members of the one great family of mankind.
Right blessed is he, whose right hand works the praiseworthy deed of lavish alms, but whose left hand knows not the sweet charity done! Such a man shall receive eternal riches, and interest a hundred-fold shall be given to him that thus lends to the poor.
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.