Spiritual Checkup: Fourth Sunday of Lent

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We are at the half-way point in our Lenten Mission. Last week, we continued on our mission by looking at the second portion of the Great and First Commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your …soul…” (Mt 22:37b). This week, we will look at the third portion:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your… mind.” Matthew 22:37c

What does it mean to love God with all your mind? Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines mind as “The intellectual or rational faculty in man; the understanding; the intellect; the power that conceives, judges, or reasons… the faculties of thinking, willing, choosing, and the like.” That sounds like our conscience.

Now, let’s look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about the formation of our conscience…

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Spiritual Checkup: Third Sunday of Lent

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Last week, we continued on our Lenten Mission by looking at the first portion of the Great and First Commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…” (Mt 22:37a). This week, we will look at the second portion:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your…soul…” Matthew 22:37b

What does it mean to love God with all your soul? First, we must look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about the human soul…

Endowed with “a spiritual and immortal” soul (Gaudium et Spes, §14:2), the human person is “the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake” (GS, §24:3). From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.[1]

God created each and every human person out of love and for intimate friendship with Himself. He endowed each person with an immortal soul and His desire is for each of us to spend all eternity with Him in heaven. What should our response be to such an unmerited gift?

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Spiritual Checkup: Second Sunday of Lent

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Last week, we embarked on a Lenten Mission to give our hearts a spiritual checkup. Throughout the mission, we are focusing on this key passage of Scripture:

And one of [the Pharisees], a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40

Our journey began by examining the priorities in our life with the goal of God being first place in all that we do. This week, we will be looking at the first portion of the Great and First Commandment:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…” Matthew 22:37a

What does it mean to love God with all your heart? First, we must ask the question, “What is love?” St. John the Evangelist in his first letter tells us “God is love.” In full context, he says:

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Lenten Mission: A Spiritual Checkup

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Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:23-24

This Lent we are taking you on a Lenten Mission, a spiritual checkup if you will. This is the key passage for our Lenten reflection:

And one of [the Pharisees], a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40 (emphasis added)

Each Sunday during Lent, we will meditate on a portion of this passage. This will require slowing down from our normal routines so we can listen to God through His written word. With all meekness and humbleness, as we reflect on the two greatest commandments, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the condition of your spirit. Meditate and pray on each verse. What is the Spirit revealing to you? Do you need to repent of any spiritual sickness? Ask God to forgive you of your shortfalls. Pray for God to give you the grace to be better in the future. Make a commitment on how you are going to grow in one area.

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To Have, To Hold, To Honor

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World Marriage Sunday 2021

To bear witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage is one of the most precious and most urgent tasks of Christian couples in our time.[1]

Today the Church celebrates World Marriage Sunday. Fittingly, this year it coincides with the Feast of St. Valentine, patron saint of happy marriages. “To Have, To Hold, To Honor” is the theme designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. According to the Bishops, it is a time to reflect on the gift marriage is to our Church and our country, as well as an opportunity for couples to build up their own marriages.

Indeed, marriage is a gift to the Church and our country. St. John Paul II said, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.”[2] The family is the bedrock of society. The health of our culture and nation depends on the health of families. We are living in troubling times and many of our social ills are related to the breakup of the family.

What does a healthy family look like? It is a family that fulfills its mission. St. John Paul II, in his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio (The Family in the Modern World), said…

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February: A Month Dedicated to the Holy Family

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Holy Family Stained Glass_02

The family is indeed—more than any other human reality— the place where an individual can exist “for himself” through the sincere gift of self. St. John Paul II[1]

The Church dedicates the month of February to the Holy Family. The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph is the model of virtue for all Christian households. In these troubling times, when families are no longer valued and are disintegrating, it is of paramount importance that we emulate this virtuous family.

The Holy Family lived out what the Church calls the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance and the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Cardinal is the Latin word for “hinge.” All of the other virtues hinge around these four virtues. The higher theological virtues of faith, hope, and love are the fruit of the cardinal virtues.

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Marriage: A Sacrament of Service

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Wedding Rings on Bible

In the Catholic Church, there are seven Sacraments. A Sacrament is a visible sign of an invisible reality, instituted by Christ, which imparts grace. There are:

Three Sacraments of Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist.

Two Sacraments of Healing: Penance and the Anointing of the Sick.

Two Sacraments of Service: Holy Orders and Matrimony.[1]

The first thing you should notice is that marriage is a Sacrament of Service. That should get your attention. Marriage is to be other-focused, the pouring out of your life for the good of your spouse and any children with which you may be blessed.

All other Sacraments were instituted by Christ, whereas marriage was elevated by Christ to a Sacrament. It is the “primordial” Sacrament being created by God (see Genesis 1 and 2). The Catechism of the Catholic Church says “Christian spouses are fortified and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state”[2] by the Sacrament.

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Feast of the Espousals of Mary and Joseph

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Espousal of Joseph and Mary

Marriage of Mary
Domenico Ghirlandaio, c. 1486 – 1490
Santa Maria Novella Basilica, Florence, Italy

You give the Church the joy of celebrating the feast of the Holy Spouses, Mary and Joseph: in her, full of grace and worthy Mother of your Son, you signify the beginning of the Church, the resplendently beautiful bride of Christ; you chose him, the wise and faithful servant, as Husband of the Virgin Mother of God, and made him head of your family, to guard as a father your only Son, conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Preface to the Mass, Feast of the Espousals of Mary and Joseph

Today is the lesser-known Feast of the Espousals of Mary and Joseph. It is also known as the Feast of the Holy Spouses.

This feast was first celebrated on August 29, 1517, when Pope Leo X granted the Nuns of the Annunciation permission to do so. In the 19th and 20th century, permission was given for this feast to be celebrated on January 23, though this varies in different parts of the world. This feast is not on the universal liturgical calendar of the Church and is typically celebrated at various shrines dedicated to St Joseph.

St John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, discusses the importance of St Joseph in the Holy Family. The marriage of Joseph and Mary is the prototype and model of Christian marriage and an example of the profound union of hearts and spousal self-gift that is meant to be the reality of all married couples.

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Pray for Our Nation and Our Families

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heal-our-land

We are living in tumultuous times in the United States. We are a divided nation; there is no common ground to rally around. The very existence of our country as founded is on shaky ground. Our nation has been besieged by unrest and rioting. A dark cloud of division and strife is covering our land. Families are crumbing at an alarming rate. We are living in a time of despair, despondency, and hopelessness. Let us rise up and call out to God to heal our nation and our families.

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” Matthew 8:23-25

This story from scripture is not about the storm. As in our lives, the biggest issue is not the crisis. The issue at hand is whether we are trusting in the Lord to bring us through the storms of life. An even bigger issue is whether we can trust in Jesus for his protection and care even when He does not appear to be paying attention to our needs.

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The Baptism of the Lord

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The Baptism of the Christ
Andrea del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1475

It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Mark 1:9-11

Today the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus humbled himself to receive John’s baptism of repentance not to purify himself but to purify you and me. Because of Jesus’ baptism, you can be confident that God has “grasped you by the hand” (Isa 42:6 – 1st reading at today’s Mass), saving you from the oppression of Satan, sin, and death. Through this act, we too are made beloved sons and daughters of the heavenly King, pleasing to Him.

In our restoration work with couples who are struggling in their marriages, we see many individuals with father wounds. These wounds effect their understanding of God the Father’s incredible love for them. It is through our earthly father’s love, mercy, and forgiveness that we come to know who God the Father is. If we have not received these from our earthly father, our view of God is distorted. If our father was harsh, critical, or overbearing, this will be our image of God the Father.

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