Her Doctrine and Morals

First Sunday in Lent

18 February 2018


The Sunday


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Dear Friends,

Immediately after His baptism by St. John the Baptist, Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted. Following the reception of graces, or the good things of God, we are called upon to practice mortification or self-denial. The gifts of God are given to us so that we may use them to do battle against evil. They are for the greater honor and glory of God, rather than for our own personal pleasure. It is said that to whom much is given, much will be required. To the extent that we have received material and spiritual gifts from God, we must practice mortification and penance.

This season of Lent is an opportunity for us to consider the riches that we have been blessed with, as well as how we have employed these riches. What have we done with the graces that were given to us to strengthen our souls? Did we exercise them and make them increase; or did we relax and allow them to grow weak as we indulged ourselves?

The history of mankind is replete with examples of men forgetting God when they are blessed by His goodness. The Israelites in the Book of Exodus show us over and over again how with the blessings of God we turn to self-indulgence and forgetfulness of God. He then takes away these gifts so that we may do penance and may once again receive His blessings. It seems that we have still not learned the lesson that: when we abound in God's goodness, we should do even more in the battle for His Kingdom — not less.

The instruction and preparation that Joseph made for Egypt is a lesson for us as well. During the years of plenty, we must prepare for the years of scarcity. Most of the time, men never think of what the future might bring when they are abounding in good things. This is especially true when we consider the spiritual life. The thought of eternity and the last things (judgment, heaven, hell) is sadly the last thing that we ever think of when it should be a frequent thought of ours. We are given this life to prepare for the next life. Now is the time to store up treasure for Heaven.

Lent is a penitential season and we should make the best use of it that we can. Our abilities to make sacrifices and to do penance are made possible because of the gifts that God has given us. What we return to God in sacrifices is very important. We must all make our sacrifices. What we need to concern ourselves with, is what are we going to return to God. It is an insult to give to God what we do not want, or what is defective. This was the mistake that Cain made when he discovered that his sacrifice was not pleasing to God, while his brother, Abel's sacrifice was pleasing to God.

God has given us everything, in recognition and understanding of this, we must offer Him, not the least that we have, but rather, the greatest, or the best. The first or best fruits belong to God. Sadly, we see that many Catholics begrudgingly offer God anything at all during the Season of Lent. We offer what we feel compelled to offer and we strive to Pharisaicaly follow the letter of the Law, trying to do the least we possibly can. This attitude portrays a lack of love or appreciation for God. He has given us way more than we need and asks that we make a sacrifice of a tithing (one-tenth) of what we have. Compelled by the law many will offer the defective or least perfect of what they have. This is the offering of Cain and is displeasing to Almighty God. God expects us to give Him the best portion — not the worst.

In the Old Testament, God demanded a pure and undefiled offering. A crippled, diseased, or stunted animal was not acceptable. The material things that were sacrificed in the Old Testament prefigured the Sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross. The sacrifices today are united with His sacrifice for us. It is to be a recognition of God's sovereignty over us as well a humble reparation for our transgressions. Having offended God, our sacrifices are meant to appease His judgment against us. The sacrifice that we can make is not needed by God — He has everything and has even given to us what we sacrifice to Him. It is a symbol of our very selves. The love by which we give these things to God is a testament of the love we have for Him and the desire to give ourselves to Him.

With these things in mind, let us make the best offering (sacrifice) that we can during this Lenten Season. With generous hearts and minds, we make offerings of the best we have as tokens of our entire beings. These tokens are like promises of our love and the desire to give our entirety to Him as He has given Himself completely to us. It is a testimony of our preferential love of Him — in return for the love that He has for us. We have an abundance from God, let us return generously and freely to Him a portion of these things with hearts that are filled with the love of Him.

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