PS: First Sunday of Lent

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Each week, a Dominican member of the Province of St. Joseph’s Preaching Advisory Board prepares this Preacher’s Sketchbook in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Mass. The idea of the Preacher’s Sketchbook is to take quotations from the authority of the Church–the Pope, the Fathers of the Church, documents of the Councils, the saints–that can help spark ideas for the Sunday homily. Just as an artist’s sketchbook preserves ideas for later elaboration, so we hope the Preacher’s Sketchbook will provide some ideas for homiletical elaboration.

Sketchbook

Bl. Pope John Paul II

Then we cried to the Lord … and the Lord heard our voice” (Dt 26,7). The profession of faith of the people of Israel recounted in the first reading presents the basic element around which the whole of the Old Testament tradition revolves: deliverance from slavery in Egypt and the birth of the chosen people.  The Passover of the Old Covenant constitutes the preparation and proclamation of the definitive Passover in which the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world will be sacrificed.  Dear brothers and sisters, at the beginning of the Lenten journey let us return to the roots of our faith to prepare through prayer, penance, fasting and charity to participate with hearts inwardly renewed in Christ’s Passover.  May the Blessed Virgin help us with worthy fruits of conversion during this Lent to share Christ’s journey from the desert of temptations to Jerusalem, in order to celebrate with him the Passover of our Redemption.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, q. 85, a. 3

A “sacrifice,” properly speaking, requires that something be done to the thing which is offered to God, for instance animals were slain and burnt, the bread is broken, eaten, blessed. The very word signifies this, since “sacrifice” is so called because a man does something sacred [facit sacrum]. On the other hand an “oblation” is properly the offering of something to God even if nothing be done thereto, thus we speak of offering money or bread at the altar, and yet nothing is done to them. Hence every sacrifice is an oblation, but not conversely. “First-fruits” are oblations, because they were offered to God, according to Deut. 26, but they are not a sacrifice, because nothing sacred was done to them. “Tithes,” however, are neither a sacrifice nor an oblation, properly speaking, because they are not offered immediately to God, but to the ministers of Divine worship.

Bl. Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor

There is no doubt that Christian moral teaching, even in its Biblical roots, acknowledges the specific importance of a fundamental choice which qualifies the moral life and engages freedom on a radical level before God. It is a question of the decision of faith, of the obedience of faith “by which man makes a total and free self-commitment to God, offering ‘the full submission of intellect and will to God as he reveals’ “. This faith, which works through love, comes from the core of man, from his “heart”, whence it is called to bear fruit in works.

Bl. John Paul II, Catechesi tradendae

In order that the sacrificial offering of his or her faith should be perfect, the person who becomes a disciple of Christ has the right to receive “the word of faith” not in mutilated, falsified or diminished form but whole and entire, in all its rigor and vigor. Unfaithfulness on some point to the integrity of the message means a dangerous weakening of catechesis and putting at risk the results that Christ and the ecclesial community have a right to expect from it. It is certainly not by chance that the final command of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel bears the mark of a certain entireness: “All authority…has been given to me…make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all…I am with you always.” This is why, when a person first becomes aware of “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus,” whom he has encountered by faith, and has the perhaps unconscious desire to know Him more extensively and better,” hearing about Him and being taught in Him, as the truth is in Jesus, there is no valid pretext for refusing Him any part whatever of that knowledge.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 41, a. 2

I answer that As stated above, Christ of His own free-will exposed Himself to be tempted by the devil, just as by His own free-will He submitted to be killed by His members; else the devil would not have dared to approach Him. Now the devil prefers to assail a man who is alone, for, as it is written, “if a man prevail against one, two shall withstand him.” And so it was that Christ went out into the desert, as to a field of battle, to be tempted there by the devil. Hence Ambrose says on Luke 4,1, that “Christ was led into the desert for the purpose of provoking the devil. For had he,” i.e. the devil, “not fought, He,” i.e. Christ, “would not have conquered.” He adds other reasons, saying that “Christ in doing this set forth the mystery of Adam’s delivery from exile,” who had been expelled from paradise into the desert, and “set an example to us, by showing that the devil envies those who strive for better things.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2096

Adoration is the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God is to acknowledge him as God, as the Creator and Savior, the Lord and Master of everything that exists, as infinite and merciful Love. “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve,” says Jesus, citing Deuteronomy.

Fr Pius Pietrzyk, OP