Thinking about Lent and Penance


The Christmas Season ended a few weeks ago and we’re already for Lent.  Ash Wednesday is around the corner, the sixth March.

Birth of Jesus

It appears to us that the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary comes before his incarnation and birth at Christmas, at the end of the year.  But that’s not really the case at all.

The Church’s liturgical calendar begins with the first Sunday of Advent.  That is actually “New Years Day” on the liturgical calendar.  January 1st was adopted as the beginning of the New Year in 1752 when Pope Gregory XIII ratified the current calendar, which we call the Gregorian Calendar.

The first solemn Christocentric celebration occurs on December 25th when the Second Person the Most Holy Trinity breaks into human history as the child Jesus.  We celebrate Christmas with great joy and solemnity, because God has humbled himself to become human.

Lent follows the Christmas season on the liturgical calendar, beginning on Ash Wednesday.  It is a time of penitential preparation for the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday and a time of expectation as we celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Catholics have always sacrificed something during Lent.  Some people didn’t eat candy, others didn’t east dessert, many would not attend celebrations, carnivals and were not usually married during Lent. These things are good in the eyes of God.  God does not measure quantity, but the intent of the heart.

(c) Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

However, if we look around us at today’s world, we have a lot of reasons to do penance for ourselves and those who don’t do penance.  We have had horrific scandals in the Church’s human element, because its divine character comes from Christ, not from man.  Christ is perfectly sinless.

Our country is split over politics and policies.  Everyday the back stabbing gets worse.  Terrorism has spread to Europe and North America.  Once upon a time it was contained in the Middle East.  That’s no longer the case.

People must abandon their homes out of fear.  They fear that they will be dragged out and killed.  While adults may feel strong enough to combat criminals, those who have children find it very difficult to do so.  What happens to my kid if I were killed in a resistant uprising?

A trailer park. (c) Caren Mack Photography

Poverty also triggers migration.  In the United States, poverty in some of our southern states is never mentioned, but it’s there.  People live in conditions not fit for human beings.  The people migrate to the coasts where they hope to find work and housing in the big cities.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  The same is true for people of many countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.  Families must emigrate from their homes because they don’t earn salaries to support themselves.

This leads to all kinds of problems in the host countries, from a shortage of resources to violence.  The violence is usually rooted in frustration, distrust, or simply there are individuals among the immigrants who have criminal history.  This cannot be avoided.  Every country, every race, every ethnic group has its fair share of criminals and delinquents.

The Franciscans of Life are encouraging all our relatives and friends to offer this Lent for a peaceful resolution to conflict and dishonesty in the world.  Will it happen?  Gabriel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible for God.”  But let’s sacrifice something that really hurts, without doing damage to our mind or body.

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Some suggestions for Lenten sacrifice:

1. Turn off the television or restrict its use to a specific time of the day without exceptions.

2. Turn off the game systems and computers.  If you can’t live 40 days without Facebook, try at least three days a week in honor of the Blessed Trinity.

3.  Stop smoking or drinking alcohol.  How many people die because of smoking cessation or because they reduced the amount of alcohol they put in their bodies?

4. Children and adolescents may pick up an extra chore around the house.  If one’s job is to take out the garbage and the parents must remind the young person to do his duty, taking out the garbage is not a Lenten sacrifice.  Taking out the garbage is justice.  It’s your contribution to family life.  Taking on an extra chore from Mom or Dad, is a sacrifice, even if it’s two days a week.

5.  Man has become an extension of his cell phone.  The cell phone is no longer used just for communication when you can’t get to a landline or a payphone.  It’s where people watch movies, play video games, use as time pieces, or status pieces.  There are people who pay their monthly visit to parents or grandparents via Skype.  We can reduce the use of the cell phone and limit it to communication.  It doesn’t have to be our diary, calendar, notebook, or library.  Any or all those applications can be sacrificed and offered in atonement for our sins and those of people who don’t to penance. 

6. For many people, healthy living is a penance:  going to bed early and rising early, going on a diet, engaging in physical activity, or sitting with your family for dinner, even though you know that the kids are going to bicker, complain, play, and do many things that we adults can’t imagine.  Using dinner time as a learning experience can be a healthy sacrifice. 

You may ask, “Why do penance for those who don’t do penance?”  The answer is simple.  What would have happened to our immortal souls if Christ had not offered his life for humanity?

Look at these suggestions and see if you can try one of them or come up with a penance that is truly a challenge for you.

 

Published in: on February 23, 2019 at 7:49 PM  Comments (1)  

ETHICS AND AUTOCRACY


There is much going on in our country and other countries which we must be aware of and keep in our prayers.

Abortion

Just this month, the State of New York passed the most extensive abortion law in the nation and the Commonwealth of Virginia is seeking to follow suit.  Under this new law, a pregnant mother living in the State of New York, and maybe soon, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, has the right to terminate the life of an unborn child up to the moment of labor.

Law makers and some healthcare professionals are justifying this new law, because it is useful if the life of the mother is in danger or the child is not viable.  There are two problems of justice here.

First the life of the mother is given preference over the life of her unborn child, about to be born.  We have two human beings and the law is choosing to save one and kill the other or let him be born and die.  This raises an important question.  What makes the life of the mother more important than the life of the child?  The answer is simple.  The possible death of the mother poses a grave loss to her and to her family.  But the child whose life is being terminated is also family.  Simply, he has yet to meet his living relatives.

The second issue of justice has to do with viability.  Allegedly, if a baby is not viable (capable of living outside the womb), he can be aborted.  There are two questions of justice here.  First, if mother and child were in a car accident and the child seemed to be a higher mortality risk, would anyone agree to terminate that child’s life and save the mother?  Would anyone agree to providing medical care for the mother, while forsaking the life of the child?  If you’re a conscientious person, you would probably answer “NO” to both questions.

A person who understands the right to life of every human being would insist that medical care be given to both mother and child to save both lives.  One may die while doctors try; but such a death is not provoked by the attending physician.  It is the result of the accident, illness, or other beyond human control.  No human being terminated that life.  In most places around the world, the physician would be in serious legal trouble, because he took one life and turned his back on that person for the sake of another.  An affirmative response to this question gives physicians the freedom to make godlike choices.  Does the physician have the moral authority to determine who lives?Image result for right to be born

In the case of a late term abortion, the mother and the physician are assigning, to themselves, authority that belongs only to God.  They are deciding that the child has no right to be born.  The international community and the constitution of many countries guarantees the right to life.  In this case, the law is saying that one has the right to life . . . but at what point:  just before birth or just after birth?  The right to life becomes arbitrary.

Euthanasia

Image result for euthanasia ethicsCall it assisted suicide, call it the right to die or any other name that sterilizes such an act.  The fact remains that living human beings are put to death at the discretion of other human beings, they do not die from causes beyond human control.

Children are euthanized because they have Down Syndrome.  People, young and old, are euthanized because suffer from depression and have lost all desire to live.  Terminally ill people and senior citizens are euthanized to avoid prolonged suffering.  The truth of the matter is that suffering is a normal part be life.  And supporting and comforting those who suffer is our moral duty.  No one, not even the person who is suffering, has the right to choose death if there are possible medical treatments that can save a life or give the person more time to be with loved ones.

In some countries, the state decides who is to be euthanized, because “it’s in the best interest of the citizen.”  Is it really in the best interest of the citizen to terminate his or her life, because they are sick, old, suffer a mental health problem or is naturally intellectually disabled?  The British courts said so when they denied the parents of a two-year old child permission to take the child out of the country to places that were offering medical assistance and hope.

What human being, be it a judge, a relative, a physician or other involved party has the natural authority to determine when one should die?  Where does society draw the line?  Is it OK to help a terminally ill person to die, but provide special services for one who is intellectually disabled or the other way around?

Is it right to draw a line on sickness?  How sick does one have to be that gives others authority to end our life or that of loved ones?

There are civil laws, but as the great philosophers of history have proven, there are natural laws that serve as the foundation of civil laws.  Human beings have the right to legislate when such legislation is consistent with natural law.  Who said that we have the right to circumvent natural law to terminate a life?

Someone may argue “is a kidney transplant natural?”  Is a prosthesis natural?  Neither are safeguarded by natural law; but neither are prohibited by natural law either.

Some states have passed laws that prohibit late-term abortion.  There are states that prohibit assisted suicide and euthanasia.  But the courts have determined that such laws are contrary to the right to choose.

We’re allowing the state the right of the individual to secure the rights of the majority.  But that’s not how morality and ethics work.  One must always choose the greater of two possible good, not what is acceptable to the majority.  The right to life is an unquestionable superior good.  If we make the right to life arbitrary, then all other rights granted to living beings are also relative.  There are no longer absolute rights.

We must pray for guidance for us, law makers and people in crisis situations.  We must also raise our voices to defend the right to be born and the right to live until death is unavoidable.  This includes accidents, wars, natural disasters, and crime.  The victim does not have the power to prevent his death or that of a loved one.  Such life terminating events happen very quickly and are not within our control.

Let us defend our collective right to vote on laws, rather than grant power to arbitrary persons who legislate the right to terminate human life at their discretion.   We have the right to be heard before those laws are ratified.  When the state appropriates citizen’s right to choose life, without the consent of the governed, it’s autocracy.

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Published in: on February 20, 2019 at 8:29 PM  Leave a Comment