Christ Gave Himself for Us

Printer-friendly version Printer-friendly version
1/29/2009

The 12th installment of Supreme Chaplain Bishop William E. Lori’s faith formation program addresses questions 106 – 112 of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

There is no better time than Lent to meditate daily on the redemption that the Lord won for us by his suffering, death and resurrection. Lent is a time of renewal, during which we ask for the grace to strengthen our prayer life, to practice fasting and mortification, and to give generously of ourselves to those in need. It is not a mere self-improvement program, but a time-tested way of participating more deeply in Christ’s sacrifice of love.

Throughout the season of Lent, the Church offers us encouragement to undergo a profound conversion from sin, which involves humbly and prayerfully coming to terms with our sinfulness and seeking forgiveness in sacramental confession. In the joy of forgiveness, we are invited to share more deeply in the Father’s merciful love.

On Ash Wednesday, we hear again the invitation to repent, to believe in the Gospel and to become a part of the kingdom of God. Even the worst sinner is called to conversion (Compendium, 107). Christianity is replete with stories of hardened sinners who heard the Lord’s call and reformed their lives. During Lent, we should reflect on what areas of our lives are not under the merciful dominion of the Savior. In what specific ways do we need to repent?

For some, Lent is a time of intense final preparation for reception into the Church at the Easter Vigil. For most, though, it is about recovering one’s baptismal innocence and hearing anew Christ’s call to holiness. In either case, we must be attentive to the Scriptures proclaimed during the Sunday Liturgy, for they echo Jesus’ preaching of the kingdom of God.

VICTORY OVER TEMPTATION Back to Top

The Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent tells of the temptations of Jesus in the desert (see Mt 4:1-11; Mk 11:2-15; Lk 4:1-13). Here, we sense Christ’s solidarity with us, since we face temptations every day. If we look deeper, we also sense Jesus’ amazing holiness. The Letter to the Hebrews puts it this way: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). If we take yet a step further, we see the temptations of Jesus from the breathtaking panorama of salvation history. Christ’s encounter with Satan in the desert sums up “the temptation of Adam in paradise and the temptation of Israel in the desert” (106). Adam gave in to Satan’s promptings, and the people of Israel succumbed to the lure of worshipping idols. In doing so, both disobeyed God.

In the Gospel accounts, we find Jesus in the desert, a place of desolation where the battle between God and Satan is set in sharp relief. Here, Satan tries to deter Christ with lures that are familiar to us: self-indulgence, wealth and power. Jesus resists Satan and thus foreshadows the victory he will win for us.

In Christ’s victory over temptation, the light of hope is rekindled in our hearts. If we are one with him, can we not also live in such a way that the glory of God shines in our words and deeds, and from the depths of our hearts? In this light, the Second Sunday of Lent is devoted each year to the Transfiguration. Jesus takes Peter, James and John to the top of Mt. Tabor where he is transfigured as he speaks with Moses and Elijah (see Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-10; Lk 9:28-36). Jesus fulfills in himself the law and the prophets (thus the presence of Moses and Elijah), and reveals that his glory will be revealed definitively by his cross and Resurrection.

How amazed Peter, James, and John must have been to see their Lord and Master transfigured before their eyes! And how encouraged we should be! The Church presents this mystery to open our eyes to the Lord’s goodness and glory, which we are destined to share fully when Christ will “change our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:21; Compendium, 110).

SIGNS AND WONDERS Back to Top

During the remaining Sundays of Lent, the Church continues to present Jesus’ preaching together with his miracles. On the Third Sunday of Lent (Cycle A), we meet the Samaritan woman at the well whose heart is opened as Jesus invites her “to worship in spirit and truth” (see Jn 4:5-42). The following Sunday, we encounter the man born blind, a powerful symbol of our enlightenment in Christ. On the fifth Sunday of Lent, we witness how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. During other years, the cycle of readings for the Lenten liturgies brings us Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, the story of the woman caught in adultery and the story of the clandestine follower of Christ, Nicodemus, who discusses with Jesus the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

Jesus did not accompany his preaching with signs and wonders to amuse or amaze his audiences. Rather, his miracles were themselves announcements of the Good News (see Compendium, 108). They did not portend an easy, pain-free life, but served as indicators that Jesus came to unleash into the world a love stronger than sin, a love that will ultimately conquer “Satan and all his works.”

Throughout the liturgical year, we will meet the disciples of Jesus again and again, and observe the ongoing formation of the Apostles. Gradually, they will begin to share both in Christ’s mission and in his authority to teach, forgive sins, and build up and guide the Church. In particular, Peter will confess Christ “as the Son of the living God.” In spite of his weaknesses, Peter will come to embrace his mission, thus strengthening his brother Apostles in their role of handing on the faith (see Compendium, 109).

As Holy Week begins, we celebrate each year the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Compendium, 110). The liturgy presents for us the Messiah-King’s arrival as he embraces his mission in loving obedience to the Father’s saving will. Like the crowds in Jerusalem, we wave palm branches and proclaim him as our king: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” We sit at table with the Lord who gives himself as our food; we stand beneath the Cross with Mary and John; and we stand watch at the tomb on the Easter Vigil as the light of Christ dawns upon us more brightly.

DISCUSSION/REFLECTION QUESTIONS FOR COUNCIL USE Back to Top

1. What is the purpose of the liturgical season of Lent? How are you planning to observe Lent this year?

2. Lent is traditionally a time when the faithful seek deeper conversion and are encouraged to avail themselves to the sacrament of penance. Why is it important to seek God’s forgiveness in confession?

3. What do the temptations of Jesus in the desert reveal about him? What do they reveal about our own struggles with temptation?

4. Why did Jesus perform signs and miracles during his public ministry? (see Compendium, 108)

5. What authority did Jesus bestow on the Apostles? How does this relate to the Catholic Church and to the kingdom of God?