|Beating Bleeding as One.
The Fourth Saturday of Lent.*
Lessons from the feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Hosea 6: 1-6.
• Psalm 50 (51): 3-4, 18-21.
• Luke 18: 9-14.
Lessons from the feria, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Daniel 13: 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62.
• Psalm 22: 4.
• John 8: 1-11.
The Fourth Saturday of the Great Fast; the Fourth All Souls Saturday;** and, the Feast of the Holy Martyr Conon.
First & third lessons from the triodion, second & fourth from the menaion for the dead, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• Hebrews 6: 9-12.
• I Thessalonians 4: 13-17.
• Mark 7: 31-37.
• John 5: 24-30.
9:03 AM 3/5/2016 — The First Saturday of every month is special to us here at the Shrine, for it's on this day each month that we renew our promise to our Lady, in response to Her own request, to make reparation for the sins of our fellow men: the impieties, the sacrileges, the impurities which wound Her Heart and that of Her Son so often. During the Holy Hour that follows Holy Mass today, we'll pray together the Litany of the Seven Dolors as composed by Blessed John Henry Newman, whose meditations on the Stations of the Cross we used last week. Yesterday, we prayed the Stations using the meditations as composed by Saint Josemaría Escrivá, which, every time we've used them, seem to have a profound effect on people; but, if you were here you may have noticed that the opening prayer which begins them is a prayer to the Mother of God, and She is present in some way in every one of those meditations. It's not just because Saint Josemaría had such a profound love for the our Lady, but because it's impossible to contemplate the sufferings of our Lord without contemplating Her's. In the Fourth Station, wherein our Lord meets His Mother, Monsignor Escrivá reminds us:
With immense love Mary looks at Jesus, and Jesus at his mother. Their eyes meet, and each heart pours into the other its own deep sorrow.
It's only one line from that meditation, but it speaks volumes. Mary's sorrow is both, at one and same time, different from Her Son's and the same. Different in that there is only the human dimension to her grief—the grief of a Mother about to loose Her Son—whereas our Lord's sorrow on the human level is for Her alone. He doesn't grieve for Himself because He knows His death is necessary, but He grieves for Her, knowing that to spare Her the grief by some extraordinary divine act would be to compromise His incarnation and the salvific nature of His totally human suffering and death. But both of them share the same inward resolve: they both know, as only a Mother and Son could, that this is all as it must be.
So, in approaching our observance of our Five First Saturdays devotion, consisting, as you know, of confession, Holy Communion and meditation on those most profound mysteries that present to us the lives of Mother and Son, we remind ourselves that we must do these things in a spirit of reparation, and how easy that part of the devotion is to overlook. But even when we remember it, it is wrought with danger: the danger that, in making reparation for the sins of mankind, we overlook to make amends for our own.
Our Lord, in the parable in today's Gospel lesson, speaks to us of two men who go into the temple to pray. Both of them are sinners. That’s important to remember: both of them are sinners. But only one of them admits it. And our Lord points out that the tax collector who admitted he was a sinner left the temple a happier man. Why? Because he was honest. The Pharisee, on the other hand, instead of telling God his sins, tells God what a wonderful guy he is, how much he gives to the temple, how much he fasted, how much he prayed. And Jesus says that this was not pleasing to God, not because these are not good things to do—because they are—but because he didn’t tell the whole story. He didn’t tell God his sins.
Every time we commit a sin and don’t confess it, we lie to God, for a lie isn’t just telling something that isn’t true, but also not telling something that is true. Every time we receive Holy Communion conscious of a serious sin that we have not confessed, we lie to God. And it’s a futile lie because God already knows the truth. We saw that yesterday—didn't we?—when our Lord had his encounter with the Samaritan Woman at Jacob's well, and could tell the wretched state of her soul the instant he met her. The irony is that there’s no reason for it since we know, even before we confess our sins, that we’re going to be forgiven. If we tell the truth to God up front in confession, and express true sorrow for what we may have done, we know that we will be forgiven. The only thing that holds us back is admitting to ourselves that we are sinners.
Some of you may have personal experience with Alcoholics Anonymous. For those that don’t, it’s a program of recovery from addiction which consists of a series of steps—twelve in all—that must be taken in order; and what’s the first step? The first step is admitting to yourself that you have a problem. And why is that the first step? Because if you’re not willing to admit you have a problem, there’s no program in the world that can help you. Over the years in my life I’ve had a lot of experience with doctors. Well, if you don’t tell the doctor where it hurts, he can’t treat you. Some of may you have been to see therapists. Well, if you don’t tell the therapist what’s bothering you, he can’t help you understand why. If you don’t tell Christ your sins, he can’t forgive you.
And so, as we continue this Lenten journey into the desert of our own souls, the Church presents to us these two men who walk into the temple to pray. One admits who and what he is, the other does not, and we must make a choice which example we will follow. The choice we make will determine a lot.
Saint John, the Apostle to whom our Blessed Lord entrusted His Mother as He hung on the cross, later wrote for us:
Sin is with us; if we deny that, we are cheating ourselves; it means that truth does not dwell in us. No, it is when we confess our sins that he forgives us our sins, ever true to his word, ever dealing right with us, and all our wrong-doing is purged away. If we deny that we have sinned, it means that we are treating him as a liar; it means that his word does not dwell in our hearts (I John 1: 8-10 Knox).
We all have sins. Some of us have big sins, some have sins that aren’t so big. Ultimately it doesn't matter, because if we take them all to the Lord—big, little and in between—he will forgive them all. All that is important to him is what was important in the parable today: that we tell them honestly and with sorrow. The prayer of the tax collector is, therefore, the perfect motto for us as we continue our journey through Lent: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”
* Today is what the Roman Missals refer to as "Saturday of the Third Week of Lent." Cf. the post here for an explanation of how the days of Lent are identified on this site.
** Unlike the Latin Church, which commemorates the Holy Souls but one day each year on November 2nd, the Churches of the Byzantine Tradition observe an All Souls Day five times each year: once just prior to the Triodion (pre-Lent), three times during the Great Fast, and once during the Paschal season, all on a Saturday. They are commonly referred to as the All Souls Saturdays. Their lessons and texts are added, as usual, to whatever other observances occur on that day.