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Friday, Third Week of Lent

March 16, 2007

Blessed Friday!

We’ve just passed the halfway point in our Lenten retreat!
How is the journey coming?

Readings:
Hosea 14: 2-10 (if we return to God, He will save us)
Psalm 81:6-11, 14, 17 “I am the Lord, your God: hear My voice”
+Mark 12:28-34 (love of God and neighbor are the greatest commandments)

“you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return
to the Lord; Say to Him, ‘Forgive all iniquity'” -Hosea 14:2-3

Now that Jesus has died to save us, when we return to the Lord we aren’t
limited to bringing Him our own words. We can bring Him His own Word,
Jesus Christ (John 1:1), our Redeemer, the Word that will not return
void (Isaiah 55:10-11). Jesus Himself pleads for us (Hebrews 7:25),
offering His own sacrifice in payment for our sins (Hebrews 9:12).
Actually, we don’t bring Him, He brings us to God as we unite
ourselves to Him.

So how do we unite ourselves to Jesus? Well, we have to start with
Baptism. Because of Original Sin, we’re born in a state of separation
from God, also known as spiritual death. Dead things can’t unite.
Baptism is the spiritual birth Jesus referred to in John 3:3-5, when He
said we must be born from above. In Baptism we die with Him to death
(to sin) and rise with Him to eternal life (see Romans 6:3-11,
Colossians 2:12). In this eternal life, we are united to Christ as
members of His Body, the Church (see I Corinthians 12:27-28, Ephesians
5:29-30).

But it doesn’t stop there. We must remain united to Jesus through His
Church, as dependent on Him for our life as a branch is dependent on the
vine from which it grows (John 15:4-7). We remain united to Him through
self-sacrificial love, through the two great commandments to love God
and to love our neighbor (Mark 12:29-31). “You will live in My love if
you keep My commandments, even as I have kept My Father’s
commandments”(John 15:10). These are the honey from the rock
(see Psalm 81:17 & Psalm 119:102) that God promised us.

Our sin, our refusal to give ourselves away in love, weakens, and can
even break, that union (see Romans 11:22). Serious sin is spiritual
suicide (I John 5:16-17), and only God can bring us back to life again.
That’s why Jesus gave us the Sacrament of Confession, so we could bring
these broken branches back to Him, to let Him heal the damage we’ve done
to ourselves and to His Body, and to let Him graft us back into Himself,
if necessary (see Romans 11:23 & John 20:22-23).

We strengthen and deepen our union with Christ by growing in virtue, by
receiving Him in Holy Communion (the “bread of the finest wheat” God
promised in Psalm 81:17), and by renewing our Baptismal covenant with
Him, as we will do publicly in just a few weeks at Easter. We can renew
our Baptismal promises privately at any time, and are especially
encouraged to do so on the anniversary of our Baptism day.

As if union with Jesus wasn’t incentive enough, God assures us that when
we return to Him, when we choose to love freely, He will love us
freely. He will be like refreshing dew for us. We will blossom like
the lily, strike root like a Lebanon cedar and bear fruit (Hosea 14:5,
6, 9). He will relieve our burdens (Psalm 81:7), and we will walk,
not stumble, in His paths (Hosea 14:10).

May we find spiritual refreshment
in our union with the fountain of living water (Jeremiah 2:13).

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