#98 – The Great Combat
That didn’t take long. Four days in to Lent and I am already missing my daily posting goal. I knew it was going to be tough once baseball season set in. What I neglected to account for however are all the preparations and items needing my full attention between now and graduation in two months. On Saturday we watched our girls high school basketball team play for the state title. Afterwards my wife and I went to an antique store to look at a possible piece that we could refurbish as a media stand for our tv as part of our living room renovation, and after Mass on Sunday we drove to Omaha to visit the area’s largest furniture store and look at other possibilities for the living room project. When we got home there was enough time for supper and enough daylight for me to sit outside on the first really nice evening of the spring and re-lace my son’s baseball glove (which alone is a real test of patience).
And at night, when I should have been writing, I unwound by watching episodes of Castle each night. I knew I should have been trying to read, meditate and write but I ignored myself and flopping into my chair I zoned out.
Oh, and have I mentioned how much I despise Daylight Savings Time?
On Sunday we would have been discussing the first Sunday in Lent and #98 from Divine Intimacy: The Great Combat.
On this day, which is the real beginning of Lent, the Church invites us to the great combat, the struggle against sin which will bring us to the Easter resurrection. Our model is Jesus, who although exempt from the incitements of concupiscence, willed to be tempted by the devil for us, in order to have “compassion on our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15).
The Gospel reading for Lent was Matthew 4: the temptation of Jesus in the desert. During this time Jesus is able to resist the three temptations of the flesh, of pride and of avarice. These are the same three temptations all of us face as we seek mastery of self and the ability to overcome the pleasures of the senses, the covetousness of earthly possessions and self-assertion.
I want to quickly mention that big word in the meditation that all Catholics hear but don’t really understand: concupiscence. It’s a doozy, difficult to pronounce and not really understood. From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence”). – CCC 418
Etymologically, “concupiscence” can refer to any intense form of human desire. Christian theology has given it a particular meaning: the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason. – CCC 2515
While flipping the pages in my bible to get to the reading from Matthew I came across this passage that I’d underlined a few years ago from Mark 7:20-23:
And he said, “What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.”
The human heart is a paradox. It contains the capacity to hold infinite amounts of love, yet can also belch forth the blackest, most vile things imaginable. What’s missing? What is it that is necessary for our heart to cleanse itself of this blackness and turn the corner? It really is as simple as filling that “God-shaped hole” in our hearts. One of the ways we do this is by once more following an example given to us by Jesus. We strive, stretch and learn to trust. And trust not in men, but to trust in God.
Let us learn from Jesus how to conduct ourselves in temptations. Primarily, He teaches us to have a great confidence in God. Jesus would not satisfy His hunger, nor impress men by means of a brilliant miracle, nor accept kingdoms and wealth because, in a spirit of perfect filial confidence, He had entrusted everything to the Father’s care—His life, His mission, and His glory.
Am I? What is the state of my heart? What is it that comes forth from me?
How is the recognition of sin in my life as revealed to me during this Lent helping me to reach the ulterior conversion of hear that is my goal? And how do I learn to trust in God?
Conversion to Christ, the new birth of Baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Body and Blood of Christ received as food have made us “holy and without blemish,” just as the Church herself, the Bride of Christ, is “holy and without blemish.” Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life. This is the struggle of conversion directed toward holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us. – CCC 1426
This brings us to what should have been my post for today dealing with #99 from Divine Intimacy: Conversion. And that will follow later today.
For Lent I’m taking a daily walk through Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen. It is a book of meditations steeped in Carmelite spirituality and has been a favorite of mine for over a decade.