In a way, the whole message of the Gospel is summarized by the Triduum. Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil are themselves paralleled, too, by long swaths of human history. Humanity was in communion with God, and then fell into sin and denial of God, only to have God go very far to pursue his wayward children, bringing them back to Himself. God’s faithfulness is the cause of our hope, and the resurrection is proof of His faithfulness.
Lent fits in here and beautifully. Lent is a time of self-mortification, of increased prayer, of contrition, of good works for the poor and fasting against the flesh, such that we can accept God’s gift. In this way, Lent itself finds a parallel in the history of the Hebrew people and their preparation for the Annointed.
In our prayers and works, fastings and mortifications, let us bring to mind the Hebrew people in the time of the Old Testament, showing it side-by-side with the message of the Gospels. Every Monday at Catholic Lane, we will be comparing these two.
Before reading forward, please read today’s reading, psalm, and Gospel
Consider the law, formulated in the first reading and the judgment, described by the words of Christ in today’s Gospel. From transgression of the moral laws of God, from sin itself, we face a judgment in fire. From the love of others — from desiring the good for others, from giving them of ours what we can and should — we give the love of God, and from that we will receive the love of God. This reduces to a familiar twofold commandment: Love God, and do not sin; Love your neighbor as yourself. Today’s reading and today’s gospel demonstrate the truth of the Glory Be. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Just so, as it was in the days of Moses, it is in the days of Christ.
There is, then, no war between the Testaments. Truth is one, and it does not change. This is good, for God who is Truth, is unchanging. To use an image from scripture, He is a rock. He cannot be undone because he always is, before all ages. His moral law cannot be undone, either, for it is of him, and his works are forever. There is no appeal after the judgment, and there is no reprieve once in Hell. This makes our repentance, our contrition, our sorrow for sin all the more vital while we can change, for He will not change. God never changes.
Where is the change, then, if God does not change? It is in us. We can change, as Lent reminds us every year and as the Confiteor ought to remind us at every Mass. It is by the grace of God we have this opportunity. It is by his Word that we change.
What does he say to do? Again, again, again: Depart from sin by fleeing to Him, and love others as yourself. God’s moral law is a spur, not an obstacle, to greater devotion. It is a source of joy, not a source of grief. It is a path toward salvation, for Jesus is our way, truth, and life.
Truly, as today’s psalm says,
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
Say aloud the last words of today’s psalm:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
This is not God bending backwards to decide you are acceptable. This implores that God actively form us into things acceptable by his unyielding law. This is a prayer not of self-righteousness but, nearly, of gratitude, of penitence.
To be in communion with God, we must renew ourselves in the moral law of God, letting it bloom into an active love of others. This Lent, dedicate yourself in a particular way to the Word of God. Dedicate yourself in the words of your mouth, in the meditation of your heart, and the acts of your God-given mercy.
If that doesn’t help, look at it this way: Anything against the love of others is a lie against the love of God, and truth does not abide lies. If you wish to live in and with truth, throw away the lies that keep you from the love of others. Your judgment depends on it, and this justice is perfectly fair — it is perfectly unchanging. God gives a fair warning.
Truth will war against lies. Do not find yourselves clothed in lies, as lies soak through to your skin, dampen your soul, and kill the life inside of you. Re-clothe yourself, instead, in truth, for the truth will change you so you may be acceptable to God. That, really, is Lent.