The season of Lent is a time for us to accept that we are weak and sinful people born into a beautiful but broken world and then to renew our faith joyfully in the meaning of our baptism, for it was through our baptism that we entered into the mystery of Christ as Redeemer. It was through Baptism that we began to be identified as “followers of Christ.”
In this Sunday’s Second Reading, the First Letter of St. Peter invites us to reflect on the biblical drama of the flood and Noah’s act of rescue in the hope that we will see the connection to baptism. In this way, we can understand the much more significant rescue act of Christ, who entered our damaged world and was tempted in the wilderness, but did not give in to the temptations of the devil. This is the same Christ who went into the desert to wrestle with the powers of evil and who then fulfilled his Father’s mission and began to heal the hurt of sin and its consequences.
It will help us to be authentic followers of Jesus of Nazareth if first we acknowledge the power of evil in our world and in our lives. Then we can renew our faith in the power of the one who overcame evil and pray that he will free us from temptation and deliver us from evil. We don’t need to look very hard or very far to see evil in the world around us. Jesus warned His disciples that the world will hate them because He had chosen them out of the world (John 15:19). Just as Jesus was persecuted, we should expect to be persecuted, too (John 15:20). We should not expect that such persecutions took place only long ago or in places far away.
Pope Francis, recently commenting on the third anniversary of the beheading of twenty-one Coptic Christians in Egypt by terrorists of the Islamic State, said, “Their only words were: ‘Jesus, help me!’ They were killed simply because they were Christians. The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a witness that cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.”
Heaven forbid that such violence should ever confront any of us personally, but these executions of Christians simply because they were Christians, continues today, and should cause us to ask whether we have the depth of faith and resolve to be willing to die for our faith in Jesus Christ; or even to live out our faith under the pressures brought on by contemporary events in our society, especially the rage of the “cancel culture” people we are currently witnessing. In order to overcome evil, it’s necessary to recognize it, name it, and resolve to defeat it. Unfortunately, such is not the approach that’s being taken by our current Commander-in-Chief and his administration. He recently issued a long series of executive orders that have begun, in the view of many Church leaders, to undermine one of the most important teachings of our Catholic Faith – the sanctity of life.
Recently, the Archbishop of Kansas City, Kansas, Joseph Naumann, the current chairman of USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, told why he thinks Joe Biden should stop defining himself as a devout Catholic, and acknowledge that his view on abortion is contrary to Catholic moral teaching. “It would be a more honest approach for him to say he disagreed with his Church on this important issue and that he was acting contrary to Church teaching. When he says he is a devout Catholic, we bishops have the responsibility to correct him. Although people have given this president power and authority, he cannot define what it is to be a Catholic and what Catholic moral teaching is.
What he is doing now is usurping the role of the bishops and confusing people. He’s declaring that he’s Catholic, and is going to force people to support abortion through their tax dollars. I believe the president has the responsibility not to present himself for Holy Communion. When Catholics receive the Eucharist, they are acknowledging the Real Presence of Jesus, and also belief in the teachings of the Church. President Biden doesn’t believe in the Church’s teachings on the Sanctity of Human Life, and he should not put the priest in the situation where he has to decide whether or not to allow him to receive the Eucharist. He should know that after 78 years as a Catholic!”
During these forty days of Lent, let us pray that we as individuals and as a nation may acknowledge, name and resolve to defeat the evils that confront us. May we all enter deeply into the Passion of our Lord so as to celebrate with abundant joy the great glory of His Resurrection when Easter arrives. Make a good Lent and look happy about it.