Posted by: L. E. Barnes | March 7, 2010

Third Sunday of Lent

Yesterday’s reading from The Little Black Book pointed out that we’re halfway through Lent. The book’s first reading, on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, asked us to develop some plans for Lent; yesterday it suggested that we stop and consider how well we’ve stuck to our plans. Mine included praying the rosary daily, among a few other things. None of my Lenten resolutions included anything new or fasting any pleasures. During our catechumenate class today, we spoke for a few minutes about how our plans were coming along. One person admitted that she had broken the Friday abstinence by ordering a steak at a restaurant, while another said he and his family were trying to eschew TV–and alas, he had been watching it for a while one day before it dawned on him that he was breaking his resolution! I acknowledged that I haven’t prayed the rosary daily, nor have I done as well with my other Lenten plans as I wish I had. But since we’re trying to make very abrupt changes in our habits, I think we should cut ourselves some slack. Just keep doing your best!

Our class today had to be kept shorter than usual. We forwent any discussion on the day’s scripture readings (a practice we will probably have to continue in future classes, due to time constraints). Fr. Justin came in and spoke with the class members about making their first confession. (By the way, those in the class who have not scheduled their first confession need to do so!) He emphasized first that you should only confess grave sins (and if you have to question where it is a grave sin, it isn’t). Also, you should not be anxious about going to confession. When hearing confessions, he doesn’t want to dwell on their sins but on God’s love and mercy, and besides, Fr. Justin said that he’s “heard it all” during his years as a priest!

He added a few miscellaneous reminders for those planning to enter the Church, especially that for a married person to enter the Church, their marriage has to be recognized as valid by the Church. One of the class members asked whether he and his wife were “living in sin” since she had been baptized Catholic (but was not raised Catholic) and they had been married outside the Church. Fr. Justin didn’t think they were in sin because of that. He referred to a comment by Pope Benedict that by joining the Church we are not joining a bunch of rules but instead entering a relationship with Christ, who wants to show us God’s love and bring us in to the Kingdom.

We only had time to touch very briefly on the chapter from Kreeft’s Catholic Christianity, which deals with the sixth and ninth commandments. These commandments–which prohibit adultery and coveting another person’s spouse, respectively–form the basis for the Church’s teachings on sexual morality. Kreeft notes that this issue is the main one that unbelievers tend to criticize the Church the most for, claiming that the Church is excessively puritanical. They seem to think the Church doesn’t want anyone to enjoy sex! However, the Church teaches that our sexuality is a good thing and that it is best enjoyed within the boundaries God established for it. Our class leader referred to a scene in C. S. Lewis’s novella The Great Divorce, in which a character kept in bondage to lust (personified by a talking lizard on his shoulder!) is gloriously set free and able to head on to paradise. True sexual freedom and fulfillment are not found in lust, promiscuity, pornography, or homosexuality; they are found in the lifelong, loving covenant of holy matrimony, which the Church elevated to a sacrament.

At the close of class we went over to see our new classroom in the recently completed family life center. The catechumens and their sponsors then went to mass for the First Scrutiny. There will be two more in the weeks to come.

Our parish had its annual Lenten retreat last week. Fr. Charlie Cross, a Passionist from Ireland, preached. I was able to make it on Thursday, his final night. He did a fine job, and I’m sure all who got a chance to come that week were blessed by his sermons.

I pray you will bear much spiritual fruit this Lent. One of the people assisting with the class handed out prayer cards with a picture of St. Patrick on the front and a traditional Irish blessing on the back. I’ll close with the blessing:

May the road rise to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face,

the rains fall soft upon your fields

and, until we meet again,

may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

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