Lent 2008: March 2009 Archives

And Cleanse Me From My Sin

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Monday Within the Third Week of Lent

2 Kings 5:1-15a
Luke 4:24-30

Water

What is the link between yesterday's liturgy and today's? It is water. Yesterday: the water of Jacob's well: a sign of "the spring of water welling up to eternal life" (Jn 4:14. Today: the water of the Jordan by which Naaman was cleansed of his leprosy, the water of Jesus' own Baptism.

Psalm 50

In the Holy Rule, Saint Benedict places Psalm 50 at the beginning of Lauds seven days a week. Why? Because he understood it as a daily renewal of Baptism, as the psalm of resurrection to new life with the joy of a heart made clean. What makes every day so exhilarating is the possibility of a fresh start, of a clean slate, of a new beginning. Each morning we can say, "Today, I begin" (Ps 77:11). Try saying that every time you take Holy Water: "Today, I begin, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

God Alone Can Make Me Clean

In Psalm 50 we repeatedly and persistently ask God to cleanse us. "Blot out my iniquity" (Ps 50:3). "Wash me clean from my guilt" (Ps 50:4). "Purge me of my sin" (Ps 50:4). "Sprinkle me with a branch of hyssop, and I shall be clean" (Ps 50:9). "Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow" (Ps 50:9). We cannot cleanse ourselves because we do not see where we are soiled. We are as blind to our own sins as we are quick to notice the sins of others. The stain of sin has seeped deep into the very crevices of our souls. God alone can reach into those hidden places and make them clean.

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Holy Water

I don't know why, but a lot of folks, even among practicing Catholics, seem to pooh-pooh the use of Holy Water just the way Naaman, in his pride, pooh-poohed the water of the Jordan River. They find it hard to believe that God would make use of something so simple. Do you remember what Saint Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church, wrote about Holy Water?

From long experience I have learned that there is nothing like Holy Water to put devils to flight and prevent them from coming back again. They also flee from the Cross, but return; so Holy Water must have great value. For my own part, whenever I take it, my soul feels a particular and most notable consolation. In fact, it is quite usual for me to be conscious of a refreshment which I cannot possibly describe, resembling an inward joy which comforts my whole soul. This is not fancy, or something which has happened to me only once. It has happened again and again, and I have observed it most attentively. It is, let us say, as if someone very hot and thirsty were to drink from a jug of cold water: he would feel the refreshment throughout his body. I often reflect on the great importance of everything ordained by the Church and it makes me very happy to find that those words of the Church are so powerful that they impart their power to the water and make it so very different from water which has not been blessed.

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Monday Within the Second Week of Lent

Daniel 9:4-10
Luke 6: 36-38

I Set My Face to the Lord

I don't know why the editors of the Lectionary did not begin today's First Reading with Daniel 9, verse 3. In few words it sets the tone for the magnificent act of contrition that follows. The missing verse is this: "And I set my face to the Lord my God to pray and make supplication with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes" (Dn 9:3).

Only then does the prophet Daniel give us the fruit of his compunction: a prayer of confession and an act of contrition.

Compunction

What is compunction? It is the cutting awareness of our sins. Compunction is not something that we can produce in ourselves and of ourselves. Compunction is a grace: it is a fruit of the combined action of the Word of God and of the Holy Ghost within the soul.

Sword and Fire

What do we read in the Letter to the Hebrews? "The Word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two edged sword" (Hb 4:12), and in another place, "Our God is a consuming fire" (Hb 12:29). It is a perilous thing to expose oneself to the Word of God because one risks being pierced through and purified by fire. This is why so many people turn a deaf ear to the Word, or hide from it, or say, "Ah, this is not meant for me, but it perfectly suits so and so. It is just what he (or she) needs to hear."

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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