Lenten Way of the Cross
We are midway through our Lenten journey of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is a good time to reflect on our spiritual itinerary, how we are observing the Lenten season. If we have not been observing Lent as we should, it is not too late to re-commit ourselves to the way of penance and the path of conversion. As I wrote last week, it is particularly beneficial to receive the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation during this holy season.
As we continue in this Lenten season, it is good to reflect on the Passion of Our Lord. I especially encourage praying the Stations of the Cross. The cross is the supreme expression of Christ’s love for us. He allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross for our sake.
Every time we look upon the crucifix, we see Christ with His arms outstretched on the cross. This gesture is one in which we recognize Jesus embracing us, with all our sins and failings, inviting us to accept His love and mercy.
Our Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, once said that “Christian wisdom is the wisdom of the Cross.” The cross teaches us that sin and evil are overcome not by violence and force, but by the power of love and goodness. God triumphs over sin and death on the cross, a victory that brings reconciliation and light to this world. In our own personal lives, through our friendship with Christ, we are filled with the grace that frees us to love and strengthens us to carry the cross with Him.
When we gaze at the crucifix, we see the immensity of God’s love for us. In Lent, it is good to pray before the crucifix, asking the Lord to take away all that separates us from Him. The Lord invites us to enter into His outstretched arms, to entrust our lives to Him. When we do, we experience the joy of knowing that He loves us and the desire to love Him in return and to bring His love to others. It is in following the path of love, the way of the cross, that we find true joy and peace.
The election of a new pope
As the Cardinal electors prepare for the conclave, let us continue to remember them in our prayers. It is probably not a coincidence that Pope Benedict announced his resignation just two days before Ash Wednesday. This allows the Church to pray especially during the season of Lent for this very important intention. His Holiness has begun a new period of his life dedicated to prayer. We pray with him during these days for his successor.
Sometimes in the media, the election of a new Pope is presented as something akin to an American political event. Yet we know that the election of a new Pope is primarily a spiritual event. The Cardinals know that their votes are before God alone and their concern must be only for the good of the Church and the salvation of souls. They promise to observe absolute and perpetual secrecy concerning all matters related to the ballots cast and to the election.
If you have ever been to the Sistine Chapel, where the conclave takes place, you know that it is a place very conducive to an awareness of the presence of God. In voting, each Cardinal brings his completed ballot to the altar and says the following oath: I call as my witness Christ the Lord who will be my judge, that my vote is given to the one who before God I think should be elected. In front and above him is the huge painting of The Last Judgment by Michelangelo.
During this time when the Apostolic See is vacant, let us be united in a special way with the Cardinal electors of the next Pope, supporting them with our fervent prayers to the Holy Spirit. Let us ask God to grant us another holy successor of the Apostle Peter.
The Knights of Columbus have distributed a Prayer for the Church during this period of the Sede Vacante. I invite you to say this prayer during these important days:
O Lord Jesus Christ, Supreme Pastor of Your Church, we thank you for the ministry of Pope Benedict XVI and the selfless care with which he has led us as Successor of Peter, and Your Vicar on earth.
Good Shepherd, who founded Your Church on the rock of Peter’s faith and have never left your flock untended, look with love upon us now, and sustain Your Church in faith, hope, and charity.
Grant, Lord Jesus, in Your boundless love for us, a new Pope for Your Church who will please You by his holiness and lead us faithfully to You, who are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Amen.
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