“Envy is the black and secretive effect of a weak pride, which feels itself diminished by the very least achievements of others. It is the most dangerous poison of our self-love, which begins by consuming the one who vomits it forth upon others and leads him to commit deeds most vile. For pride is naturally enterprising and wants to shine, but envy hides itself under all sorts of pretexts and is pleased by secretive and dark ways. Hidden lies, calumny, treason: every evil trick is its portion and cup. It shines forth and brings forward against the just man — whose good reputation confronts it — every insult and mockery, with all the bitterness of hatred and the last excesses of cruelty.” (Note 1)
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“To his enemies, the crucifixion seems to be the hour of their triumph and Christ’s defeat, but in fact it is the supreme our of his triumph. When he seems to be more helpless than ever, he is, in fact, more powerful. He seems to be quite alone, quite defeated, dying a useless death at the end of a useless life, the tragic life of a poor deluded dreamer. His plan of love for the world has failed utterly, he himself is a failure and his ‘Kingdom’ a pitiful delusion. ‘If I be lifted up, I will draw all to me,’ Jesus had said. Now he is doing just that, drawing all people to him because he was dying all of their deaths for them, giving himself to them in death.” (Note 2)
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“The following short considerations … you can use with advantage at the moment of temptation.
“When attacked by covetousness he would think: Having once understood that nothing but God can satisfy the heart, I am convinced of the folly of seeking anything but this supreme good.
“In assaults against purity he would reflect: To what a dignity has my body been raised by the reception of the Holy Eucharist! I tremble, therefore, at the sacrilege I would commit by profaning with carnal pleasures this temple in which God has chosen to dwell.
“Against anger he would defend himself saying: No injury should be capable of moving me to anger when I reflect upon the outrages I have offered my God.
“When assailed by temptations to hatred he would answer the enemy: Knowing the mercy with which God has received me and pardoned my sins, I cannot refuse to forgive my greatest enemy.” (Note 3)
I’m trying to figure out where today’s readings lead me, though I’m having some difficulty with it. It is lent. We are to be penitent, and I think they lead me to that conclusion. Bossuet cautions us against envy and its insidiousness, “Renewing Our Discipleship” reminds us that regardless of how Jesus’ executioners saw him (including me, too, I am one of his executioners), whether as frail, weak or useless, in the end that sacrifice drew us all to him, and thus will draw us up to him, so long as we seek him and seek to be like him. The Magnificat’s reading was the most poignant one for me. It’s a short blueprint on how to tackle our sinful nature. A blueprint that, no matter how much I don’t think I need it, I really do. Just as I really need Christ. Yesterday I heard that Satan cannot stand up to Mary (cf Rv 12:1-17). So, when you feel temptation, which is Satan, ask Mary to help — she will, and Satan must back down. So — I have a new hope in my fight against sin — and a new hope for salvation!
1. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 136.
2. Caryll Houselander, “Lifted Up For Us”. In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 35.
3. Venerable Father Louis of Grenada, “How Not to Die in Our Sins”. In Magnificat April 2017, Vol 19, No. 2, ed. Rev. Peter John Cameron, O.P. (Yonkers, NY: Magnificat, Inc, 2017) 70-71.