Why do we have Lent? Advent? Why are we called to give up things? Practice penance? Give alms to the poor? To spend more time in silence and prayer? Why do we go to confession and fight to give up sin? The reason for all of these questions is the same: to fall in love with Jesus Christ, to follow Him more closely and to be with Him in heaven forever. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. What are some of the most sublime virtues that Jesus practiced that we are called to imitate?
1. HUMILITY! One of the chief enemies of our spiritual life is PRIDE! This is self-love, self-importance, putting myself above others even God! Jesus was humble. He Himself said, “Come to me… I am meek and humble of heart!” (Mt. 11:28-30) Three specific gestures of Jesus illustrates this: 1) His Incarnation, 2) His passion (suffering) and death, 3) His “Presence” in the Eucharist, often forgotten, abandoned, taken for granted, and even received unworthily. How can we imitate Jesus in His humility? Pray! Humble people are the greatest and their greatest position is where? On their knees! The Kings prostrated themselves before Jesus. The children of Fatima prostrated themselves on the ground. In the Garden, Jesus through Himself prostrate on the ground. Another way to grow in humility: do not become impatient, angry, or irritated with others, especially members of your family, especially as Holy Week approaches. Finally, when we are forgotten, cut off on the road, interrupted, not taken into account--- try to accept it with patience, humility and without anger. Once Mother Teresa went to beg for bread at a store, and as she opened up her hand, someone spat into her hand! She said, “Thank you! That was for me, but now give to my poor!” What humility!
2. OBEDIENCE. Jesus said that His food was to do(obey) the will of His Father. In the Our Father, He taught us to say, “Thy will be done…” In the Garden of Olives He said, “Father not my will but your will be done.” St. Paul to the Philippians describes Jesus as humbling Himself by becoming man and by being obedient to death and death on the cross..”(Phil 2) How can we imitate Jesus? First, try to obey the commandments. Children, obey their parents, teachers and those in authority. Parents should obey the church, priests—confessors and spiritual directors and the Pope. Priests should obey, the Pope, Superiors, and God. Once a father told his sons to ride their horse over the hill rather than around it. They obeyed! Thanks be to God! There was a wild bear over the hill, on his hind legs ready to pounce on them and to devour them.
Once I was told not to throw rocks—a real penance because I loved to throw rocks. Once, at the entrance of the woods near my house I was wandering and I saw a pile of rocks! Two voices spoke to me: throw it! The other insisted: no, obey! The voice of the rocks—really the devil—won out! I launched the rock and it pounded against a tree, rebounded back and beaned me in the head! What a bump I had for close to a week! Disobedience is costly!
3. PATIENCE! Jesus had remarkable patience, all His life and what wonderful examples! He patiently waited 30 years in Nazareth, exercising the office of humble carpenter. He chose 12 men, with so many defects and he patiently formed these first Apostles. When they misunderstood Him, contradicted Him and even abandoned Him, He still patiently forgave them and encouraged them. On Good Friday, after being scourged and crowned with thorns, He carried the weight of our sins on the cross. Falling, He patiently got up; again falling, again He rose; a third time collapsing under the weight of the cross and almost being at the point of exhaustion, still He got up! What a model for patience--- never getting angry nor complaining ! How can we exercise patience? On the Freeway in traffic, avoid anger; pray the Rosary! Waiting on the confessional line; prepare yourself better. Spouse being late! Hold your tongue! Visited by sickness, learn to offer it up in reparation for your sins and the sins of the whole world. A car honks at you! Instead of cussing him out, pray a Hail Mary for him! Failure in school, sports, job, get up and try again. (Chariots of Fire, scene of 400 meters sprint. Eric Liddle fell, but he got up ran and won!)
4. LOVE/CHARITY! Jesus said, “No greater love than to lay down one’s life for the ones He loves!” His last commandment was: “Love one another as I love you!” What Jesus truly loves more than anything else is the salvation of souls! Jesus told St. Faustina that true love is measured by the willingness to sacrifice and to suffer for the loved ones! Look up at the cross and contemplate all of His sufferings that He went through for you and me and you have a mere glimpse of what true love is! How can we show love to Jesus and others? Getting up early and preparing breakfast/ or turning on the heat, like St. John Neuman. Cleaning, cooking, washing—all the hard and tedious chores for love of God and neighbor. Correcting a family member that is in the wrong. Praying even when tired and exhausted. Giving words of encouragement to a family member.
5. JESUS LOVED MARY! He was the first devotee of Mary and He can teach us to do the same. He gave Mary to John from the cross and to you and me. If we want to be pleasing to Jesus then we should love what and who He loves: Mary!
In conclusion, the major thrust of the life of a Catholic-Christian is to get to know Jesus, to fall in love with His Person, to follow Him more faithfully and seek out ways to bring others to Him. Living out this plan of life, produces great peace, joy and interior strength and ends up in a rich harvest in heaven.