• Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades washes the feet of diocesan seminarians at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne on Holy Thursday in this 2013 archive photo. In this week’s column Bishop Rhoades writes: “At the Holy Thursday Mass, we not only hear the Gospel of the washing of the feet of the apostles by Jesus, this action is also re-enacted in many parishes. In this gesture, Jesus bequeathed His love to us as a new law. This act of humility, which anticipated His supreme sacrifice on Calvary, is an example for us of our call to serve others with the love and humility of Jesus.”

    The Easter Triduum:
    The days of the Easter Triduum are the heart of the liturgical year. The Church invites us to share in the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. I invite you to participate in the beautiful liturgies of the Easter Triduum in your parish churches or in our cathedrals. The Triduum begins with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and ends with Evening Prayer (Vespers) on Easter Sunday.

    Holy Thursday Mass
    of the Lord’s Supper

    At this evening Mass, we commemorate the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood. At the Last Supper, Jesus anticipated the sacrifice of His death the next day. He changed the bread and wine into His Body and Blood, giving us the awesome gift of the sacrament of the Eucharist. He gave to the apostles the power to “do this in memory of me,” thus instituting the ministerial priesthood.

    At the Holy Thursday Mass, we not only hear the Gospel of the washing of the feet of the apostles by Jesus, this action is also re-enacted in many parishes. In this gesture, Jesus bequeathed His love to us as a new law. This act of humility, which anticipated His supreme sacrifice on Calvary, is an example for us of our call to serve others with the love and humility of Jesus.

    At the end of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession to a place of reposition. We are invited to spend some time in adoration before the Eucharist on Holy Thursday night. Some of the faithful visit different churches to pray in adoration on Holy Thursday night. This pious tradition is encouraged on the night of Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane. On the first Holy Thursday night, the disciples fell asleep in the garden, leaving Our Lord alone in His agony. We visit Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, not wanting to leave Him alone at this time.

    Good Friday

    On Good Friday, the Church commemorates the events between Christ’s condemnation to death and His crucifixion. Good Friday is a day of penance, fasting, and prayer. It is a day for us to meditate upon the sufferings of Our Lord, upon the evil and sin that oppresses humanity, and upon the salvation brought about by the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus.

    The Church does not celebrate Mass on Good Friday. Instead, we gather in a special service to commemorate Our Lord’s Passion and Death. At this service every year, we hear Saint John’s account of the Passion. At this service, we address to God a long “prayer of the faithful” which includes all the needs of the Church and of the world. We then venerate or adore the cross. The liturgy ends with the reception of Holy Communion consecrated and reserved from the night before.

    Besides the Good Friday liturgy, in many places there are other expressions of popular devotions on Good Friday that are approved and encouraged by the Church. Stations of the Cross and penitential processions, for example, help us to interiorize the mystery of the Cross.

    Easter Vigil

    Holy Saturday is a day of great silence in which we are invited to wait in prayer, interiorly recollected, for the great event of Our Lord’s Resurrection.

    The solemn Easter Vigil begins at nightfall on Holy Saturday. It begins with the blessing of the new fire and the lighting of the paschal candle which symbolizes Christ our light and the light of the world. The great proclamation of the “Exsultet” rings out joyfully, followed by many Scripture readings tracing salvation history, culminating in the singing of joyful alleluias and the Gospel of the Resurrection of Jesus.

    At the heart of the Easter Vigil is the celebration of the sacraments of initiation. Those who have journeyed in preparation through the catechumenate receive the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation and then join the community in the reception of the Holy Eucharist.

    The Easter Vigil is called “the mother of all vigils.” The proclamation of the Resurrection scatters the darkness of the night. We celebrate the victory of Jesus who conquered sin and death. This is not only a past event. It is a present reality. Christ’s love continues to defeat sin and death. This happens in the life of His Body, the Church, in our lives as His redeemed brothers and sisters.

    I encourage all to participate in the liturgies of the Easter Triduum and to relive the great mystery of our salvation through these rites of the Church. May you have a spiritually enriching celebration of Holy Week! May these celebrations deepen our conversion to Christ and our communion with Him in His Body, the Church!

    Jay Caponigro, director of Community Engagement at Notre Dame and facilitator for the Faculty Steering Committee with WEI, said, “We need to make sure we are offering rigorous academic courses that are at the standard of Notre Dame and Holy Cross, so if students want to apply to another institution when they leave the program to complete their bachelor’s degree, that they are prepared and have gotten the best academic training they could.”

    WEI became a reality when representatives from Bard College in New York, an institution that has achieved tremendous success in prison education, contacted Notre Dame to inquire about the potential interest of expanding to Indiana. Their program, which just honored its 12th class of graduates, recently welcomed Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York as commencement speaker. There he told the men, “I salute you this graduation morning because you have learned not only the lessons of books, library, classroom and professors, but the most sublime lesson of them all: that the essence of life, the core of living, is found within the human person, not without.”

    He further emphasized the importance of lifelong learning beginning at an early age, saying, “A solid education is perhaps the most valuable gift we can (and must) provide our young people. Better schools mean less poverty, violence, crime … and prisons!”

    Notre Dame and Holy Cross were immediately supportive of the Westville endeavor and, with support from BPI, were able to move forward and create the infrastructure required for a sustainable initiative. The IDOC has also been an essential partner of the program, though since budget cuts in 2011 has been unable to financially support publically funded college degree-granting programs.

    Holy Cross President Brother John Paige indicated that the schools were quick to jump on board because the program so aptly fits the mission of the Congregation of Holy Cross. “As our constitutions indicate, we have a preferential option for the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed. I see the Westville program as a systematic way that specifically fulfills our mission of education by serving one of the most marginalized groups in our society, namely prisoners, whom the culture often says we should lock up and then throw away the key. This initiative dovetails beautifully with Catholic social teaching and makes for a great partnership with BPI in their pursuit of social justice and also with the state, which has been willing to accommodate our efforts.”

    The benefits of this program for both those earning their degree and for society at large have been transformative. Caponigro said, “Of those who have earned degrees through BPI, the recidivism rate, the amount of people who go back into jail, is just 3 percent. That is what we are aiming to do; we want people to understand that they have alternatives and futures if they participate in this program.”

    Holy Cross Brother Jesus Alonso, director for educational outreach, further spoke about the program’s life-changing effects. He remarked, “None of the men who have taken part in the Westville program have returned to prison and conduct issues for these men are also significantly decreased. The inmates are happy to have this opportunity to grow in knowledge and those who operate the prisons are pleased to witness this improvement in behavior. It is for these and many other reasons that the leaders of this program are committed to its long term growth.”

    Alesha Seroczynski, Ph.D., WEI director of College Operations provided specifics on how she envisions this growth to occur. “We currently have 32 men participating in the program, with two earning their associate’s (degree) this spring. Over the next five years we are hoping to expand our enrollment to fill our dorm of 102 beds. Long term, we are hoping to include as many as 200 men in our program, but even reaching 100 students would make this one of the top college prison programs in the nation.”

    This program has provided many men with a new start and the ability to make positive improvements to their life. To summarize the fundamental importance of WEI, Caponigro emphasized, “The mission of Holy Cross and Notre Dame is to educate the heart and mind. In Westville, we want to bring that same spirit to the table. We do this by showing that we are truly about helping these men realize their fullest potential as children of God.”

    Posted on March 24, 2015, to:

  • As we approach Holy Week, I invite you to reflect on the sorrowful mystery of Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane. In the second reading this Sunday, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, we read: In the days when Christ was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Hebrews 5:7-9). This passage recalls the agony of Jesus in Gethsemane.

    Often in our devotion to the passion of Christ, we consider the physical aspect of Jesus’ suffering. We meditate on His scourging at the pillar and His crowning with thorns. We think about the physical pain He suffered carrying the cross, the pain He felt being stripped of His garments, the excruciating pain of being nailed to the cross. These sufferings remind us of the horrible physical torment Jesus underwent for love of us. Reflecting on these aspects of the passion moves our hearts, helps us to appreciate the depth of God’s love for us. They also provide us with a feeling of Christ’s union with us when we experience physical pain and illness. But I’d like to reflect with you on the interior or spiritual aspect of Jesus’ passion which had its culminating moment in Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane.

    This important episode in the mystery of Christ’s passion is described in all four Gospels as well as the mention in this Sunday’s reading from the letter to the Hebrews. I believe that, together with Jesus hanging on the cross, the mystery of the agony in the garden is the most profound mystery to contemplate in the whole story of the passion, in the event of our redemption. There in the garden, Jesus Himself expressed in words the intensity of His agony: my soul is sorrowful even to death. Or another translation: My soul is ready to die with sorrow. The evangelists tell us that Jesus was greatly distressed and troubled.  This was Jesus’ spiritual agony, something even more painful than His physical agony.

    What was happening in Gethsemane? What was the torment going on inside Jesus?  Some of the great mystic saints describe a similar experience, what Saint John of the Cross called the “dark night of the soul.” Our soul can be filled with great sorrow, fear, even desperation when God allows us to see clearly our own sinfulness. But Jesus was without sin. Yet, he experienced the terrible horror of sin since He was about to carry all the sins of mankind. He had not committed them, but He bore them. In the first letter of Peter, we read: He Himself bore our sins in His body. Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians that for our sake, God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. Saint Paul wrote to the Galatians that Christ became a curse for us. Jesus is the suffering servant foretold by Isaiah who bears the sins of the world. Isaiah wrote: It was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured … he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins. Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole.

    The Gethsemane experience was Jesus’ anticipation of bearing the guilt of all the sins of human history as if it were His own. I imagine that Jesus in His human nature experienced the natural fear of his impending suffering and death, but I think His agony in the garden was something more painful. It was the burden of the mystery of the world’s sin which lay on His heart. He was about to carry the awful burden of the world’s sin. This suffering of Jesus was the greatest suffering ever endured in the history of the human race. In Gethsemane, every sin in human history, past and future, were present in mystery: from the sin of Adam and Eve, the sin of Cain, the sins of infidelity of the chosen people, the sins of the people of the new Israel as well, the sins of us all. Our Lord carried all this iniquity as if it were His own.

    Jesus’ torment was caused also by the experience of abandonment, not only by his friends, but by His heavenly Father. God has an infinite hatred of sin, so the nearness of sin naturally brought also the experience of the distance of God. In the garden, Jesus experienced in His human nature this abandonment. Again, perhaps we find this experience among human beings most dramatic in the descriptions of the mystic saints and the dark night of the soul. Yet, we all can experience this distance of God at different times in our lives and we know how troubling it is. It is a feeling of desolation and abandonment. But Jesus’ experience of this was something infinitely more painful. Perhaps it is best captured in our Lord’s cry from the cross: My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? or Why have you forsaken me? Not only had Jesus experienced the abandonment of His human companions, the apostles, but even more difficult, separation from His Father. Isn’t this the principal effect of sin? Jesus took upon Himself the principal effect of sin which was abandonment. Jesus’ cry was one of abandonment, but not despair. The soul that despairs never cries to God.

    In the midst of His agony in the garden, Jesus prayed. He said: My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. … This prayer of our Lord reveals the depth of His torment and anguish. When we face suffering, we also pray that God will take it away. But even more importantly, after making that prayer, Jesus adds: yet not what I will, but what you will. The Gethsemane experience reached its climax and resolution in those words of Jesus. This is Jesus’ fiat. We often reflect on Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation: I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let is be done to me according to your word. This is Jesus’ fiat in the midst of agony. This is Jesus’ act of obedience to the will of His Father. As Mary consented to the incarnation, Jesus utters the fiat of the redemption. The divine Son freely consented with His human will. The salvation of us all really rests on this fiat of Jesus.

    The letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered. In Gethsemane, Jesus obeyed His Father’s will. He said yes to the passion, to dying for the sins of the human race, to drinking the cup of suffering and death. He said yes to fulfilling in Himself the destiny of the Suffering Servant of God foretold by Isaiah. In the darkness of the agony, He said yes to God even when His Father seemed so far from Him. And this is what has brought about our redemption. Saint Paul wrote to the Romans: For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience, many will be made righteous. Of course, this all came to pass on Good Friday, when the sacrifice of Jesus was consummated on the cross. But on Holy Thursday, He accepted in His human will that the Father’s will be done. He freely embraced in His human heart the Father’s love for us. Out of love for His Father and for all people, whom the Father wants to save, Jesus freely accepted His passion and death.

    The Gethsemane experience did not end in defeat but in victory. Jesus’ soul descended into the abyss. He descended into hell for us but He never lost His filial trust in God, whom He continued to call Abba, my Father, Papa. His absolute obedience destroyed sin and its power. The letter to the Hebrews tells us that He was truly heard because of His reverence, that is to say, because of His obedience. This obedience has brought blessings to the whole human race. Through his obedience, all are made righteous, Saint Paul says.

    We are called to imitate the fiat of Jesus in the garden, His obedience to the Father. When we find this difficult, as it often can be, we can fall on our knees beside Jesus in Gethsemane and He will teach us how to obey. Obedience to God should be the daily fabric of our lives as Christians. We must seek to obey the Lord and we do so every time we say no to sin and yes to grace. There is no activity in our lives that cannot be transformed into an act of loving obedience to the Father. Jesus obeyed God His Father in the midst of the most terrible darkness of the soul. And, as Hebrews tells us, His prayer was heard because of His reverence.

    Jesus is our model for doing God’s will and nowhere is this seen more dramatically than in His experience of the passion, especially his agony in the garden, and his prayer in the midst of that agony: nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. His complete trust and his obedience, even in the terrible experience of abandonment, is the model for us.

    At different times in our life, we may find it easy to pray with Jesus: Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. It is much more difficult to pray from our hearts the second half of His prayer: nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done. But with the Lord’s grace, we can pray those words. With His grace, we can be obedient. With His grace, we can share in the mystery of His redemptive suffering. With His grace, we can be partners in the paschal mystery. With His grace, we can follow in His footsteps from Gethsemane to Calvary, knowing that Calvary is not the end, rather the empty tomb is, glorification in heaven is. We see this in Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, who because of her sinlessness and her complete union with her Son in His redemptive suffering, was assumed body and soul into heaven. Like Mary, our true joy is found in sharing in the destiny of Jesus. The Gethsemane experience ends not in defeat but in victory.

     

    Posted on March 17, 2015, to:

  • On Thursday, March 19th, we celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Saint Ambrose wrote that, next to Mary, Saint Joseph was the most eminent among the saints and destined by God to be the patron of all Christians. Blessed Pope Pius IX, at a very difficult time in the Church’s history, placed the universal Church under his patronage. In 1870, he declared Saint Joseph the patron of the Catholic Church.

    Through the centuries, the Church has honored Saint Joseph. It is an honor that reflects the honor given to him by God: the honor of being the husband of Mary and the earthly father of Jesus, the honor of being the protector and guardian of the Holy Family. Saint Joseph cared for Jesus with great love and was united to Mary in the most intimate and chaste marriage.

    I think that the greatness of Saint Joseph is discovered in his faith. We see his marvelous faith in the Gospel when he received the message of the angel in a dream, telling him to take Mary into his home. The angel revealed to him that it was through the Holy Spirit that the child had been conceived in Mary. The Gospel tells us that when Joseph awoke, “he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” Joseph’s obedience of faith was like Mary’s at the Annunciation. Without hesitation or objection, Joseph did as the angel commanded him.

    We see Joseph’s obedience of faith later when the angel ordered him to take Mary and the child Jesus and to flee into Egypt. He willingly obeyed, trusting completely in God. Throughout his life, Saint Joseph carried out God’s will faithfully. He carried out his duties with perfect fidelity to God’s will. He is an appropriate patron for all of us and for the Church, not only because of his loving care of the Holy Family, but also because of his example of faith. Like Mary, he heard the word of God and responded to it in faith. He served the Lord faithfully and did whatever God asked of him. Pope Saint John Paul II wrote that “already at the beginning of redemption, after Mary, we find the model of obedience made incarnate in Saint Joseph, the man known for having faithfully carried out God’s commands.”

    The Gospel uses the adjective “just” or “righteous” to describe Saint Joseph. This word means that Joseph was a man of moral virtue who was obedient to the law. Even more, it describes his attitude of complete openness to the will of God. He allowed himself to be guided by the Lord. He answered God’s call and fulfilled his mission responsibly and attentively. With great love and care, he watched over Jesus and Mary. He fulfilled his vocation as a faithful guardian of the Holy Family.

    Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, celebrated the Mass beginning his ministry as Bishop of Rome on March 19, 2013, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. At that Mass, he reflected on the mission God entrusted to Joseph: to be the protector of the Holy Father and the protector of the Church. He spoke about how Saint Joseph exercised this mission with humility and fidelity. Saint Joseph responded to God’s call readily and willingly. He teaches us to do the same. Pope Francis reflected on his and our call to be protectors, like Joseph, of Jesus, of creation, of every human person (especially the poor), and of ourselves.

    Last year, on Saint Joseph’s Day, Pope Francis focused on Saint Joseph as a model for parents, especially fathers, and educators. Saint Joseph’s Day is appropriately Father’s Day in Italy. Pope Francis reflected on how Saint Joseph watched over Jesus’ human development, his growth, as Saint Luke tells us, “in wisdom, age, and grace” (2:52). The Holy Father encouraged fathers to be close to their children, as Saint Joseph was close to Jesus, to be their guardians and teachers in age, wisdom, and grace.

    Together with Mary, Joseph raised Jesus. Joseph was a great example to Jesus. He taught Him the wisdom that is nourished by the Word of God. Pope Francis says: “We could ponder how Joseph formed the little Jesus to listen to the Sacred Scriptures, above all by accompanying him on Saturday to the synagogue in Nazareth.” This is the vocation of every father in the formation and education of his children: to help them to listen to God’s word, to bring them to Sunday Mass, to pray with and for them, to help them to grow in the grace of God.

    Saint Joseph also taught Jesus in his work. Though we have little information in the Gospels about the hidden years of Jesus in Nazareth, we can imagine how Joseph instructed Jesus in his trade of carpentry. He was a real dad who spent time with his son, was close to him, a guardian of his growth in age, wisdom, and grace.

    Saint Joseph is a great model for all fathers and for all the faithful. He always persevered in his faith in God. He was a just man and very responsible in living out his vocation. He was a protector and guardian. Saint Joseph continues with this mission from heaven. As he protected and guarded Jesus, he now protects and guards Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. I encourage your devotion to Saint Joseph.

    As we celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day on March 19th, let us learn from this great and humble saint. May he intercede for all fathers and for the whole Church! Saint Joseph, pray for us!

    Posted on March 10, 2015, to:

  • The Ten Commandments are on display at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne and was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.

    On the approaching Third Sunday of Lent, we will hear the Exodus account of the Ten Commandments revealed by God to Moses. The Ten Commandments are called the “Decalogue,” meaning “ten words.” These “ten words” are said to be written “with the finger of God,” unlike the other commandments written by Moses (CCC 2056). Both the Book of Exodus (20: 2-17) and the Book of Deuteronomy (5: 6-21) hand on to us the Ten Commandments.

    The Ten Commandments are truly a gift to us from God. In truth, God engraved the Ten Commandments in our hearts from the beginning. They express the requirements of the natural law. Though the Ten Commandments can be known by human reason, God chose to reveal them specifically since original sin has clouded human understanding. One of the effects of original sin is that human nature is now subject to ignorance. We can be thankful that God has made His will known to us through His revelation of the Decalogue on Mount Sinai.

    When I visit our Catholic school religion classes and our parish religious education programs, I am glad to see our children memorizing the Ten Commandments and learning about the meaning of each. This instruction is very important for their moral formation. Through the Ten Commandments, we learn right from wrong and our obligations to God and neighbor. For many centuries, the teaching of Christian morality has followed the order of the Ten Commandments.

    Jesus not only acknowledged the Ten Commandments, He went more deeply into them, especially in His Sermon on the Mount. Jesus unfolded all their demands. For example, within the prohibition of killing that is the fifth commandment, our Lord calls us also to avoid anger and malicious speech. Christian morality, life in Christ, is more than external conformity to the law. It touches the inner person, our attitudes and thoughts. Jesus gives us the twofold commandment, love of God and love of neighbor, according to which all the commandments must be interpreted and conformed.

    It is significant that God revealed the Ten Commandments to humanity during the Israelite Exodus from Egypt. God gave the people His law after freeing them from slavery. It seems logical since God did not want His people to become slaves again, in other words, slaves of sin.  Actually, spiritual slavery is even worse than physical slavery. So God gave us the Ten Commandments to make us free! This goes against the opinion held by some who think of the Ten Commandments as oppressive or even of Judaism and Christianity as oppressive religions because of their laws and norms. The opposite is actually the case. The more obedient we are to God and His commandments, the freer we are. God’s commandments help free us from selfishness and liberate us from egoism. We can look at each single commandment and see how obedience to that commandment helps us to avoid vices that might enslave us and bring misery to our lives. The Ten Commandments, together with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, show us the path of life. We don’t walk this path alone. We are united with Jesus our Redeemer, who, through His Spirit, guides us to keep the commandments.

    The Ten Commandments are permanently valid. They don’t change. They express serious obligations, not mere suggestions. May these commandments not only be on our lips, memorized words, but words that illumine our hearts and minds. In this Lenten season of conversion, may the Ten Commandments help us to stay on the right path or return to it: the path of life, the way of Jesus.

    Posted on March 4, 2015, to:

  • A detailed portion of Sandro Botticelli’s “Three Temptations of Christ” is shown in the fresco above. The art is displayed in the Sistine Chapel and dates to 1481-1482. The Italian painter from Florence lived 1445-1510.

    Every year on the First Sunday of Lent, we read about the temptations of Jesus in the desert of Judea. This year, we read the very short version in the Gospel of Mark. Saint Mark tells us that “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” In the other Gospels, we read in more detail about the three temptations of Jesus by the devil.

    Jesus withstood the temptations of the devil. He helps us to withstand the temptations to sin that can lead us away from God. We are comforted by the fact that Our Lord experienced temptation, that He entered into this domain of human life. We read in the letter to the Hebrews that “because He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted” (2:18). We also read in that same letter: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:15-16).

    Our Lord allowed Himself to be tempted. He has set us an example of resisting temptation with the help of grace. Out of love for us, the Son of God was tempted in every way that we are, but did not sin. He taught us to pray to the Father “lead us not into temptation.” This is the sixth petition of the Our Father.

    Have you ever found this petition strange, to ask God not to lead us into temptation? Surely, God does not lead anyone into temptation. In the New Testament letter of Saint James, we read: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’, for God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).

    Temptation is the invitation to do evil, to sin. God abhors evil, so we cannot say that God leads us into temptation to do evil. God wants to set us free from evil. So what does the petition “lead us not into temptation” mean? It means “do not let us yield to temptation.”

    God allows us to be tempted, but not beyond our strength. God allowed the devil to tempt Job as a test of his faith. But God did not abandon Job in this trial. And Job grew and made real spiritual progress through this process of purification. Job did not lose his faith in God even in the deep darkness of his suffering.

    Saint Paul wrote the following in his first letter to the Corinthians: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (10:13).

    Scripture teaches us that there are three sources of temptation: the flesh, the world, and the devil. The flesh represents the craving of our appetites which can become disordered and, consequently, sinful. That is one of the reasons why fasting and other penances help us in controlling our appetites. The world is really our self-centered desire to use things or people without regard to salvation and the honor and glory of God.

    The third source of temptation is the devil. Unfortunately, many do not believe in the existence of the devil or diabolical spiritual beings. The French poet Charles Baudelaire wrote that “the devil’s most cunning trick is to convince us that he does not exist.” In 1972, Blessed Pope Paul VI surprised many when he said that one of the greatest needs in the Church today is “the defense from that evil which is called the devil.” Paul VI said that “Evil is not merely a lack of something, but a positive agent, a living spiritual being, perverted and perverting… It is a departure from the picture provided by biblical and Church teachings to refuse to acknowledge the devil’s existence. … Or to explain the devil as a pseudo-reality, a conceptual, fanciful personification of the unknown cause of our misfortunes.” Pope Francis, sharing Pope Paul’s concern, speaks often about the devil and his lies.

    We are deceiving ourselves, or the devil is deceiving us, if we think Satan does not exist. Saint John’s Gospel calls him “the father of lies” (8:44). The Book of Revelation calls him “the deceiver of the whole world” (12:9).

    Whatever the source of temptation in our lives (the flesh, the world, or the devil), we pray to God the Father: “lead us not into temptation,” that is, don’t allow us to take the way that leads to sin. Don’t let me yield to temptation. Help me, Lord, to say no to the devil’s lies, no to selfish desires, no to hurting myself and my neighbor. Help me to say yes to You, yes to life, and yes to love.

    The following reflection from our Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is a practical interpretation of the sixth petition of the Our Father. Pope Benedict writes that when we pray “lead us not into temptation,” we are saying to God:

    “I know that I need trials so that my nature can be purified. When you decide to send me these trials, when you give evil some room to maneuver, as you did with Job, then please remember that my strength goes only so far. Don’t overestimate my capacity. Don’t set too wide the boundaries within which I may be tempted, and be close to me with your protecting hand when it becomes too much for me.”

    During Lent, we do battle with the temptations that have their sources in the flesh, the world, or the devil. Victory is only possible through prayer and with the help of God’s grace. May the Lord strengthen us in this battle. Let us with confidence approach the throne of grace, asking the Lord to “lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. Amen.”

    Posted on February 17, 2015, to: