I realize last week’s challenge of not hitting your Snooze button on your alarm might have been a challenge, but I commend you if you were willing to accept the challenge. I often use the analogy of weight training when considering our growing in virtue. If you want to build muscle, you need to have resistance. So to with virtue – we need to encounter resistance in our lives which gives us the opportunity to practice virtue and so be strengthened.
For this week’s challenge, I would like to turn to our March Family of Faith topic: The New Commandment, the Works of Mercy, and the First through Fourth Beatitudes. This is a broad topic, so let’s just focus on the Works of Mercy. The Church offers us two categories when it comes to the Works of Mercy – corporal and spiritual. I came across a quote the other day which sums up these works well: “Mercy is the form love takes when it encounters misery.” Lent calls this reality to mind as we consider the mercy of God who sent His Son to die for our sins – the greatest act of mercy to alleviate the misery of our fallen condition due to sin. The challenge for this week is a combination of a couple of the spiritual works of mercy – bearing wrongs patiently and praying for the living and the dead:
Challenge: Pray for your enemies
Fruit: Growing more merciful
We heard in the Gospel a few Sundays ago where Jesus said: “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Lk 6:27-28) I want you to think of a person that you really find it hard to love. That could be somebody close to you or just somebody you know about. Once you have thought of that person, instead of listing off all of the reasons why you do not like / love them, say a prayer for them. Say something like this: “Lord, you love this person. You want them to become a saint. I find it hard to see the good you see in them, but I want, more than anything, for your will to be done. So I pray for them, that you will bless them, and give them what they need in order to become a saint.”
Say a prayer like that every day. I realize it might be hard, but it is not impossible, because Jesus does not command the impossible. There is a big difference between can’t and won’t. And if we are unwilling to do this, well, then we will have a very hard time trying to make the case that we are a true follower of Jesus Christ.
As an added challenge (I read this from a reflection from Bishop Barron), at the end of the week, list off all of the negative things you can think about that person, then go before the Lord and ask forgiveness for when you yourself have been guilty of those same things. That gives new weight to the words of Jesus from another recent Gospel: “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.” (Lk 6:42)
Speaking of mercy, I would like to also take this opportunity to invite you to another very important spiritual practice that is key to growing in holiness – going to confession to encounter God’s mercy toward us. If you have not been in a while, Lent is a great time to go. Nothing (apart from the Eucharist) is more conducive to our growing in holiness than having the misery of our sins lifted. Let me be so bold to say that if it has been more than a month since your last confession, it would be a good idea to go this Lent. Let me be even more bold in saying that if this is the only extra thing you do this Lent, it will have been a fruitful Lent. As a reminder, one of the priests of the Cathedral is waiting to welcome you to the sacrament of God’s mercy every day (note our normal confession times in the bulletin) and we will have extended hours for confession this coming Friday and Saturday. Confessions on Friday are from 12:30 pm until 7:00 pm, then on Saturday from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm. As an extra credit bonus challenge – invite a family member of friend to join you when you come to confession!