Summary of today’s show: Ash Wednesday this year is marked with a special significance as Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his last public Mass as Supreme Pontiff. Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams plumb the depths of the Holy Father’s homily and then turn to Fr. Matt’s own homily for today that connects the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving with love, romance, and St. Valentine’s Day.
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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams
Today’s topics: Ash Wednesday and Lent
1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed Fr. Matt Williams to the show and he noted that The Good Catholic Life started on an Ash Wednesday two years ago. Scot said he totally forgot about the anniversary because he’s been so preoccupied with the huge cross of ashes on his forehead. He had made a plea yesterday to all priests everywhere not to take advantage of the wide canvas provided by the folliclely challenged. Scot told the story of getting his ashes this morning.
Scot said today they’ll be discussing Pope Benedict’s homily for Ash Wednesday, which has been announced as his public Mass as Pope. Fr. Matt said when he heard he realized that this is the closure. With a funeral, you have a time to say goodbye, but with this Mass it is done.
2nd segment: Scot said the Holy Father’s Ash Wednesday Mass is usually at a smaller station church in Rome, Santa Sabina, but very wisely they moved it to St. Peter’s Basilica for the expected larger crowds. Scot recalled the Holy Father’s comments to the General Audience before his catechesis:
As soon as the Holy Father emerged onto the stage from the side door the crowds erupted in greeting. “Dear brothers and sisters, as you know I decided”, he began only to be interrupted with prolonged applause. “Thank you for your kindness” he responded and began again. “I decided to resign from the ministry that the Lord had entrusted me on April 19, 2005. I did this in full freedom” the Pope added forcefully, “for the good of the Church after having prayed at length and examined my conscience before God, well aware of the gravity of this act”.
But continued Pope Benedict, “I was also well aware that I was no longer able to fulfil the Petrine Ministry with that strength that it demands. What sustains and illuminates me is the certainty that the Church belongs to Christ whose care and guidance will never be lacking. I thank you all for the love and prayer with which you have accompanied me”.
Again the Pope was interrupted by lengthy applause, and visibly moved he continued: “I have felt, almost physically, your prayers in these days which are not easy for me, the strength which the love of the Church and your prayers brings to me. Continue to pray for me and for the future Pope, the Lord will guide us!”.
Fr. Matt said it’s evident of the great love the Holy Father has for his people and the great love that’s returned. He was created from the beginning of time to be Supreme Pontiff and in humility he has set that aside, allowing another to take his place.
Scot talked about how he has left things before and what it feels like to do significant things for the last thing. This Mass has to have been especially moving and he’s probably been reflecting the rest of today what that means to him. Fr. Matt said it crystallizes his humility and that it was never about him, but about his bride the Church.
Scot read from the beginning of the Holy Father’s catechesis from the Wednesday general audience:
Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the liturgical time of Lent, forty days that prepare us for the celebration of Holy Easter, it is a time of particular commitment in our spiritual journey. The number forty occurs several times in the Bible. In particular, it recalls the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the wilderness: a long period of formation to become the people of God, but also a long period in which the temptation to be unfaithful to the covenant with the Lord was always present. Forty were also the days of the Prophet Elijah’s journey to reach the Mount of God, Horeb; as well as the time that Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public life and where he was tempted by the devil. In this Catechesis I would like to dwell on this moment of earthly life of the Son of God, which we will read of in the Gospel this Sunday.
First of all, the desert, where Jesus withdrew to, is the place of silence, of poverty, where man is deprived of material support and is placed in front of the fundamental questions of life, where he is pushed to towards the essentials in life and for this very reason it becomes easier for him to find God. But the desert is also a place of death, because where there is no water there is no life, and it is a place of solitude where man feels temptation more intensely. Jesus goes into the desert, and there is tempted to leave the path indicated by God the Father to follow other easier and worldly paths (cf. Lk 4:1-13). So he takes on our temptations and carries our misery, to conquer evil and open up the path to God, the path of conversion.
Scot now switched to the homily for the Ash Wednesday Mass:
Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin a new Lenten journey, a journey that extends over forty days and leads us towards the joy of Easter, to victory of Life over death. Following the ancient Roman tradition of Lenten stations, we are gathered for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. The tradition says that the first statio took place in the Basilica of Saint Sabina on the Aventine Hill. Circumstances suggested we gather in St. Peter’s Basilica. Tonight there are many of us gathered around the tomb of the Apostle Peter, to also ask him to pray for the path of the Church going forward at this particular moment in time, to renew our faith in the Supreme Pastor, Christ the Lord. For me it is also a good opportunity to thank everyone, especially the faithful of the Diocese of Rome, as I prepare to conclude the Petrine ministry, and I ask you for a special remembrance in your prayer.
Scot notes that the Holy Father specifies that Christ is the Supreme Pastor.
The readings that have just been proclaimed offer us ideas which, by the grace of God, we are called to transform into a concrete attitude and behaviour during Lent. First of all the Church proposes the powerful appeal which the prophet Joel addresses to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning” (2.12). Please note the phrase “with all your heart,” which means from the very core of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God and the power of His mercy. The prophet says: “return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and relenting in punishment” (v. 13). It is possible to return to the Lord, it is a ‘grace’, because it is the work of God and the fruit of faith that we entrust to His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates and moves our innermost core, gifting us the power that “rends the heart”. Once again the prophet proclaims these words from God: “Rend your hearts and not your garments” (v. 13). Today, in fact, many are ready to “rend their garments” over scandals and injustices – which are of course caused by others – but few seem willing to act according to their own “heart”, their own conscience and their own intentions, by allowing the Lord transform, renew and convert them.
Scot noted that it’s implied we should ask God for grace through all the participation in liturgies and devotions and practices of Lent so that this can be the Lent in which we grow the closest to God. Fr. Matt said he’s also helping us understand that the work of repentance and conversion is a work of grace. We turn from sin and toward the Lord in faith. No one does that on their own. We have to operate of our own free will as moved by the Lord upon examining our conscience. God invites us to conversion, but we have to respond and if we say Yes, then grace is there again to help us follow through on that.
This “return to me with all your heart,” then, is a reminder that not only involves the individual but the entire community. Again we heard in the first reading: “Blow the horn in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly! Gather the people, sanctify the congregation; Assemble the elderly; gather the children, even infants nursing at the breast; Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her bridal tent (vv.15-16). The community dimension is an essential element in faith and Christian life. Christ came “to gather the children of God who are scattered into one” (Jn 11:52). The “we” of the Church is the community in which Jesus brings us together (cf. Jn 12:32), faith is necessarily ecclesial. And it is important to remember and to live this during Lent: each person must be aware that the penitential journey cannot be faced alone, but together with many brothers and sisters in the Church.
Fr. Matt said we believe as a community and we repent as a community. We acknowledge Christ came for all of us, the sick and the healthy, to save us. The Holy Father is saying we need not only an individual relationship with God, but we need a communal relationship with God, because we are social beings. So when we sin, we hurt not just our relationship with God, but also our relationship with the whole Church.
Finally, the prophet focuses on the prayers of priests, who, with tears in their eyes, turn to God, saying: ” Between the porch and the altar let the priests weep, let the ministers of the LORD weep and say: “Spare your people, Lord! Do not let your heritage become a disgrace, a byword among the nations! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’”(V.17). This prayer leads us to reflect on the importance of witnessing to faith and Christian life, for each of us and our community, so that we can reveal the face of the Church and how this face is, at times, disfigured. I am thinking in particular of the sins against the unity of the Church, of the divisions in the body of the Church. Living Lent in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalry is a humble and precious sign for those who have distanced themselves from the faith or who are indifferent.
Fr. Matt said what gives these things authenticity is that they flow from deep friendship with the Lord, not out of pride. Scot said the externals are important as a witness, but the internals are even more important as we ask whether we’re growing our relationship with God in this Lent.
“Well, now is the favourable time, this is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). The words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of Corinth resonate for us with an urgency that does not permit absences or inertia. The term “now” is repeated and can not be missed, it is offered to us as a unique opportunity. And the Apostle’s gaze focuses on sharing with which Christ chose to characterize his life, taking on everything human to the point of taking on all of man’s sins. The words of St. Paul are very strong: “God made him sin for our sake.” Jesus, the innocent, the Holy One, “He who knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21), bears the burden of sin sharing the outcome of death, and death of the Cross with humanity. The reconciliation we are offered came at a very high price, that of the Cross raised on Golgotha, on which the Son of God made man was hung. In this, in God’s immersion in human suffering and the abyss of evil, is the root of our justification. The “return to God with all your heart” in our Lenten journey passes through the Cross, in following Christ on the road to Calvary, to the total gift of self. It is a journey on which each and every day we learn to leave behind our selfishness and our being closed in on ourselves, to make room for God who opens and transforms our hearts. And as St. Paul reminds us, the proclamation of the Cross resonates within us thanks to the preaching of the Word, of which the Apostle himself is an ambassador. It is a call to us so that this Lenten journey be characterized by a more careful and assiduous listening to the Word of God, the light that illuminates our steps.
In the Gospel passage according of Matthew, to whom belongs to the so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to three fundamental practices required by the Mosaic Law: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. These are also traditional indications on the Lenten journey to respond to the invitation to «return to God with all your heart.” But he points out that both the quality and the truth of our relationship with God is what qualifies the authenticity of every religious act. For this reason he denounces religious hypocrisy, a behaviour that seeks applause and approval. The true disciple does not serve himself or the “public”, but his Lord, in simplicity and generosity: “And your Father who sees everything in secret will reward you” (Mt 6,4.6.18). Our fitness will always be more effective the less we seek our own glory and the more we are aware that the reward of the righteous is God Himself, to be united to Him, here, on a journey of faith, and at the end of life, in the peace light of coming face to face with Him forever (cf. 1 Cor 13:12).
Dear brothers and sisters, we begin our Lenten journey with trust and joy. May the invitation to conversion , to “return to God with all our heart”, resonate strongly in us, accepting His grace that makes us new men and women, with the surprising news that is participating in the very life of Jesus. May none of us, therefore, be deaf to this appeal, also addressed in the austere rite, so simple and yet so beautiful, of the imposition of ashes, which we will shortly carry out. May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and model of every true disciple of the Lord accompany us in this time. Amen!
Scot said God’s grace makes us new men and women, not just improved. Lent is a time of second chances. Part of living Lent well is to become a new man or woman. Fr. Matt said it takes courage, grace, and humility.
3rd segment: This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is Nicholas Boncoddo from Braintree
He wins the CD “Marian Grace” available from [http://mysteriumonline.com/](http://mysteriumonline.com/)
If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit WQOM.org. For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.
4th segment: Scot said Fr. Matt’s homily today for Ash Wednesday used the timeliness of St. Valentine’s Day to talk about Lenten disciples of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Fr. Matt said for the 40 days of Lent he’ll be doing a daily YouTube reflection and as he thought about it he connected it to romance and dating.
He said prayer is communicating with God. In a dating relationship, when you first meet them, you get to know them more through communication. That communication gets deeper and deeper and flash forward 50 years, it’s as deep as can be. At the beginning of the relationship, there’s lots and lots of vocal communication. But after 50 years of marriage, they walk hand in hand silently, but communicate even more. We have to open our minds to all that communication can be and all that prayer can be. It’s not just rote prayer and lots of words, but it can also just being together in love.
The second Lenten discipline is fasting. Fr. Matt said there was a time when young people dated, they would date casually and then as you got serious with one, you would begin to say no to others to prioritize this person. You would also say to no to other things in life. Fasting is a way of prioritizing our lives with God as the center. Somethings we give up because they’re not virtuous, but others are goods we give up in order to focus on the Lord. When you fall in love you begin to order your life to the beloved.
Scot said he always thought of fasting as from food, but it didn’t help him grow in faith. Instead he finds fasting from TV, from technology, and from activities he enjoys to be more helpful. He’s decided to give up listening to secular radio and instead listen to Catholic radio, Catholic podcasts, or Christian music. Scot recalls how he likes the interviews on sports radio with baseball players returning to spring training and how difficult it is to give that up. But he knows he’s grown already in the past three days. He finds himself in a better mood lately.
The third practice is almsgiving. Fr. Matt said when you fall in love, the things that are important to the beloved become important to you. They may not be your preference, but you do it out of love. Almsgiving is traditionally about giving not just from surplus, but giving from our want to the needy. It’s taking care of God’s own. If we’re trying to grow in relationship with God, then what He cares about should be what I care about. The things that are important to God naturally become more important to me as well. In addition to giving money to poor, it’s really about being attentive to the spiritual and temporal needs of those marginalized in our society.
Scot used to think that almsgiving was saving up money and giving it to the Church, which is still a good thing that we should do, but it’s also about giving yourself to others. One way to practice almsgiving is to make one phone call per day to someone you need to touch base with. Fr. Matt said it could be a note or letter each day.
Scot asked Fr. Matt his Lenten resolutions. He said his theme is order within gives way to order without. He’s going to work on not hitting the snooze button in the morning and get up each day at a consistent time. When he does that he feels like he’s starting his day at the top of the mountain. He will spend more time in meditation. Scot said his kids don’t let him sleep late, but he wants to set an alarm. He wants to only watch TV if he’s watching it with his kids or his wife. He’s giving up eating between meals. He wants to replace criticism of others with acts of encouragement. He wants to get to Mass more frequently and spend 15 minutes more day listening to the Lord. He’s going to spend more time with family and to reach out to friends.
Fr. Matt said he’s getting his fasting bread from LaVallee Breads to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. The breads are available to everyone through their website: