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Arch Bishop Micheal Ralph Vendegna S.O.S.M.A.

Spiritual Reading

  • Sunday 21 February 2021

    1st Sunday of Lent 

    Spiritual Reading

    Your Second Reading from the Office of Readings:

    1st Sunday of Lent

    A commentary of St Augustine on Psalm 60
    In Christ we suffered temptation, and in him we overcame the Devil

    Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer. Who is speaking? An individual, it seems. See if it is an individual: I cried out to you from the ends of the earth while my heart was in anguish. Now it is no longer one person; rather, it is one in the sense that Christ is one, and we are all his members. What single individual can cry from the ends of the earth? The one who cries from the ends of the earth is none other than the Son’s inheritance. It was said to him: Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your inheritance, and the ends of the earth as your possession. This possession of Christ, this inheritance of Christ, this body of Christ, this one Church of Christ, this unity that we are, cries from the ends of the earth. What does it cry? What I said before: Hear, O God, my petition, listen to my prayer; I cried out to you from the ends of the earth.’ That is, I made this cry to you from the ends of the earth; that is, on all sides.
    Why did I make this cry? While my heart was in anguish. The speaker shows that he is present among all the nations of the earth in a condition, not of exalted glory but of severe trial.
    Our pilgrimage on earth cannot be exempt from trial. We progress by means of trial. No one knows himself except through trial, or receives a crown except after victory, or strives except against an enemy or temptations.
    The one who cries from the ends of the earth is in anguish, but is not left on his own. Christ chose to foreshadow us, who are his body, by means of his body, in which he has died, risen and ascended into heaven, so that the members of his body may hope to follow where their head has gone before.
    He made us one with him when he chose to be tempted by Satan. We have heard in the gospel how the Lord Jesus Christ was tempted by the devil in the wilderness. Certainly Christ was tempted by the devil. In Christ you were tempted, for Christ received his flesh from your nature, but by his own power gained salvation for you; he suffered death in your nature, but by his own power gained glory for you; therefore, he suffered temptation in your nature, but by his own power gained victory for you.
    If in Christ we have been tempted, in him we overcome the devil. Do you think only of Christ’s temptations and fail to think of his victory? See yourself as tempted in him, and see yourself as victorious in him. He could have kept the devil from himself; but if he were not tempted he could not teach you how to triumph over temptation.


    On this date in other years:

    Saint Peter Damian, Bishop, Doctor

    St Peter Damian (standing, on the far right) with Saints Augustine, Anne and Elizabeth, painting (1481) by Ercole de' Roberti (1451-1496).

    From a letter by Saint Peter Damian, bishop
    Let us rejoice in the joy that follows sadness

    You asked me to write you some words of consolation, my brother. Embittered by so many tribulations, you are seeking some comfort for your soul. You asked me to offer you some soothing suggestions.
    But there is no need for me to write. Consolation is already within your reach, if your good sense has not been dulled. My son, come to the service of God. Stand in justice and fear. Prepare your soul; it is about to be tested. These words of Scripture show that you are a son of God and, as such, should take possession of your inheritance. What could be clearer than this exhortation?
    Where there is justice as well as fear, adversity will surely test the spirit. But it is not the torment of a slave. Rather it is the discipline of a child by its parent.
    Even in the midst of his many sufferings, the holy man Job could say: Whip me, crush me, cut me in slices! And he would always add: This at least would bring me relief, yet my persecutor does not spare me.
    But for God’s chosen ones there is great comfort; the torment lasts but a short time. Then God bends down, cradles the fallen figure, whispers words of consolation. With hope in his heart, man picks himself up and walks again towards the glory of happiness in heaven.
    Craftsmen exemplify this same practice. By hammering gold, the smith beats down the dross. The sculptor files metal to reveal a shining vein underneath. The potter’s furnace puts vessels to the test. And the fire of suffering tests the mettle of just men. The apostle James echoes this thought: Think it a great joy, dear brothers and sisters, when you stumble onto the many kinds of trials and tribulations.
    When men suffer pain for the evil they have perpetrated in life, they should take some reassurance. They also know that for their good deeds undying rewards await them in the life to come.
    Therefore, my brother, scorned as you are by men, lashed as it were by God, do not despair. Do not be depressed. Do not let your weakness make you impatient. Instead, let the serenity of your spirit shine through your face. Let the joy of your mind burst forth. Let words of thanks break from your lips.
    The way that God deals with men can only be praised. He lashes them in this life to shield them from the eternal lash in the next. He pins people down now; at a later time he will raise them up. He cuts them before healing; he throws them down to raise them anew.
    The Scriptures reassure us: let your understanding strengthen your patience. In serenity look forward to the joy that follows sadness. Hope leads you to that joy and love enkindles your zeal. The well-prepared mind forgets the suffering inflicted from without and glides eagerly to what it has contemplated within itself.


    In other parts of the world and other calendars:

    Saint Robert Southwell, Martyr

    From the frontispiece of "St Peter's Complaint", by Robert Southwell, published in 1608.

    From a letter written by St Robert Southwell to St Philip Howard in the Tower of London
    The cause is God's, the conflict short, the reward eternal

    Martyrdom ever confers the highest honour on any man; to you it will bring a double palm, for you will be able to say with the Psalmist, Praestitisti decori meo virtutem, since you will have crowned nobility with the glory of the Cross of Christ. If you have sinned, no sacrament more powerful than such a death, no satisfaction more valid; if you are well-deserving (which indeed I think), no crown more excellent, no laurel more glorious than martyrdom. Let, therefore, neither passion, nor fiction, nor sword, nor the glory of splendid attire, nor bribes, nor entreaties, nor any other violence separate you from the charity of Christ. You are born that you might be of God; that you live, is from God, you encounter this death for God; that death will confirm the vacillating, will render the strong yet stronger still.
    Friends applaud, strangers stand astonished, the adversaries are confounded, whilst you beget for yourself in both orbs an eternal name. A happy beginning gains a more happy conclusion for him whom hitherto neither a long imprisonment nor the sentence of death terrifies, nor the hope of pardon nor deceitful promises softens. The cause is God’s, the conflict short, the reward eternal.
    Lastly, to treat of the affairs of your soul. I would not that you afflict yourself too much by fasting, prayers, and penitential works, in order that you may be the stronger for the last combat. Your desire of confessing (the means being now precluded), and the contrition of a humble heart, expressed by shedding your blood in this cause, will be as full a remission of sins and of all punishment due for them as in baptism – so great is the prerogative of martyrdom. I desire you the happiest issue of the conflict begun, and I hope, by the help of God, to see each other hereafter in glory. Farewell.

    Copyright © 1996-2021 Universalis Publishing Limited: see www.universalis.com. Scripture readings from the Jerusalem Bible are published and copyright © 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton, Longman & Todd, Ltd and Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc, and used by permission of the publishers. Text of the Psalms: Copyright © 1963, The Grail (England). Used with permission of A.P. Watt Ltd. All rights reserved.