Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sexagesima Sunday: Preparation for Lent

Today is Sexagesima Sunday, the second Sunday before Lent.  I was very remiss last week in not pointing out Septuagesima Sunday, which is the First Sunday before Lent.  We are now in the pre-Lenten period, which is the time we prepare for Lent.  Sexagesima denotes that there are now 60 days before Easter.  In the Traditional calendar, the Gloria and the alleluia have already been removed from Feria celebrations of the Mass.  The Introit for today is:
Arise, Lord, why sleepest thou? Arise, and cast us not off for ever. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our trouble? For our soul cleaveth unto the ground. Arise, Lord, help us, and redeem us.
This is showing a time of mourning and repentance for our sins, which have caused to be be separated from God. 

The Gospel is most interesting, being the parable of the Sower in Luke 8:4-15:
At that time, when much people were gathered together, and were come to Jesus out of every city, he spake by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
This always scares me because it shows that if we are not diligent, we can lose the salvation offered to us by our Lord.   The Traditional Breviary has an excellent reading on this parable by St. Gregory the Pope:

Dearly beloved brethren, the passage from the Holy Gospel which ye have just heard, needeth not so much that I should explain it, as that I should seek to enforce its lesson. For what the Truth himself hath explained, human weakness may not presume to comment upon. But there is, in that very explanation by the Lord, something which we ought to consider carefully. For if we had told you that the seed is meant to signify the Word, ye might have doubted our understanding. Or if we had said that the field is the world ; and the birds, devils ; and the thorns, riches ; ye would perchance have denied the truth of our explanation. Therefore the Lord himself vouchsafed to give this explanation ; and that, not for this parable only, but that ye may know in what manner to interpret others, whereof he hath not given the meaning.

Beginning his explanation, the Lord saith that he speaketh in parable, that is he sheweth his language to be figurátive. Hereby he giveth confidence to the preacher when, in spite of his incapacity, he must needs endeavour to lay open to you the hidden meaning of the Lord's words. If I spake of myself, who would believe me when I say that riches are thorns? Thorns prick, but riches lull to rest. And yet riches are indeed thorns, for the anxiety they bring is a ceaseless pricking to the minds of their owners. And, if they lead into sin, they are thorns which made us bleed with the wounds which they inflict. But we understand from the Evangelist Matthew that in this place the Lord speaketh, not of riches themselves, but of the deceitfulness of riches.
Here St. Gregory goes into a beautiful explanation of what deceitful riches are and why and how they can destroy us.  Our society puts all importance on what the Bible calls "deceitful riches" and we must be very diligent into not being drawn into this trap:
Those riches are deceitful riches, which can be ours only for a little while ; those riches are deceitful riches, which cannot relieve the poverty of our souls. They only are the true riches, which made us rich in virtues. If then, dearly beloved brethren, ye seek to be rich, earnestly desire the true riches. If ye would be truly honourable, strive after the kingdom of heaven. If ye love the bravery of titles, hasten to have your names written down at the Court of the heavenly King, where Angels are. Take to heart the Lord's words which your ear heareth. The food of the soul is the Word of God. When the stomach is sick it throweth up again the food which is put into it ; and so is the soul sick when a man heareth and digesteth not in his memory the Word of God. For if any man cannot keep his food, that man's life is in desperate case.
Lent is all about getting rid of the garbage and the spiritual poison that has come into our lives.  As St. Gregory says, if we are sick, we will not be able to digest the Word of God, and if we cannot keep our food, "that man's life is in desperate case." 

We can never let down.  We must always be aware of the spiritual dangers around us and constantly be drawing close to the True Physician who can cure us of all our spiritual ailments and give us not the death that this world offers, but True Life.  Only then will we be able to bear true fruit.

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