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Focus on The Cross

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During the last days of Lent, it’s a common practice to veil all crosses and sacred images. You may have seen this done before with violet cloths in our church.

Why do we do this? If you think about it, the use of crosses and sacred images is central to our Catholic faith. Jesus, by taking on a physical nature in the Incarnation, and by redeeming that physical nature through His saving Death and Resurrection, has made all physical matter a possible means of encounter with Him. This is why we take wood, stone, metal, and other physical “stuff” and make beautiful crosses and images out of them.

But why cover them these last days of Lent if they’re so central to our faith? Because doing so helps us focus on what has made these crosses and sacred images possible in the first place: Jesus’ saving Death and Resurrection. We focus on The Cross, and less on individual crosses; we focus on The Risen Christ, and less on sacred images of Him. We fast with our physical eyes so we can train our spiritual eyes.

While veiling crosses and images is most often done in churches, you can also do it at home. You may find it a fruitful spiritual practice in these last days of Lent. It’s also an opportunity to get rid of those old purple bed sheets you have lying around!

What Time is Your Sunrise?

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On April 1, 2019, the sun rose in Milwaukee at 6:34 AM. At the end of April, the sun is projected to rise at 5:47 AM. This simple fact made me stop and reflect in awe.

Now I certainly know that the sunrise and sunset are constantly changing (we all learned that at a very young age), but I was surprised as to how much it changed— that’s a difference of 47 minutes in one month. That’s how fast the world is spinning and changing.  

What about you? How much have you changed from the beginning of Lent on March 6 until this very moment? Do you feel different? Do you have a deeper understanding of who you are? How have the past few weeks influenced your daily faith practices? Is your personal sunrise happening earlier in the day? Or are you still 47 minutes behind?

We are all giving the gift of 1440 minutes in a day. What we choose to do with these minutes is a personal decision. We still have time until we celebrate Easter. We still have time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We can still make a commitment to change.

Time waits for no one, but that doesn’t mean we can’t embrace it and use it to help shape us into the best person we can possibly be.

Posted by Dan Herda

A Way of Living

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I am about to say something that will surprise, maybe even anger a few people. Ash Wednesday, one of the most attended Masses of the year, is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation. That’s right, you do not need to attend. It is not a sin to miss Ash Wednesday Mass. In my teenage years, I would have immediately shown this to my parents with excitement while planning what to do that night.

But don’t stop reading yet – Ash Wednesday has an extremely important lesson we all need to hear: In the gospel account for Ash Wednesday, Jesus said to his disciples: "Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.” Jesus is saying, when you pray, when you fast, when you do acts of service, do not do it for others to see and praise you for being so devoted and generous.

When I read this, I think of all the NFL touchdown celebrations I saw this year. Some of the best players in the NFL acting like a rookie scoring their first touchdown. I am reminded of a quote from Vince Lombardi, “When you go into the end zone, act like you've been there before.” When we practice our faith, it should not be for others to see, it should be purely to praise and glorify God. Our faith is not a list of requirements to check off or things you need to know – it is a way of living.

This way of living involves having a God who loves each of us unconditionally and who cares about our decisions. We have a God who is less interested in what we know about Him than if we know Him intimately: that we have a personal relationship with Him. That is the message we hear on Ash Wednesday. Do not practice your faith because you get rewarded by others for it, do it because you Love God and desire a tangible relationship with Him. There is no better place to show your love and deepen your relationship with God then attending Mass.

Ash Wednesday Mass is a great opportunity  to start a Lenten season strong, a season when we recall the depths of God’s love for us, by worshiping our God, and falling more in love with Him. God Bless!

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