Sunday, March 4, 2012

Lenten Centerpiece: Meditations Week Three

The Stoning of Stephen, Gemignano

[ No longer applicable, from original 2012 post:Dear readers,  this week we had a scary event happen at our home.  My dearest husband suffered a heart attack.  While he is recovering well, as you can imagine it has been a crazy time here.  So, I was unable to completely finish all of the meditations I had planned for this week.  However, I have posted below what I did have ready, as well as the ideas I was planning to develop in the meditations.  I'll try to get back here before Wednesday to finish up, but I hope this will give you enough to go on!  Please keep my husband in your prayers for a complete recovery.  Thank you so much!] 

This week we will add one large stone and several smaller ones to our Lenten centerpiece.  I live in a very sandy coastal area and larger stones are a bit tough to come by, but as I was walking and praying about this centerpiece, I happened to see a piece of asphalt broken off and lying in the road.  It's not a true stone, but the black color fits the Lenten mood and sure co-ordinates well with my tray!  So, thank you, Lord, for providing my large stone!  Here's how my tray is looking this week (only, actually, it's not looking blurry, but my "assistant" bumped my arm):

If you are following the meditations I have been writing, please remember that my children are all 9 and up so if you have littler ones I would suggest you shorten and modify the meditations some.  Maybe just tell the Bible stories, mentioning important concepts such as the Fall and Jesus's willingness to suffer for us, while not dwelling too heavily on the more serious and difficult topics of death, abandonment, and the devil.  However, older children can and should understand these basic truths of the Faith.
Also, while the meditations are written in a kind of narrative form, in reality I present them more as a sort of discussion, asking questions and trying to get the children to think about what they already know and to apply it.  The Baltimore Catechism questions are just for your use, although older children do like to try to see if they know the answers and they are good discussion starters.

Meditation #1:  After Jesus had been fasting in the wilderness for forty days, the Bible tells us that  He was hungry.  He was not only hungry, but after forty days he was desperately hungry.  At this moment, Satan came to Him to tempt Him to satisfy His hunger, saying, "If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread."~Matthew 4: 3  The stones on our tray this week remind us of the stones in the desert that the tempter wanted Jesus to turn into bread.  Was it wrong for Jesus to want to eat?  Certainly not.  So why was it a problem if He turned the stones into bread?  Didn't God want Him to have food?  Of course, God knew Jesus needed food, just as He knows everything we need.  And God was going to give Jesus what He needed at the right time.  The tempter, however, was trying to get Jesus to go ahead and use His power to satisfy His own desires.  The tempter was trying to get Jesus to doubt that God would give Him what He needed at the right time.
Jesus responded by simply stating His trust in God; He knew that God would provide everything He needed to live. He knew that doing the will of God was more important than satisfying His own needs.  So,  He said, "It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God."~Matthew 4:4  
     We can trust that our God will give us everything we need to live forever with Him in Heaven, as well as our necessities in this life, when we seek to do His Will.  As we look at our rocks this week, let's think about the many ways God provides for our needs every day and let us remember to put our trust in Him.

Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed?  For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.  Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.~Matthew 6:31-33

The First Temptation, William Blake
Meditation #2:  Do you remember how we learned that Jesus was like a Second Adam?  And we know that the first Adam was tempted, don't we?  In fact, the first Adam was tempted to eat something, too.  A piece of fruit that God had told him not to eat.  Adam failed to withstand temptation.  He didn't resist the tempter, but he gave in to temptation and ate the fruit God told him not to eat.  Ever since then, all of us who are Adam's children and grandchildren have had a hard time resisting sin.  Because of Adam's sin, we find ourselves wanting things like too much food or too much sitting around when we know we ought to be exercising.  And we don't always resist these desires, do we?  Even when we know what is right to do, sometimes we don't do what is right.  Our wills and our reason are weakened by the Fall.  This weakness has a name: "concupiscence". Concupiscence just means that we have a tendency to want to sin, to be attracted to sin, and to want to indulge ourselves. 
Pentecost, Taddeo Gaddi
When Jesus was in the desert, He was tempted just as the first Adam was--to eat something that God had not given Him. Unlike the first Adam, Jesus resisted the tempter and did not sin.  After He had ascended to Heaven, Jesus sent us a Helper so that we, too, could have the self-control necessary to resist sin.  That Helper is the Holy Spirit, and one of the special fruits of His presence in our souls is self-control:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. ~Galatians 5:22-25

Let us ask God to help us be obedient to the Holy Spirit and to strengthen us whenever we want to indulge ourselves too much.  As Lent progresses, let us stick to our resolutions and practice saying  "No" to some of the desires of our bodies so that the fruit of self-control will grow in us.

From The Baltimore Catechism #3:

Q. 259. What other effects followed from the sin of our first parents?
A. Our nature was corrupted by the sin of our first parents, which darkened our understanding, weakened our will, and left in us a strong inclination to evil

Q. 260. What do we mean by "our nature was corrupted"?

A. When we say "our nature was corrupted" we mean that our whole being, body and soul, was injured in all its parts and powers.

Q. 261. Why do we say our understanding was darkened?

A. We say our understanding was darkened because even with much learning we have not the clear knowledge, quick perception and retentive memory that Adam had before his fall from grace.

Q. 262. Why do we say our will was weakened?

A. We say our will was weakened to show that our free will was not entirely taken away by Adam's sin, and that we have it still in our power to use our free will in doing good or evil.

Q. 263. In what does the strong inclination to evil that is left in us consist?
A. This strong inclination to evil that is left in us consists in the continual efforts our senses and appetites make to lead our souls into sin. The body is inclined to rebel against the soul, and the soul itself to rebel against God.

Q. 264. What is this strong inclination to evil called, and why did God permit it to remain in us?
A. This strong inclination to evil is called concupiscence, and God permits it to remain in us that by His grace we may resist it and thus increase our merits.

Q. 267. Does this corruption of our nature remain in us after original sin is forgiven?
A. This corruption of our nature and other punishments remain in us after original sin is forgiven.

 Q. 699. Which are the gifts of the Holy Ghost?

A. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.

Q. 700. Why do we receive the gift of Fear of the Lord?
A. We receive the gift of Fear of the Lord to fill us with a dread of sin.

Q. 701. Why do we receive the gift of Piety?
A. We receive the gift of Piety to make us love God as a Father, and obey Him because we love Him.

Q. 702. Why do we receive the gift of Knowledge?
A. We receive the gift of Knowledge to enable us to discover the will of God in all things.

Q. 703. Why do we receive the gift of Fortitude?
A. We receive the gift of Fortitude to strengthen us to do the will of God in all things.

Q. 704. Why do we receive the gift of Counsel?
A. We receive the gift of Counsel to warn us of the deceits of the devil, and of the dangers to salvation.

Q. 705. How is it clear that the devil could easily deceive us if the Holy Ghost did not aid us?
A. It is clear that the devil could easily deceive us if the Holy Ghost did not aid us, for just as our sins do not deprive us of our knowledge, so the devil's sin did not deprive him of the great intelligence and power which he possessed as an angel. Moreover, his experience in the world extends over all ages and places, while ours is confined to a few years and to a limited number of places.

Q. 706. Why do we receive the gift of Understanding?
A. We receive the gift of Understanding to enable us to know more clearly the mysteries of faith.

Q. 707. Why do we receive the gift of Wisdom?
A. We receive the gift of Wisdom to give us a relish for the things of God, and to direct our whole life and all our actions to His honor and glory.

Q. 719. Which are the twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost?
A. The twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost are Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Benignity, Goodness, Long-suffering, Mildness, Faith, Modesty, Continency, and Chastity.

Q. 720. Why are charity, joy, peace, etc., called fruits of the Holy Ghost?
A. Charity, joy, peace, etc., are called fruits of the Holy Ghost because they grow in our souls out of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost.

Christ Freeing Adam and Eve, The Chora Museum
Meditation #3: The rocks on our centerpiece this week remind me of how Jesus was tempted to change stones into bread.  They also remind me of the very first martyr ~ St. Stephen.  St. Stephen was a deacon in the days when St. Peter was the Pope, just after Jesus Himself died.  St. Stephen's job was to be sure that bread and other necessities were given out to the poor fairly.  One day Stephen was arrested, and he was taken before the rulers who had put Jesus to death.  Stephen did not fear.  He knew who Jesus was! In the desert, Satan doubted that Jesus was the Son of God, for he said to Him, "IF you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread."  But Stephen was certain that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah, the Promised One whom Adam and Eve had been told about, who would save us from our sins and bring us to happiness in Heaven. Stephen knew that no matter what happened to him, to his body, he could absolutely trust in Christ to keep him safe for all eternity.  So, St. Stephen boldly told his accusers that they had killed the Messiah!  And that Jesus was God!  "Blasphemy!!!", they all cried out, "We condemn you to death by stoning!" And speaking thus, they picked up stones and began to hurl them at Stephen.  Stephen looked up into Heaven and at that moment he saw Jesus sitting in power next to God the Father.  Just as Jesus had in the wilderness, Stephen prayed for all of those who were persecuting and killing him.  He offered all of his sufferings to God for the sake of God's Kingdom. Stephen died, but his prayers were heard by God and great graces came forth from his death for the infant Church.  Not only did the Church begin to spread out from Jerusalem, but also one of Her greatest apostles-St. Paul- was converted through St. Stephen's prayers.
Jesus suffered in the Wilderness, but that was not the end of His suffering for the sake of the salvation of the world.  Until the end of time, He also suffers in His saints, as St. Paul himself would say:
 [I] now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church: ~Colossians 1:24 
Whenever we are suffering or whenever people are cruel to us because of our love of the Lord, let's remember St. Stephen.  We can offer all of our sufferings and trials to God for the salvation of souls.  In this way, we can join Jesus in His prayers and sufferings and help bring about the victory of the Kingdom of God.


  1. Caroline, I am very sorry to hear about the event for your husband. I will pray for him and you and your family at Mass tomorrow.

  2. Thank you so much, Willa. He is recovering well, and we really appreciate your prayers and all the prayers that have been offered for his healing.