SATURDAY AFTER ASH WEDNESDAY
SOLEMN PONTIFICAL MASS
ACCORDING TO THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM OF THE ROMAN RITE
SAINT BRIGID’S CATHOLIC CHURCH
MARRICKVILLE, SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
MARCH 12, 2011
Epistle: Is 58:9-14
Gradual: Ps 26:4
Gospel: Mk 6:27-56
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and for ever. Amen.
It is a source of deepest joy for me to celebrate the Holy Mass for so many members of the faithful in this important and historic church of the Archdiocese of Sydney. I am deeply grateful to His Eminence Cardinal George Pell for his warm welcome to the Archdiocese and to all who have worked so diligently in making the arrangements for today’s Solemn Pontifical Liturgy. I thank also Father John Pearce, Parish Priest, and all of the Passionist Fathers. I cannot fail to recall that it was during this month in 1888 that Cardinal Patrick Francis Moran came to the parish to celebrate solemnly the arrival of the Passionists in Marrickville.
It is providential that today’s celebration falls on the day when we keep the memory of Pope Saint Gregory the Great whose heroic pastoral charity toward the universal Church found its highest expression in his discipline of the Sacred Liturgy. As His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI reminded us, on the occasion of the promulgation of his Apostolic Letter, given motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, his own discipline and reform of the Sacred Liturgy follows in an unbroken line the reforms of Pope Saint Gregory the Great. I cannot fail to mention also the timeless treasure of sacred music for our worship of God and our growth in holiness of life, which Pope Saint Gregory so much fostered. Recalling the memory of Pope Saint Gregory, let us also ask his intercession that the reform of the Sacred Liturgy, which Pope Benedict XVI has undertaken, will be faithfully received and implemented in the universal Church, so that the action of the Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Sacraments, above all, in the Holy Eucharist, may be ever more manifest for the glory of God and the salvation of many souls.
We celebrate, today, the Holy Mass for the Saturday after Ash Wednesday. Having just entered into the Season of Lent, strong in grace for the renewal of our Catholic faith and its practice in our daily living, we recognize the great challenge which is ours, so that our forty days in the desert with Our Lord will indeed produce in us the greater holiness of life, which is for our own salvation and the salvation of the world. Because the challenge is so great, we must be alert to the temptation to discouragement, one of Satan’s most powerful tools against our growth in holiness. Holy Mother Church, through the Holy Scriptures to which we have just listened, helps us to overcome the tendency to discouragement at the very beginning of Lent and to cooperate with the strong graces of the season, so that Christ may produce the abundant fruits of His grace in our lives.
In the account from the Gospel according to Mark, the Apostles are struggling against strong winds to row the ship and bring it to port. The work is most arduous, and they are discouraged and weary. When, in the midst of their struggle, Our Lord appears to them, they are, in fact, afraid and cry out. Our Lord immediately speaks to them and calms the winds. He reassuringly tells them: “Have a good heart, it is I, fear ye not.”
As we begin our Lenten observance, we are conscious of how much we need to struggle in bringing greater order and, therefore, greater love, into our relationships with God, with our world, and with one another. The work of our Lenten conversion will be arduous, but we must not be discouraged or afraid, for Our Lord is with us, accompanying us and providing to us strong graces for such conversion of mind and heart. Through our Lenten fasting, almsgiving and prayer, He calms the waters of our lives and helps us to pilot our souls safely and securely to the port which is the heavenly Church, our true and eternal home.
Abbot Prosper Guéranger, in his commentary for today’s celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, draws our attention to the connection between Our Lord’s appearance to the Apostles, urging them to be of good courage and calming the sea, and the bringing of the sick to him for healing, once the ship had reached port. If, in the struggle of our Lenten observance, we become discouraged, the saintly Abbot urges us:
Let us not fear; it is He; He prays with us, fasts with us, and does all our works of mercy with us. Was it not He that first began these forty days of expiation? Let us keep our eyes fixed on Him, and be of good heart. If we grow tired, let us go to Him, as did the poor sick ones of whom our Gospel speaks. The very touch of His garments sufficed to restore health to such as had lost it; let us go to Him, in His adorable Sacrament; and the divine life, whose germ is already within us, will develop itself, and the energy, which was beginning to droop in our hearts, will regain all its vigour.
Let us resolve, at the beginning of Lent, to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and, above all, to go to Him in the Most Blessed Sacrament, throughout the days of Lent, so that our observance does not grow weak because of the difficulties we face but rather remains strong for the conversion of our lives and the transformation of our world.
In his Message for Lent, Pope Benedict XVI has called us to reflect, in particular, on the life of Christ within us, since the time of our baptism, a moment in our personal history which is the unfailing and dynamic source of energy for the entirety of our earthly pilgrimage home to God the Father. He reminds us:
Hence, Baptism is not a rite from the past, but the encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion; initiated and supported by Grace, it permits the baptized to reach the adult stature of Christ.
Our Holy Father invites us to consider anew how our hearts, through Baptism, have been made one with the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus from which there never ceases to flow in abundance the living waters of the Holy Spirit. The grace of Baptism, strengthened and increased in Confirmation, is the dwelling of the Holy Spirit within us, so that, we, in turn, may be “rivers of living water” for our brothers and sisters, especially those in most need.
We must, therefore, never give way to discouragement in following Our Lord on the way of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, but rather recognize His dwelling with us, above all, in the Holy Mass we now celebrate, and in the Sacrament of Penance, by which He receives the confession of our sins and forgives them. We, therefore, must be courageous, be “of good heart.” Through the Holy Mass, Christ makes present for us anew the outpouring of His life for our eternal salvation; He nourishes the life of the Holy Spirit within us by feeding us with the incomparable food which is His true Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Through the Sacrament of Penance, Christ restores the life of the Holy Spirit within us, when it has been diminished, in any way, by our sins.
In the reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, God the Father instructs us in the fundamental disposition of soul, which both enables us to recognize His presence in our midst, most especially through the great mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation, and to live more fully in His company. God the Father Who is ceaseless and immeasurable in His love of us instructs us in the humility by which we discipline our will, our thoughts and affections, according to His will. If we undertake the Lenten penance, one in heart with the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the joy and peace of Christ will fill our hearts and His light will shine forth in the world, especially in the lives of our brothers and sisters in most need. Saint Brigid of Ireland, whose memory we honor in this historic church, is a model of the union of the Christian heart with the Heart of Jesus, which brings Christ’s light to others, especially to those who are suffering.
Abbot Guéranger expresses, in a wonderful way, the reassurance and encouragement offered to us by Our Lord through the Prophet Isaiah. He writes:
If we abound in good works during this holy season, in which we have taken leave of the distracting vanities of the world, the light of grace shall rise up even in the darkness which now clouds our soul. This soul which has been so long obscured by sin and by the love of the world and self, shall become bright as the noon-day; the glory of Jesus’ Resurrection shall be ours too; and, if we are faithful to grace, the Easter of time will lead us to the Easter of eternity.
The saintly Abbot continues, exhorting us to humble confidence in taking up the challenging work of our Lenten observance:
Let, us, therefore, build up the places that have been so long desolate; let us raise up the foundations, repair the fences, turn away our feet from the violation of holy observances; do not our own ways and our own will in opposition to those of our divine Master; and then He will give us everlasting rest, and fill our soul with His own brightness.
Because Christ accompanies us on our Lenten pilgrimage and, indeed, our entire life pilgrimage, we are, at one and the same time, humble and confident before the mystery of His love.
Let us pray, at the beginning of Lent, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, under her title of Mother of Divine Grace, that our Lenten pilgrimage will deepen our knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of His living presence with us in the Church, especially in the Sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and Penance. Let us pray that, deepened in knowledge and love of our Lord, we may “be of good heart,” responding each day, with new engagement and new energy, to the strong graces of the Lenten season for the conversion of our lives and the salvation of the world.
Let us now lift up our hearts, so often doubtful and fearful and sinful, to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, always open to receive us and to purify and strengthen us with the gift of His immeasurable and unceasing love. In the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus we find the unfailing truth and love to dispel doubt and fear, and to overcome sin in our lives. One in heart with the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the immeasurable “rivers of living water,” which never cease to flow from His Eucharistic Heart, will flow from our hearts for the sake of our brothers and sisters, especially those in most need.
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who trust in You, have mercy on us!
Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Divine Grace, pray for us!
Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary and Guardian of the Redeemer, pray for us!
Saint Brigid of Ireland, pray for us.
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis
Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura