Sunday 26 March 2023

Lent Easter Awaits Us Returning to the Way of God - Pope Benedict XVI - CTS Books

Lent Easter Awaits Us Returning to the Way of God  
Pope Benedict XVI
ISBN 9781860826290
CTS Booklet D719

There are numerous volumes by Pope Benedict XVI from the Catholic Truth Society that are currently out of print. I have been slowing tracking them down to read. This is one of two I have read during Lent in 2023. Almost every time I read a volume from the CTS I find another book or 2 I want to read. I have read a few from the Pen of Benedict XVI, have a few others, and there are several that are out of print are on my wish list. This one is another taken from a collection of homilies and it is an excellent little read. 

Over the last several years I have read over 300 volumes from the Catholic Truth Society. In fact, this is the 343rd book or booklet from the CTS that I have read several of them by or about Pope Benedict. 

The description of this volume:

“Since our happiness in this life depends largely on our being able to love others – as Christ reveals to us every Easter – then Lent is a precious time for Christians to draw close to the truth and meaning of their lives. Drawing from his homilies and addresses, this booklet offers Pope Benedict’s liberating insights into fasting, prayer, suffering, love, peace, sacrifice, hope and above all the Resurrection and the life of the Holy Spirit; - a valuable companion from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost Sunday.”

This booklet draws 1ogc1hcr homilies and addresses of Pope Benedict XVI made during Lent, Eastertide and Pentecost 2009 and draws from one piece from 2008 on Fasting.

The chapters in the volume are:

     Fasting - its true meaning 
     Return to me 
     Trials in the desert 
     Lose your life to gain it 

Holy Week
     The law of love 
     Be immersed in God's truth 
     Make us instruments of your peace 

     Love is stronger than death 
     Christ my hope is risen 
     This is the day of the Lord 

     Christ gives us his life 
     Christ's Church is alive! 

I read this volume slowly over a few weeks. I read one section at a time. I did not stick to the outlined or original dates and feasts. I highlighted several passages in each. Here are some of those highlighted passages:

“At the beginning of Lent, which constitutes an itinerary of more intense spiritual training, the Liturgy sets before us again three penitential practices that are very dear to the biblical and Christian tradition - prayer, almsgiving, fasting - 10 prepare us to better celebrate Easter and thus experience God's power that, as we shal l hear in the Paschal Vigil, “dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace and humbles earthly pride”
(Paschal Pra:conium).”

“We might wonder what value and meaning there is for us Christians in depriving ourselves of something that in itself is good and useful for our bodily sustenance. The
Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it.”

“The practice of fasting is very present in the first Christian community (cf. Ac 13:3; 14:22; 27:2 1; 2 Co 6:5). The Church Fathers, too, speak of the force of fasting 10 bridle sin, especially the lusts of the “old Adam” and open in the heart of the believer a path to God. Moreover, fasting is a practice that is encountered frequently and recommended by the saints of every age.”

“In our own day, fasting seems to have lost something of its spiritual meaning. and has taken on in a culture characterised by the search for material well-being, a therapeutic value for the care of one’s body. Fasting certainly bring benefits to physical well-being, but for believers, it is, in the first place, a “therapy'” to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God.”

“Voluntary fasting enables us to grow in the spirit of the Good Samaritan, who bends low and goes to the help of his suffering brother (cf. Encyclical Deus caritas est. 15).”

“It is precisely to keep alive this welcoming and attentive attitude towards our brothers and sisters, that I encourage the parishes and every other community to intensify in Lent the custom of private and communal fasts, joined to the reading of the Word of God, prayer and almsgiving.”

“But how can the baptismal vocation be brought to fulfilment so as to be victorious in the struggle between the flesh and the spirit, between good and evil, a combat that marks our existence? Ln the Gospel passage today the Lord indicates to us three useful means: prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”

“While we prepare to receive Ashes on our heads as a sign of conversion and repentance, let us open our hearts to the vivifying action of the word of God. May Lent, marked by more frequent listening to this word, by more intense prayer, by an austere and penitential lifestyle, be an incentive to conversion and to sincere love towards our brothers, especially those who are poorest and neediest. May the Apostle Paul accompany us: may Mary, the attentive Virgin of listening and the humble Handmaid of the Lord guide us. Thus spiritually renewed, we shall succeed in celebrating Easter joyfully. Amen!”

“We would be removing an important part of the Gospel were we to leave out these beings sent by God, who announce and are a sign of his presence among us. Let us invoke them frequently, so that they may sustain us in our commitment to follow Jesus to the point of identifying with him ...”

“Indeed, prayer reaches its culmination and thus becomes a source of inner light when the spirit of the human being adheres to that of God, and their respective will merge, as it were, to become a whole.”

“Together with fasting and works of mercy, prayer is the backbone of our spiritual life. Dear brothers and sisters. I urge you to find in this Lenten Season prolonged moments of silence, possibly in retreat, in order to review your own lives in the light of the loving plan of the heavenly Father.”

“Through the resurrection, Jesus surpasses the limits of space and time. As the Risen One, he is journeying towards the vast horizon of the world and of history. Yes indeed, as the Risen One he goes to the Greeks and speaks with them, he shows himself to them in such a way that they who are far away become near, and it is in their language, in their culture, that his word is carried forward in a new way and understood in a new way - his Kingdom comes.”

“Dear friends, perhaps it is relatively easy to accept this as the fundamental great vision of life, in practice, however, it is not a question of simply recognising a principle, but of living according to the truth that it contains, the truth of the cross and resurrection.”

“There is no such thing as a successful life without sacrifice. If I cast a glance back over my whole life, I have to say that it was precisely the moments when I said ''yes'' to renunciation that were the great and important moments of my life.”

“We touch the marvellous mystery of God's love, the only genuinely redemptive truth. But we also touch the fundamental law, the constitutive norm of our lives, namely the fact that without this "yes" to the Cross, without walking in communion with Christ day by day, life cannot succeed. The more we can make some sacrifice, out of love for the great truth and the great love, out of love for the truth and for God's love, the greater and richer life becomes. Anyone who wants to keep his life for himself loses it. Anyone who gives his life - day by day in small acts, which form part of the great decision - that person finds it…”

“It means not wanting to impose our own way and our own will, not desiring to become someone else, but abandoning ourselves to him however and wherever he wants to use us.”

“Then indeed we experience, amid sacrifices which can at first be painful, the growing joy of friendship with him, and all the small and sometimes great signs of his love, which he is constantly showing us, “The one who loses himself, finds himself”. When we dare to lose ourselves for the Lord, we come to experience the truth of these words.”

“True love does not come cheap, it can also prove quite costly. It resists evil in order to bring men true good. If we become one with Christ, we learn to recognise him precisely in the suffering. in the poor, in the little ones of this world: then we become people who serve, who recognise our brothers and sisters in him, and in them, we encounter him.”

“Let us pray to the Lord that the fragile flame of the candle he has lit in us. the delicate light of his word and his love an1jd the confusions of this age, will not be extinguished in us, but will become ever stronger and brighter, so that we, with him, can be people of the day, bright stars lighting up our time.”

“Man no longer wants to be an image of God but of himself; he declares himself autonomous, free and adult. Of course, this attitude reveals a relationship with God which is not authentic, the consequence of a false image which has been fabricated of him, like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel parable who believes that he can fulfil himself by distancing himself from his father's house.”

“This pure essential and personal “fire”, the fire of love, came down upon the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, to make the Church an extension of Christ's work of renewal.”

Like many other volumes I have read by Pope Benedict XVI, this book is infused with his deep personal faith, his mastery of theological concepts, and his great wisdom. The extracts from the homilies are accessible. They can be engaged with and enjoyed by any Catholic, and I would go so far as to say any Christian would benefit from these words. 

This is another excellent little volume. It is always inspiring to read the words of Benedict XVI to see his faith infused in his teachings, his love for God and his desire for our growth. It is a great read and I highly recommend it.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

Books by Benedict XVI:

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