For forty days, the "eight" suffered. This was necessary to destroy the sinful flesh. Our Lord also, after His baptism, was driven into the desert by the Spirit for forty days. Although He had no sin, He had taken on the flesh of sinful man, becoming incarnate, becoming man; therefore, He had to be tempted in every way that we are tempted--without sinning. He had to suffer in order to redeem us; and, as stated in the epistle to the Hebrews, He was made perfect through suffering. We are the "eight," being the Body of Christ. Therefore, we must suffer in order to be made perfect. We must suffer on our Lenten journey, to die to self. Lent is the preparation for the feast of Easter. Easter is the Resurrection. In order to be resurrected, there necessitates a dying. We must suffer (putting to death sinful nature), but we do not have to suffer alone. The angels ministered unto our Lord; how much moreso does our Lord minister unto us through the Catholic Church, the entire Body, come to our aid. Our Blessed Mother, all the angels, and all the saints are assisting us, including those in purgatory and here on Earth. When the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering had finished their journey on Earth, Christ took them and placed them where they could benefit the Church more abundantly. They are not spectators, cheering us one; no, they are aiding us, loving us as themselves, loving us as the Trinity loves.
In Saturday's's Gospel reading (Feb 21, 2015), we were told that St. Matthew, leaving everything behind, got up, and followed Jesus. It did not say that he got up and followed Jesus, leaving everything behind; it has him leaving everything behind first. How is this possible? How does one leave everything behind without rising and going away?
St. Matthew had to have known of Jesus or was observing Him, perhaps from afar. If a stranger approaches someone and says, "Come, follow me," the person probably is not going to do so. He is not going to follow someone he does not know. No, St. Matthew probably knew Jesus was a holy man and that he being a hated tax collector was not worthy to be in proximity to Jesus. St. Matthew probably also knew that Jesus was hated by the religious leaders and, therefore, he himself would be persecuted by following Jesus. Jesus, "knowing" St. Matthew, commanded him, "Come, follow Me." St. Matthew had to count the cost of following Jesus. In his mind first, he had to give everything up, leave everything behind, realizing that he must in turn endure hardships in order to be worthy of such a calling. After making up his mind to leave everything behind, he then rose and followed Jesus. He desired to be like Jesus.
This is what Lent is all about. We are not just "giving something up for Lent" or just "doing something good for Lent," we are looking forward to, preparing for, our Resurrection, when we will be as our Lord is, as our Head is. First, we must "leave everything behind," and then rise, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus.
"Your ways, O LORD, make known to me; teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my savior. Remember that Your compassion, O LORD, and Your love are from old. In Your kindness remember me, because of Your goodness, O LORD. Good and upright is the LORD, thus He shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, and He teaches the humble His way." How does He do this? Through the Body of Christ, the Catholic Church--through His Word and the Sacraments.
Put to death in the flesh, Christ was brought to life in the Spirit. He was raised on the third day. He also ascended to the Father. Through the Catholic Church, He preached to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient--each of us. He called us, baptizing us into Himself, by means of other humans. Let us look forward to the real Easter, when our bodies will be raised from the dead. Therefore, let us repent and prepare for that Day.
Editor's Note: I Peter 3:1 8-22 This reading reminds us that just as Noah was saved through the ark, we are saved through baptism. Early Christians believed that those who died before the coming of Jesus awaited redemption in a shadowy existence described here as a prison. When we say in the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus “descended into hell,” we are saying that Jesus went to announce to those waiting in that “prison” that they had been saved.