Continuing with the Sermon on the Mount, having absolutely affirmed the 10 Commandments, Christ now raises the bar even higher.  Christ asserts that men who are allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven must possess a righteousness that surpasses the Pharisees’ (Matt 5:17-19) ; this is a huge hurdle for, despite being misguided in some ways, the Pharisees loved God deeply and sought to live with deep daily piety.

With the astounding assertion He has the authority to modify the 1200 year old Law given by Moses, Christ expands the 5th Commandment (Thou shall not kill) to include even inner feelings of anger in the definition of “kill.” In the Old Testament, laws were laid down to hold society together; in the New Convenant, Christ is perfecting the Law to draw men to inner holiness.

Christ affirms that men are judged and the reality of Hell with a reference to Gehenna, a squalid perpetually burning trash dump near Jerusalem where child sacrifice was practiced in earlier days.  He likens Judgment to the harsh treatment of prison guards and judges and being cast violently into prison. To avoid being condemned to Hell for the sin of anger, Christ urges men to reconcile with an aggrieved brother and to go to the altar to reconcile with God, a prefigurement of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ reaffirms the 10 Commandments and then asserts His incredible authority to modify the Law of Moses.  Divine King, Christ calls His disciples to a new perfection of inner holiness.  With the Perfect Wisdom of the Divine Prophet, Christ affirms the reality of Hell and as Divine Judge, reveals a bit of how men are judged.  Divine Priest, Christ prefigures the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) With God from the beginning, Christ is the architect of Salvation History and He enters history to perfect that law He gave to Moses. Reflect on the astounding way that Christ is shaping His Creation over thousands of years.

2) Christ reaffirms absolute moral law of the 10 Commandments but expects men to go beyond outer conformity to inner holiness. During Lent, recommit yourself to the importance of the 10 Commandments (CCC 2052-2082) and pray for Christ to help you to always keep the 10 Commandments in mind.

3) While righteous anger can lead men to resist evil (CCC 1765) as Christ demonstrates at the clearing of the Temple (John 2:13-17), Christ warns men to be cautious about anger and to “turn the other cheek” (Matt 5:39).  During Lent, take up the challenge to avoid unrighteous anger (CCC 1866, 2262, 2302) and pray for Christ to help you to grow in patience and gentleness.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Sorrowful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ

Virtue of the Day – Faith

Corporal Work of Mercy – To visit the sick

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To forgive all injuries

The Gospel reading from the Mass for The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle is Matthew 16:13-20.

After warning the disciples of the poisonous teachings of the Pharisees, Christ leads the Apostles on a grueling walk (30+ miles) to north to Caesarea Philippi, the home of a temple where the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus was worshiped as the “Son of God.” It is before this false temple, Christ reveals Himself as the true Son of God and establishes Peter as the exclusive Patriarch of Christ’s unconquerable Catholic Church of the New Covenant.

There was much speculation as to the identity of Christ;  Christ uses the confusion to reveal Himself to the Apostles. He asks: “Who do people say the Son of Man (a title associated with the Messiah that Jesus uses for Himself) is?” They respond, confirming that most thought Jesus was great prophet who had returned, John the Baptist (Herod), Elijah or Jeremiah. Christ goes from the general to the specific to force the Apostles to think for themselves: “But who do you say that I am?” This had been a burning question for the Apostles themselves (Matt 8:27).

Simon Peter, moved by the Father through the Holy Spirit, overcomes any hesitation of denying the “godship” of Emperor Augustus, proclaims, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Christ confirms His identity when He blesses Simon and renames him “Peter”, meaning “Rock.” The renaming of Simon reveals Peter’s unique role in God’s plan as the leader of Christ’s new Church. Christ confirms Peter’s headship and that Satan will not prevail against His Church, let alone the schemes or depravity of men. Confirming Peter’s authority, Christ gives Peter (and his successor popes) the supernatural power to bind and loose on both Earth and Heaven; this is also the basis for the forgiveness of sins by Catholic priests in the Sacrament of Confession.

Awed by Jesus Christ – Christ is recognized and acknowledges that He is the Son of God. Divine King, Christ establishes the Catholic Church as an unconquerable patriarchy (ruled by men), led by Peter and his successors. Divine Prophet, Christ predicts the success and persistence of the Catholic Church. Divine Priest, Christ establishes the Sacrament of Confession and the forgiveness of sins which is exclusively available to Catholics.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Men establish countries and companies, establish movements and schools of thought; most are lucky to last a lifetime.  Marvel at Christ’s bold statement that the Catholic Church will prevail continues to be true 2000 years later; no earthly institution comes close to the Catholic Church’s size, longevity and impact. None. This is because the Catholic Church is the only Church established by Christ.

2) In His Divine Wisdom, Christ establishes Peter and his successors as the exclusive male leaders of Christ’s unconquerable Catholic Church. Refresh your understanding of the Hierarchical Constitution of the Church (CCC 552, 871-896, 100, 937, 1463, 2034) and give thanks for the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’s wisdom in establishing a perpetual patriarchy to rule the Church.

3) Significant numbers of Catholic men are in a state of mortal sin for they have failed to keep the minimal requirement of Church’s Precept to go to Confession at least once a year (CCC 2042). Rather than a burden, realize that Catholic men have the exclusive privilege granted by Christ to be absolved of their sins in Confession; no other men have this blessing. Renew your understanding of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (CCC 553, 1440-1449), examine your conscience, repent, go to Confession and praise God that you are blessed to be a Catholic man.

After mysteriously exalting the Virgin Mary and the blessedness of those who hear and do God’s will, Christ offers a prophetic proclamation of His divinity. Great crowds surround Him and He perceives that they are seeking a “sign”; they fail to see the most Perfect Sign, Jesus Christ, is standing before them.

Christ blasts the crowd’s worldly curiosity, calling them an “evil and adulterous generation” (Greek). This is a stunning and violent rebuke; it judges the crowd to be as bad as the faithless Jews who were excluded from the Promised Land by God (Deut 1:35; 32:5; 29:1-3).

Continuing to refer to Scripture, Christ now makes astounding claims about Himself and His enemies. He reveals that He is the Son of Man (the promised Messiah) and that He is greater than the great prophet Jonah; cryptically, Christ reveals that He will be entombed for 3 days/nights in the earth, like Jonah was entombed in the whale. Referring to Israel’s second greatest king, Solomon, Christ claims to be greater. Christ greatly insults the Jews by revealing that the pagan men of Nivea and the pagan queen of the South, would condemn them.

Awed by Jesus ChristAuthor of Scripture and Divine Prophet, Christ uses Scripture to teach, rebuke His enemies and to reveal His Divinity. Divine King, Christ is fearless and combative, prepared to confront the idle curiosity and false faith of the crowds. Son of Man, Christ demonstrates the power of righteous indignation for those who take God for granted.  Divine Judge, Christ warns of the coming Judgment and that the evil will be condemned.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Marvel at how Christ draws on ancient history (some 1000 years previously) from the Old Testament (which He inspired to be written) and how He surpasses all human expectations of greatness.

2) Seeking signs, many men drift away from Catholicism and put their faith in false “gods”; superstition, idolatry, false religions, mammon, technology, occult, nations, secular causes, politics, atheism or agnosticism. During Lent, refresh your understanding of the sins against the 1st Commandment (CCC 2110-2132) and pray for Christ to protect you from doubt and to use you to draw many to Him.

3) Christ’s revelation that “no sign shall be given…except the sign of Jonah” is an exhortation for men to be convinced by His Resurrection. As your Lenten pilgrimage proceeds towards Easter, renew your understanding of the Resurrection (CCC 638-658) and pray for Christ to help your faith to continue to grow.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Glorious Mysteries

Daily Devotion – Saint Joseph

Virtue of the Day – Temperance

Corporal Work of Mercy – To visit the imprisoned

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To comfort the sorrowful

In Matthew 5-7, Christ ascends a mountain in Galilee to deliver the Sermon on the Mount, a summary of the New Covenant, a perfection of the Old Covenant; Christ’s authoritatively commands that His disciples are to not only keep the outer requirements of the 10 Commandments but must strive for a true inner conversion of the heart. After “raising the bar” on a number of moral issues (anger, lust, divorce/adultery, oaths), Christ directs the disciples attention on prayer. Christ begins by condemning hypocritical prayer done in public so as to receive acclaim and condemns the pagan repetitive babbling of empty phrases which were thought to be able to get the attention of one of the many gods.

Christ turns to the model for Christian prayer, the Our Father. Calling God “Father”, Christ reveals that men are to approach God as a loving “Father” and confirms the essential human need for paternity (the leadership of men as fathers) for protection, guidance and most of all, love. The Father’s name is to be held in the greatest esteem possible for a human, to be “hallowed”; Christ reinforces the importance of the Holy Name as in 2nd Commandment. Christ reasserts the reality of God’s Kingdom and that men are to pray for God’s Kingdom to be embraced by all.

Christ emphasizes man’s dependence on the Father in daily life. He teaches that men are totally dependent on God for daily bread, including bodily nourishment (i.e. every day food) and spiritual nourishment (i.e. the supernatural bread of the Eucharist). A stunning call to perfection, Christ reveals that God will forgive men for their trespasses in the same way that men forgive the trespasses of other men. Christ ends with the plea to God to not allow men to fall into temptation, a veiled reference to Satan’s action in the world: Matthew’s version ends with “and deliver us from [the] evil [One]”

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ authoritatively asserts that God is to be addressed as “Father” and with special divine omniscience reveals that men must forgive if they hope for God to forgive them.  Almighty King, Christ denounces false prayer, commands men to pray the Our Father, holds men to the incredible standard of forgiveness and warns of the Evil One (temptation by Satan).  Divine Priest, Christ gives the treasure of the Lord’s Prayer with its mysterious reference to the Eucharist.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) The word Greek word, epiousios, translated as “daily” (“daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer) has a mysterious and profound meaning. Epiousios was invented (it is not found elsewhere in ancient Greek) for a word that Christ used that reveals the Eucharist; various translations mysteriously point to the Eucharist include “future bread”, “manna”, “necessary” and “super-essential” (CCC 2837). When praying the Lord’s Prayer each day, recall the Eucharist when repeating “daily bread.”

2) Christ emphasizes prayer to the Father through His preaching and His own prayer life. During Lent, grow in understanding of the Our Father (CCC 2759-2865) and to pray it daily (before your feet hit the floor in the morning, during the day and as the last words from your lips before sleeping).

3) Imitating the Heavenly Father’s and St. Joseph’s love for the Son, Christ teaches His spiritual sons (the disciples) how to pray. During Lent, renew your commitment to be a father (CCC 2214; 2221-2231) and frequently pray the Our Father with your children and others

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Sorrowful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Guardian Angels

Virtue of the Day – Justice

Corporal Work of Mercy – To clothe the naked

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To counsel the doubtful

As the Passion approaches, Christ assembles the Apostles outside of Jerusalem on the nearby Mount of Olives and gives His Olivet Discourse (Matt 24-25 ), revealing future calamities, the Second Coming of Christ and the Judgment. With His Passion only a few days away, Christ warns the disciples of mankind’s coming trials and the need for men to be well-prepared for the coming Judgment.

In the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, Christ confirms the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven, Hell and each soul’s eternal Judgment.  Christ reigns authoritatively (seated on a throne) as the glorious King of the Kingdom of Heaven, a place of great honor ( the “right hand” in ancient cultures was a place of the good and honorable), surrounded by angels since the foundation of the world. Christ confirms that Hell, a place of dishonor and punishment (the “left hand” represented evil and dishonor) is a place of eternal fire, prepared for the rebellious dark angel Satan, his demons and the souls of the evil.  Christ will judge the nations and all men at the end of time, drawing some (the sheep, the right hand) to the blessings of the Father in Heaven and banishing others (goats, the left hand) to the curses of Satan in the eternal fire.

Christ perfectly loves and personally identifies with His disciples (“brothers of mine”) and the suffering (“the least”). Christ mysteriously knows who cares for those who suffer and those who abuse and neglect the suffering. Christ gives very specific examples of merciful acts that He calls men to perform: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, to comfort the sick and to visit the imprisoned (The Corporal Works of Mercy include these and add bury the dead).

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ sets the criteria by which nations and men will be judged and confirms the reality of Heaven (Eternal Life) and Hell (Eternal Punishment); He knows the details of every soul’s acts of mercy. Divine King and Divine Judge, Christ has the authority to judge all mankind. Divine Mercy, Christ seeks to comfort the suffering of men and urges men to do the same.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) The Perfect Leader, Christ gives explicit expectations, defines the Judgment and clearly describes the consequences for men’s choices. Give thanks for Christ’s willingness to give men clear counsel about their salvation.

2) Based on Christ’s teaching, the Church has traditionally taught men about the Last Four Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. During these early days of Lent, review the Church’s teaching on the Four Last Things (CCC 1006-1060 ) and pray for Christ to help you long for Heaven and continue to grow towards sainthood.

3) Christ makes it very clear that He requires men to perform works of mercy.  During Lent, grow in your understanding of the Works of Mercy (CCC 2447 ) and pray for Christ to help you sacrifice for others.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Joyful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Souls in Purgatory

Virtue of the Day – Prudence

Corporal Work of Mercy – To give drink to the thirsty

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To instruct the ignorant