After warning the disciples of the coming apocalypse and urging them to persevere in prayer with the confidence that God will answer them, Christ explains the need for the compassionate love for others and humility in God’s economy of grace. The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is outstanding model of the mindset that a man should have in prayer.

Christ address the parable towards men who consider themselves to be pious and who despise others for their sinfulness. In the parable, the Pharisee pridefully stands and prays to himself, boasting to God and exalting his many pious ways. The Pharisee brags that he exceeds the requirements of fasting (two times per week versus the required one) and tithing (tithing on everything, not just select items as specified by the Law). The Pharisee, under the guise of prayer, curses others who sin, lumping the Tax Collector in with extortioners, unjust and adulterers; The Pharisee claims that he is not like the other sinners. The Pharisee doesn’t love God or the Tax Collector; he loves himself.

In contrast, Christ holds up the Tax Collector as the model for prayer. The Tax Collector stands apart, aware of his own unworthiness, eyes downcast in sorrow and guilt, beats his chest (Greek word means, “to be reconciled”) in sorrow. His prayer is simple: “God, be merciful on me, a sinner.” Christ praises the Tax Collector’s prayer; it is humble, respectful, sorrowful for sin, acknowledges God’s dominion, mercy and power to forgive and begs for God’s mercy.  Christ ominously warns, those who exalts themselves will be humbled.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ reveals His knowledge of how God views the prayers of men; omniscient, Christ knows the inner lives of men. Divine King, Christ fearlessly rebukes the powerful Pharisees for their sinfulness. Divine Teacher, Christ teaches with parables that inspire and teach men.  Divine Priest, Christ teaches men how to pray. Divine Prophet, Christ reveals the truth to men, rebuking those who are self-righteous.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Marvel at how, in just a short parable, Christ is able to precisely and powerfully convey the need for men to refrain from judging others and to humbly repent to receive God’s mercy.

2) Christ’s blessings for the “poor in spirit” (Matt 5:3) are for those men who recognize their own deep spiritual poverty and the need for God’s infinite mercy.  During Lent, commit to humble prayer (CCC 2559-2565) and, like the Tax Collector, beg for Christ to “be merciful to you a sinner.”

3) In addition to pridefully sinning against God, the Pharisee breaks the 8th Commandment by bearing false witness against the Tax Collector. During Lent, review the Catechism section Offenses Against Truth (CCC 2475-2487) and pray for Christ to help you to avoid judging and condemning others.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Joyful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Blessed Virgin Mary

Virtue of the Day – Hope

Corporal Work of Mercy – To bury the dead

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To pray for the living and the dead

After refuting and humiliating the Pharisees’ attempt to condemn Christ by accusing Him of healing the demon-possessed mute man by the power of Satan (Beelzebub), Christ urges the Pharisees to consider  that He is casting out demons with the Spirit of God and the Kingdom of God is now present. Christ is conquering Satan right before their eyes by binding the “strong man” (Satan) and freeing souls (“plundering” Satan’s possession of men like the demon-possessed mute); blinded by their evil hearts, the Pharisees are blind.

Christ refers to the continuing Spiritual Combat in which every man must ultimately choose between being “with” Christ or “against” Him (and with Satan). Christ then offers a dire warning to the Pharisees. He confirms the great blessing that God will forgive even insults against Him (Son of Man). Mysteriously revealing His divinity, Christ warns the Pharisees of their accusation, that He is cooperating with Satan, is blasphemous and unforgivable; this is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Christ is offering the Pharisees the mercy of a warning so that they might repent and be forgiven.

Christ reveals the the root of the Pharisees’ evil blasphemy; they have hearts corrupted by the Evil One. The Pharisee’s blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is because the they are like bad trees that can only bear bad fruit. The Pharisees’ accusation that Christ is in league with Satan ironically reveals that they are Satanically inspired; Christ condemns them a a “brood of vipers”, children of Satan, the serpent of the Garden of Eden.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ confirms the existence and evil action of Satan. Person of the Trinity, Christ reveals and defends the Holy SpiritDivine Prophet, Christ offers prophetic witness, warning the Pharisees of their evil and the need to repent. Divine Teacher, Christ reveals truths about the demonic using memorable examples (“the strong man”).

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1)  Christ, eternal Person of the Trinity, has an eternity-wide view that precedes Genesis and infinitely surpasses the end of the world; in today’s short Gospel, marvel at Christ’s allusions to Genesis (tree, serpents), the Holy Spirit and the Judgment.

2) The tyranny of the world demands and distracts attention from the reality of the Kingdom of God.  During Lent, refresh your understanding of our great hope, Thy Kingdom Come (CCC 541-556, 763-766, 2816-2821) and pray for Christ to help you live in His Kingdom even now.

3) Christ emphasizes the need for men to “bear fruit.”  During Lent, contemplate these passages from the Catechism on Fruitfulness (CCC 736, 961, 1108, 1129, 1521, 1724, 1804, 1852, 2074, 2731) and pray for Christ to draw you to Himself and allow you to bear much fruit for the Kingdom.

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

After preaching about the need for men to pray with perseverance and promising that God will answer prayers, Christ demonstrates the power of God by miraculously casting a demon out of a mute man. While the people marvel, some murmured among themselves, absurdly accusing Christ as colluding with Beelzebul; “Beelzebul” was a derogatory term (“Lord of Dung”) used by the Jews for the false god of the Philistines, who in reality is Satan.  With this slur, the scoffers attempt to denigrate both the miracle and the Son of Man. Others seek to test Christ further asking for a “sign from Heaven.”

Christ, with omniscience, knows their hidden evil thoughts and decisively rebukes them. Revealing the absurdity of their murmured charge, Christ exposes their illogical accusation by pointing out that Satan does not attack Satan. Turning their attack back on His accusers, Christ demonstrates that their own (your sons) purport to cast out demons and so, using their attack, must also be in league with Satan.

Christ mysteriously reveals His divinity and His triumph in the Spiritual Combat. Satan (strong man), who is powerful (strong, has amor), guards those he has corrupted (his goods) by enticements to sin.  Christ (One stronger) assails (casts out demons) and disarms Satan (takes away armor), setting sinners free to be judged (divided) by Christ. Christ warns that every man must choose to be either with Christ or against Christ (and with Satan). Men who have been liberated by Christ of sins/demons, must give themselves fully to Christ or, in their emptiness, be repossessed by sin/demons.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ confirms the existence and evil action of Satan in the world and some of the behaviors of demons who prowl the world. Christ is omniscience and “knows” the thoughts of men. Omnipotent, Christ’s miracles reveal that in Him is the “finger of God.”  Divine King, Christ rebukes His would-be attackers and challenges men to choose sides; either the Kingdom of Heaven or the kingdom of Satan. He easily exposes the lack of logic in the minds of His enemies. Divine Teacher, Christ reveals truths about the demonic using memorable examples (“the strong man”).

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1)  Since Eden, men’s sinfulness has been exploited by Satan to tempt them to rebel against God. Be awed by Christ’s absolute and embarrassing rebukes of rebellious men and His complete domination of Satan.

2) Men are built for combat and Christ uses militaristic (strong man, armor, spoils, etc.) terms to call men to the Spiritual Battle (or Spiritual Combat).  During Lent, recommit to the Spiritual Battle (CCC 405-409, 1426, 1707, 2015, 2516) and pray for Christ to arm and protect you against the relentless attacks of Satan.

3) Christ reveals that “He who is not with Me is against Me”; would Christ say that you are with Him? During Lent, pray for Christ to convert your heart and give you the Grace to be 100% “with Him.”

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Luminous Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Holy Eucharist

Virtue of the Day – Fortitude

Corporal Work of Mercy – To shelter the homeless

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To bear wrongs patiently

Having described the great blessings of the Beatitudes and the need for men to be enthusiastic evangelists, Christ continues the Sermon on the Mount, a summary of the New Covenant. Preparing for the fuller revelation of the New Covenant which will expand beyond simple outer compliance to the 10 Commandments to a radical conversion of the heart to love, Christ authoritatively confirms the New Covenant builds upon and encompasses the foundation of the Old Covenant.

Remarkably, Christ starts by revealing that He is the fulfillment (i.e. to make complete) of the Law and the Prophets, which is a shorthand reference for the entire Old Testament. He clearly and adamantly confirms the details of the Law, saying not the “smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter” of the Law will be ignored; the perfection Christ is calling men to is an impossibly high standard. As Christ will reveal, only the Divine Mercy of God will allow men to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Christ reveals He has an intimate knowledge of the Kingdom of Heaven, knowing the hierarchy that exists (greater and lesser), the criteria by which men are judged (righteousness) and even those who will not be accepted into Heaven (The Pharisees and those who are less righteous).  Christ calls all men to honor the Commandments and places great responsibility on those who teach to teach the fullness of the Commandments or face the consequences.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ speaks with the authority, revealing that He is the fulfillment of the Old TestamentDivine Prophet, Christ reinforces the Law and Prophets of the Old Covenant and warns the Pharisees and scribes that their righteousness is insufficient to gain Heaven.  Divine Judge, Christ, having first hand knowledge of Heaven and the Power and Wisdom to judge men’s souls, confirms some are excluded from Heaven.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) As a Person of the Trinity, Christ establishes the unbending truth of the 10 Commandments, sets the standards of righteousness and explicitly makes it clear that many won’t make it to Heaven. Be awed by Christ’s ominous power and wisdom.

2) Secular governments enacting laws which directly contradict the 10 Commandments; sadly, many in the Church are seeking to “relax” the Law by promoting false mercy. During Lent, renew your understanding of Christ’s perfection of the Law (CCC 577-582, 1965-1986) and pray for Christ to help you to become righteous.

3) It is impossible to win a game (e.g. be accepted into Heaven) if you are ignorant of the rules (10 Commandments – CCC 2052-2082, Precepts of the Church – CCC 2041-2043). During Lent, do a daily Examination of Conscience (CCC 1385, 1454) using the 10 Commandments (there are readily available guides in most parishes) and pray for Christ to fully convert your heart to seek His Kingdom.

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

After Christ grants the power to forgive sins (“bind and loose”) to the disciples, Peter, continuing to show why Christ chose him to be the leader of the Church, asks for clarity about the limits of forgiveness; Christ’s reply, “70 times 7”, means unlimited forgiveness. Elsewhere, Christ reveals that a man’s own forgiveness depends on his willingness to forgive (The Lord’s Prayer : “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”) and Christ demonstrates the infinite magnitude of forgiveness from the Cross (“Forgive them Father for they do not know what they do”).

Stressing the forgiveness imperative, Christ offers the parable of The Unmerciful Servant. A King (Christ) has riches and power so immeasurable that one of His servants owes Him several billion dollars (10,000 talents in today’s values/200,000 years labor!).  The King’s reckoning of accounts (an allusion to the Judgment) requires that the servant, his whole family and all his possessions must be sold in partial payment of his infinite debt. In desperation, the slave kneels and begs, desperately promising to pay his impossible debt. The King, viscerally moved by the servant’s repentant plea, forgives the servant’s entire debt.

The newly freed servant, forgetting forgiveness, encounters a fellow servant who owes him several thousand dollars (100 denarii/about three months wages). Despite the small level of debt, he chokes the man, demanding payment. The second servant, as did the first, fell to his knees and begged for time to pay his entire debt. Instead of mercy, the first casts the second servant into prison.  Fellow servants report the injustice to the King who confronts the evil servant, rebuking him for his lack of mercy and turning him over to the jailers (literally, “torturers”) until the entire debt is paid, an impossibility (an allusion to the eternal torture of Hell).  Christ confirms: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Awed by Jesus ChristDivine King, Christ describes His Kingdom, Authority and insights into how He rules. Divine Mercy, Christ describes the infinite mercy that God is willing to show the repentant. Divine Teacher, Christ gives a powerful parable that gives deep insight and sticks in the mind. Divine Judge, Christ offers a veiled preview of the Judgment that awaits all, including allusions to the horror of Hell.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) In the parable of The Unmerciful Servant, Jesus gives a mysterious “God’s eye” view of God’s infinite Mercy but also His perfect Justice.  Reflect on God’s willingness to forgive the immense sins of repentant sinners and the just punishment unrepentant sinners will face.

2) Through His Catholic Church (CCC 981-987, 2842-2845) Christ will forgive the gravest sin, absolutely (i.e. Absolution) in the Sacrament of Confession. During Lent, conduct a rigorous Examination of Conscience, repent in your heart, go to Confession and experience Christ’s Divine Mercy.

3) Feelings of resentment, anger, disgust, ridicule, condemnation, revenge, etc. are all signs that a man has failed to forgive those who “trespassed against us.” During Lent, make a list of those you have not forgiven (even back to childhood), go to the Tabernacle and pray for Christ to send His Holy Spirit to help you forgive your “brothers (and sisters) from your heart.”

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