First Sunday of Lent - The Solace of Christian Life

Source: District of Asia

It is not easy to lead a truly Christian life. It is a life of self-denial, a life that in many respects is opposed to the cravings of human nature. To observe the law of God is difficult enough, but the Church imposes on us additional obligations. Thus, the season of Lent, which began last Wednesday, is a period of fasting and abstinence which, if observed in all details, involves considerable hardship and bodily affliction.


Nevertheless, the Christian life and by that we mean the Catholic life also brings many consolations which more than compensate for its burdens and hardships. It is good for us at times to meditate on these sources of solace; and the Liturgy of to-day's Mass urges us to do so. For throughout the Mass of the First Sunday of Lent the theme of hope in God predominates.

Over and over again the comforting truth is repeated that God lovingly watches over His children, protecting them from harm, bestowing on them the spiritual helps they need in the troubles of life, and guiding them safely through the darkness of their earthly pilgrimage until they rest secure with Him forever.

The Tract of the Mass contains Psalm xe, which is a magnificent hymn of praise to the Almighty for His solicitous protection of those who love and serve Him: "He that dwelleth in the aid of the Most High shall abide under the protection of the God of heaven.... I am with him in tribulation. I will deliver him and I will glorify him; I will fill him with length of days and I will show him My salvation." By an unusual liturgical enactment the Offertory prayer and the Communion are the same: "The Lord will overshadow thee with His shoulders, and under His wings thou shalt trust; His truth shall compass thee with a shield." The Gospel with its dramatic account of the three temptations of Our Lord concludes with the consoling statement that, after He had vanquished the tempter, "angels came and ministered to Him."


The basic source of consolation in the Catholic life is the assurance of eternal salvation. However, this does not mean that, by the very fact that one accepts the teachings of the Catholic Church, he is sure to be saved. Our Lord predicted that there would be wicked members in the Church. In opposition to the ideas of the Reformers, the Council of Trent defined that no one can be sure that he will be saved unless he has received a special revelation to that effect. But we have the infallible assurance of our Catholic faith that God wills us to be saved, that He will provide us with the necessary means of attaining to eternal life, and that, if we make use of those means, we are sure to reach the goal

and win the crown of everlasting glory. The fact that we are members of the Catholic Church should, therefore, be a potent means of solace in the trials of life. If God, in His great goodness, has chosen us to be members of the one true Church, He must have a special affection for us. It is true that those who are outside the Catholic Church through no fault of their own, will not be punished by God for non-membership in the Church; yet they are deprived of many graces which they would have if they were members. As Pope Pius XII expressed it in his Encyclical on the Mystical Body: "Even though unsuspectingly they are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer in desire and resolution, they still remain deprived of so many precious gifts and helps from heaven which one can enjoy only in the Catholic Church."

Consequently, the Catholic who takes his faith seriously and is desirous of living according to the principles laid down by the Church, who guides his daily conduct by the teachings of his religion, should not be unduly worried or disturbed about his eternal salvation. With childlike confidence he should live from day to day, looking forward without anxiety to the hour when he will be summoned to give an account of his stewardship.


While the Sacraments are primarily intended to give grace, they also give great consolation in the battle of life. This is particularly true of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, which give us the courage to face the most severe temptations with peace of soul, and to advance rapidly in the love of God. Even if on some occasion we have the misfortune to yield to temptation and to defile our soul with mortal sin, the Sacrament of Penance will restore us to God's friendship and provide us with renewed vigor for the combat.

In Holy Communion we find the solace of Christ's intimate presence in our souls-a comfort that no earthly friendship can provide. And we have His own consoling promise that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood will thereby merit a glorious resurrection on the last day.

The Blessed Sacrament is our solace not only when we receive Holy Communion, but also when we visit Our Lord in the tabernacle to present our petitions, to seek light in the problems that beset us, to thank Him for all He has done for us, to beg His blessings on those we love, to implore His mercy on the troubled world.


The doctrine of the Communion of Saints is a most comforting feature of the Catholic religion, if it is applied to the difficulties of daily life. It means that we can always find in the lives of the Saints directions as to what course we should follow, and it also means that, if we turn to them as our heavenly advocates, they will support us in our afflictions. Like us, they had to undergo the trials of life; now they will help us by their example and by their intercession before the throne of God.

The Catholic doctrine that the Angels are deputed by the Almighty to watch over us and to help us in our needs is also most consoling. To-day's Mass, both in the Gradual and in the Gospel, repeats the encouraging statement of the Old Testament: "He hath given His Angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways. In their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone."

The doctrine of purgatory, far from being harsh or terrifying, is a most blessed portion of Catholic truth. It serves to soothe our grief at parting from our loved ones to realize that we can still assist them after they have passed into eternity. And we have the assurance that, when they have attained to eternal bliss through our assistance, they will lovingly watch over us and help us to win the crown of everlasting happiness.


The doctrine of indulgences, so much misunderstood by those who are not of the household of the faith, should be a source of great peace and solace. Even if we have sinned grievously in the past, as long as we are now restored to God's friendship, we have at our disposal, through the generosity of the Church, a means whereby we can easily pay the debt of temporal punishment due to us so that our punishment in purgatory will be considerably mitigated or even entirely remitted. And nowadays the Church bestows indulgences most lavishly.

We can apply indulgences not only to ourselves but also (in the case of most indulgences) to the souls in purgatory. Thus, we can render great assistance to those whom we loved in life by transferring to them the satisfactions of Our Lord, Our Lady and the Saints committed to us by our loving Mother, the Church.


Imbued with a spirit of trust in God and gratitude for the many consoling features of our holy religion, we should enter devoutly the Lenten season. The fact that Lent is intended to be a period of self-denial does not mean that it is intended to be a time of gloom and mourning. On the contrary, if we determine to spend this Lent in the way intended by the Catholic Church (in a spirit of prayer and contrition and self-denial), it will be a season of great happiness for the joy of God's presence will be in our hearts. The words of St. Paul in today's Epistle will be verified of us: " sorrowing, yet always rejoicing, as needy, yet enriching, as having nothing, and possessing all things.”