Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lent: It's not just for Catholics anymore!

With Ash Wednesday and Lent in the offing, I had been researching Lenten-related topics and ran across an article from the Associated Baptist Press, Increasingly, Baptists turning to the observance of Lent

The headline caught my eye immediately. I thought, "Wow, really?" Truthfully, I didn't think that any "free-church" congregations where liturgical at all. I knew, of course, that our Orthodox and Anglican/Episcopal brothers and sisters maintained the liturgical aspects of the faith as have the Methodists to an extent, but Baptists? No way!

For Catholics, the spirit of Lent is rooted in Baptism. For in Baptism, we die to sin and rise to new life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4). So in preparation for that new life, realized in Christ's death and resurrection, we offer up our own sacrifices to, in a little way, unite ourselves with the sacrifice of the Cross. Traditionally, the penances of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving (all biblical - Matthew 6:1-6,16-18). Each person, together with his/her confessor, must decide what practices will best prepare them for Easter.

To be sure, there is no unanimity of teaching (if any teaching at all) on Lent throughout the various Baptist conventions. But there is no unanimity of teaching on a lot of things within Protestantism in general. I don't mean that as a slight, simply as a statement of fact.

I would say most Baptists out and out reject Lent. As Pastor Jim West said in the article, "...Baptists repentance can't be confined to a mere 40-day period preceded by the most intense gluttony and occupied with the setting aside of trivial pleasantries and followed by a return to the same-old, same-old...". This is really a misrepresentation (or a misunderstanding) of Catholic teaching. Catholics do not limit their repentance to the 40 days of Lent. This type of attitude reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the Liturgical calendar and how it was used in the catechesis of the faithful throughout Church history.

That said, what I see in the Baptists in this article (and others) that are embracing Lenten practices is an innate yearning for a connection to historical Christianity. As a Catholic I long to see what Christ prayed for, "...that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:22-23), be realized. I wholeheartedly welcome any of my separated brothers and sisters in Christ to embrace the Lenten ideals and humbly offer up their sacrifices (with Him working for His good pleasure in us), to the greater glory of God. Remember to always keep your focus on Christ and his Good Friday sacrifice. The crucifix is a powerful reminder of the full extent of God's love for us all. God Bless.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Examination of Conscience, Repentance and Forgiveness

Monday night at my 4th Degree Knights of Columbus Assembly meeting, during prayer requests, one of my brother Knights asked that we pray for the happy repose of the soul of Dr. Bernard Nathanson who was laid to rest that day in New York. For the few who may not know, Dr. Nathanson was the co-founder of NARAL and a leading proponent of "Abortion Rights" in the 60s and 70s. After becoming pro-life, he admitted that NARAL had inflated the numbers of  "back-alley abortion deaths" to influence public opinion in favor of making abortion legal. This is an argument still used today by Planned Parenthood. In the end, the death toll was astounding. Nathanson was responsible for over 75,000 deaths; and was personally involved in the killing of at least 5,000 children, including one of his own.

He performed his last abortion in 1979, however, deciding it was not right based on of all The use of ultrasound technology led him to the realization that it was, in fact, a human life he was taking. Amazing, huh? Interestingly, it would be over fifteen years after becoming pro-life before he came to faith. In his much quoted piece, Confession of an Ex-Abortionist, Dr. Nathanson states,

"As a scientist I know, not believe, know that human life begins at conception. Although I am not a formal religionist, I believe with all my heart that there is a divinity of existence which commands us to declare a final and irreversible halt to this infinitely sad and shameful crime against humanity."

Seeking understanding of his life as an abortionist, he began to read the “literature of sin,” he said. After working with a priest in counseling for several years, he was baptized a Catholic in December of 1996.

So what can be learned from the life of Dr. Nathanson?

First, don't ignore the obvious. If God gives you an "ultrasound" pay attention to it. One of the best tools he left us is his film The Silent Scream. I've included it at the bottom of this post (If you get an age appropriate error, open in YouTube and acknowledge that you're 18). Watch it and pay attention to it...

Secondly, nothing is impossible with Grace. Don't believe for a second that the Grace of God was not at work in this man to move him from where he was in his life to where he ended up. Romans 8:28 tells us that, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."  The Lord definitely worked for his good pleasure in this man's life, bringing much good out of a terrible evil.

Lastly, with the advent of Lent (sorry for the liturgical play on words) about a week away, take the time for a thorough examination of conscience and remember...Jesus Christ died for your sins, therefore no sin, except refusing to ask for forgiveness, is unforgivable. This man's life is surely a testament to that.

Please pray for the happy repose of the soul of Dr. Bernard Nathanson and for the souls of the over 46 million children aborted since Roe v. Wade.

Search This Blog