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Monday, March 1, 2004

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18
Psalm 19
Matthew 25:31-46

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the tropic of cancer

"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, escorted by all the angels of heaven, He will sit upon His royal throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him." —Matthew 25:31-32

I have read and preached today's Lenten readings for many years. Yet today, as I write, I hear them in a new way, for I have just been told by my surgeon that I have cancer. This may not be as bad as some people think it is. But it does make me think twice (or more) about life, death, holiness, and heaven.

God reveals that we must live lives of detailed justice and love to be holy, for He is holy (Lv 19:2). I have tried to grow in holiness for most of my life, but now with this diagnosis of cancer, my striving "for that holiness without which no one can see the Lord" (Heb 12:14) is supremely important. I must see the Lord forever in heaven, whether that begins sooner or later.

Most Christians and millions of others are familiar with today's Gospel reading. Jesus declares: "Whatever you did for the least of the brethren, that you did for Me" (Mt 25:40, our transl). These words jump off the page after my diagnosis of cancer. Also, I hear, as never before, Jesus' words: "Come. You have My Father's blessing! Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world" (Mt 25:34).

"God's word is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword" (Heb 4:12). We obviously don't need to have cancer to be convicted, pierced, and transformed by God's word. Let God's word burn in you now (see Lk 24:32).

Prayer:  Father, make this Lent a time of God's word penetrating the darkest areas of my life.

Promise:  Jesus "will answer them, 'I assure you, as often as you neglected to do it to one of these least ones, you neglected to do it to Me.' These will go off to eternal punishment and the just to eternal life." —Mt 25:45-46

Praise:  A friend's funeral made Joan realize that without God she too was under a death sentence. She reformed her life and returned to Church.

Nihil Obstat:  Reverend Richard Walling, July 18, 2003

Imprimatur:  †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, July 24, 2003