Third Sunday in Lent
Station at St Laurence-without-the-Walls
The Station to-day is made at St. Laurence-without-the-Walls, one of the five patriarchal basilicas of Rome, where are buried the bodies of the two deacons Laurence and Stephen. In the Collect for St. Laurence's feast (August 10), we pray that the flame of our sins may be quenched within us as the saint overcame the fire of his torments; while in that for St. Stephen's Day, we undertake to love our enemies like this saint who prayed for his persecutors. Here are two virtues, chastity and charity which were especially practised by the patriarch Joseph whose history the Church gives us in this week in the Breviary. For Joseph resisted the evil solicitation of Potiphar's wife, while on the other hand he loved his brethren to the extent of rendering them good for evil.
When Joseph told his brethren the dreams which foreshadowed his future greatness they became filled with hatred against him, and at the first opportunity got rid of him by throwing him into a disused pit. After which, they sold him to some Ishmaelites who took him to Egypt and after, sold him to an Egyptian noble named Potiphar. It was in this man's house that he strenuously resisted the advances of his wife, thus becoming a great model of purity. St. Ambrose says: "To-day it is the history of the pious Joseph which invites our attention. He possessed many virtues, yet he shone especially by his conspicuous chastity. Rightly therefore, is this holy patriarch set before us as a mirror of chastity" (Matins).
St. Ambrose says: "The jealousy of Joseph's brethren is at the bottom of all the facts which make up his history. Besides, it is recorded to teach us, that a perfect man does not give the rein to his desire to avenge an outrage or to render evil for evil" (Matins).
Surely in all this we can recognize a type of Christ and His Church. Jesus, the blessed Virgin's Son, is in the highest degree the model of virginal purity; and in to-day's Gospel we see Him contending in a special way with the unclean spirit; for so do St. Matthew and St, Luke describe the devil whom our Lord cast out of the dumb man by the finger of God, that is by the Holy Ghost. So does the Church drive out the same unclean spirit from the souls of the newly baptized. Lent was a time of preparation for Baptism and in administering this sacrament the priest breathes three times on the person to be baptized with the words: "Go out of the child, unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Ghost." St. Bede in his commentary on this Gospel says; "What then took place visibly is every day accomplished invisibly, in the conversion of those who become believers. First the devil is driven out of their soul, then they perceive the light of faith; and finally their mouth, until then dumb, opens to praise God" (Matins).
In the same sense in to-day's Epistle St. Paul says; "No fornicator or unclean or covetous person ... hath inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Fornication and all uncleanness, let it not so much as be named among you." And it is specially at this season of combat against Satan that we must imitate Christ of whom Joseph was only the type.
With regard to the virtue of charity, of which this patriarch has set us an example, the likeness to Christ and His Church is obvious enough. Our Lord, too, was hated by His own people and sold by one of His apostles, and when He was dying on the Cross He prayed for His enemies. He had recourse to God and, God glorified Him; making Him sit on His right hand in His kingdom. As Joseph distributed the corn of nature, so at Easter Jesus will distribute the wheat of the Eucharist. We know that as a condition of receiving Holy Communion, the Church requires that charity, of which an example was set by St. Stephen when he pardoned his enemies, and whose relics are kept in the Church where to-day's station is held, the same charity above all, which our Lord practised in an heroic degree when He "delivered Himself for us" on the cross, of which the Eucharist is the constant memorial.
Thus Joseph, as a type of our Lord; and to-day's station, perfectly illustrate the Paschal mystery for which the liturgy prepares us at this season.
Oculi mei semper ad Dominum, quia ipse evellet de laqueo pedes meos: respice in me, et miserere mei; quoniam unicus et pauper sum ego. * Ad te, Domine, levavi animam meam: Deus meus, in te confido, non erubescam.
My eyes turn ever towards the Lord, for he shall pluck my feet out of the snare: look thou upon me, and have mercy on me, for I am alone and poor. * To thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul; in thee, O my God, I put my trust, let me not be ashamed.
(Psalm 24:15-16,12 from the Introit of Mass)
Quaesumus, omnipotens Deus, vota humilium respice: atque ad defensionem nostram, dexteram tuae majestatis extende.
Be attentive, we beseech thee, O Almighty God, to the prayers of thy servants, and stretch forth the arm of thy divine Majesty in our defence.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to Luke.
At that time: Jesus was casting out a devil, and the same was dumb. And when he had cast out the devil, the dumb spoke, and the multitude were in admiration at it. But some of them said: He casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. And others tempting, asked of him a sign from heaven. But he, seeing their thoughts, said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself, shall be brought to desolation, and house upen house shall fall. And if Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because you say, that through Beelzebub I cast out devils. Now if I cast out devils by Beelzebub, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out devils, doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth. But if a stronger than he come upon him, and overcome him, he will take away all his armour wherein he trusted, and will distribute his spoils. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest; and not finding, he saith: I will return into my house whence I came out. And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then he goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in they dwell there; and the last state of that man becometh worse than the first. And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.
(St Matthew 11)