Lent is a journey of faith, hope, and love
The liturgical Season of Lent is underway once again. Every year the church in her wisdom gives us this season of repentance and reflection so that we can prepare ourselves for the greatest holy days of the year: the Triduum and Easter. Lent focuses on repentance of sin and the great gift of baptism. It also is marked by the age-old practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. As the Ceremonial of Bishops states, “The annual observance of Lent is the special season for the ascent to the holy mountain of Easter. Through its twofold theme of repentance and baptism, the season of Lent disposes both the catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery. Catechumens are led to the sacraments of initiation by means of the rite of election, the scrutinies, and catechesis. The faithful, listening more intently to the word of God and devoting themselves to prayer, are prepared through a spirit of repentance to renew their baptismal promises” (Ceremonial of Bishops, 249).
Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, which begins the Sacred Paschal Triduum. Its forty days are evocative of the Lord’s time of fasting and prayer in the desert before he began his public ministry. It is also reminiscent of the forty years the Hebrews spent in the desert being purified before they entered the Promised Land.
During Lent every year we make a spiritual journey of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that prepares us for the celebration of the Lord’s paschal mystery, his suffering, death, and resurrection, which accomplished our salvation. As we lift up in prayer those to be baptized, confirmed and welcomed to the Eucharistic table for the first time at the Easter Vigil at the end of Lent, we who already live the new life won for us by Christ have the opportunity to renew the grace of our baptism and appreciate again the power of the Sacraments of Initiation.
I encourage you to participate in your parish’s Lenten devotions as much as you can. The additional times of prayer (Adoration, Stations of the Cross, etc.) are great ways for all of us to put aside the distractions of life and seek more sincerely the deeper things of the spirit.
Fasting can take many forms, from abstaining from meat on Ash Wednesday and the Fridays of Lent and Good Friday, to “giving something up” for Lent.
Almsgiving is also a great way of growing closer to God by loving your neighbor. Making a donation to Catholic Social Services or your local chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society or food shelf can make a real difference in the lives of people in crisis in our own area.
In his recent encyclical Fratelli Tutti (translated: “Brothers All”) Pope Francis calls us to rediscover the common humanity of the human family. “Let us dream as a single human family, as fellow travelers, as children of the same earth which is our common home, for we are brothers and sisters all.”
The almsgiving of Lent can help us answer the Holy Father’s call to redouble our efforts to break through the man-made divisions and fears that plague the human family. Living out the parable of the Good Samaritan in the almsgiving of Lent is a practical way of being “neighbor” to those around us.
Let me end with the prayer that Pope Francis composed as the closing of “Fratelli Tutti.”
O God, Trinity of love,
from the profound communion of
your divine life, pour out upon us a
torrent of fraternal love.
Grant us the love reflected in the actions of Jesus, in his family of Nazareth,
and in the early Christian community.
Grant that we Christians may
live the Gospel, discovering Christ in each human being, recognizing him
crucified in the sufferings of the abandoned and forgotten of our world,
and risen in each brother or sister
who makes a new start.
Come, Holy Spirit, show us your beauty,
reflected in all the peoples of the earth,
so that we may discover anew
that all are important and all are
necessary, different faces of the one
humanity that God so loves. Amen.
+Bishop Peter M. Muhich