Dear friends in Christ:
This coming week is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. This is one of the two penitential seasons of the Church year. Lent and Advent are also preparatory seasons. We prepare for the great celebrations of the moments of our redemption by performing acts of penance. While Advent is four weeks long, Lent is forty days long. In fact, in the romance languages Lent is referred to as the forty days (Latin – Quadragisma, Spanish – La Cuaresma, French – La Careme, Italian – La Quaresima). These forty days harken to the biblical notion of a journey of faith, of journeying to and seeking God. It is also a time of trial and testing. We remember the example of the forty days in the Old Testament with Noah and the flood (Gen 7:12), Moses on Mt. Sinai (Ex 24:18), Moses interceding in prayer for Israel (Dt 9:18), Saul’s army being taunted by Goliath (1 Sm 17:16), Elijah fleeing to Mt. Horeb (1 Kg 19:18). In the New Testament we see Jesus spending forty days in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry (Mt 4:2) and the length of time between Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension into heaven (Acts 1:3).
For us, these Forty Days of Lent are a time to purify ourselves by prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
We practice these ascetical exercises so that we may strengthen our wills to follow God through the denial of serving the self and through the opening of our minds, bodies and hearts to God’s grace. We use these forty days to journey with Christ to the celebration of His Resurrection at Easter by increasing the time spent in prayer, decreasing physical pleasure through fasting and increasing our charity through almsgiving. Just as athletes in training deny themselves certain pleasures in order to increase their stamina through physical exercises, we do the same to grow in spiritual strength and health.
Some practical suggestions for Lent: Pray more. Come to daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. We have additional masses during Lent at 9:00 a.m., 12:10 Noon and 7:00 p.m. Mon-Fri. Eucharistic Adoration is available 24/7. Come to the Liturgy of the Hours at 6:30 in the morning and/or the evening. Pray the rosary, Come and pray the Stations of the Cross with the parish community on Fridays or pray them as a family or individually. Pray the Sacred Scriptures. If you begin on Ash Wednesday and read just 2 chapters of the gospel each day you can complete all four gospels by Easter! St. Jerome reminds us that ignorance of the Scriptures is an ignorance of Christ! Do you think God the Father is going to ask us at the end or our lives how many Facebook friends did we have or were we friends with His Only Begotten Son? Get to know Jesus by reading and praying the Gospels this Lent!
Fasting without prayer is called dieting! But we all need to fast from certain pleasures to increase our awareness for our need of God and to increase our awareness of God’s goodness to us. Fasting from food is fine. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fasting and abstinence (one simple meal and no meat). The Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence (no meat). But we can fast from other things too – the computer, cell phone, TV, golf, video games or other pleasures. We can sacrifice by doing extra acts of charity – volunteering at Joseph’s Coat or the food pantry, going on a Mission Trip, helping a neighbor, visiting a person who may be shut in due to age or infirmity, serving as a mentor in one of the schools, volunteering in one of our parish ministries.
Lent is also a time for almsgiving. Have you given to the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF)? What is your level of support for the mission and material needs of the parish? Do you ever bring food to the monthly parish Food Drive? Does your checkbook/bank account reflect your gratitude for all God has blessed you with? Lent is a good time to re-examine and evaluate our financial charity and generosity.
These forty days are a gift to us. May we spend them in prayer, fasting and almsgiving, grateful to God for the gift of our salvation thought the death of and resurrection of Jesus, our Lord.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately