Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
The annual observance of the season of Lent is an opportunity to recommit ourselves to follow Jesus more closely. In the second reading for this Sunday’s Mass, we hear St. Peter say that “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead us to God.” That is the hope for our Christian life, that we might be led to God. Jesus tells us that he is the Way; He is the One who will lead us to the Father. As he said to his first disciples, he says to us: “follow me.”
The Church offers us this preparatory season to not only ready ourselves for the Church’s celebration of the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection at Easter, but also to better equip us to follow Jesus. The Church, in her wisdom, offers certain spiritual disciplines to help us do that. These are, by no means, the only ways but they are effective ways. The Church invites us to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Prayer is the way we commune with God. The scriptures tell us that “this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn 17:3). Prayer is how we get to know God. Jesus speaks to us in the Sacred Scriptures when we prayerfully reflect over them. In the silence of prayer we become quiet enough to hear the “voice” of God speak to our hearts. Daily prayer is how we come to know Jesus. We cannot effectively follow someone that we do not know.
Fasting helps us to detach from the indulgence in food, comfort and sensual pleasure. It helps us deny ourselves and strengthen our self-discipline. It allows spiritual space for God to fill what has otherwise been filled with habit, boredom, obsession or excess. Fasting unites us with the many who are deprived of food or comfort, not by choice, but by the misfortunes in which they find themselves. It can help us share their struggle, even if only temporarily.
Almsgiving (donating money, gifts or time to those in need) is an ancient discipline and helps us to imitate Jesus by giving of ourselves. It helps to draw us out of ourselves and focus on the needs of others. It takes our focus away for our own needs and helps us to recognize the needs of others, especially the poor. St. John Paul II, said “we are most fully human when we give ourselves away, because it is then that we imitate Jesus on the cross most fully.” Almsgiving is a form of self-donation.
I encourage you to embrace prayer, fasting and almsgiving, the traditional disciplines of Lent. Make this Lenten season a time to become better equipped to follow Jesus.
Sincerely yours in Christ Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life,