Lent, a pilgrimage in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving!
Ash Wednesday marks the season of Lent, in a sense, a time die. Take inspiration for your Lenten journey from prayer and to the reading of Scripture, to fasting and to giving alms. Fasting is prescribed to reinforce our penitential prayer during this season.
Pope Francis writes in his Lenten message, “Once God’s law, the law of love, is forsaken, then the law of the strong over the weak takes over. The sin that lurks in the human heart (cf. Mk 7:20-23) takes the shape of greed and unbridled pursuit of comfort, lack of concern for the good of others and even of oneself. It leads to the exploitation of creation, both persons and the environment, due to that insatiable covetousness which sees every desire as a right and sooner or later destroys all those in its grip.”
On Ash Wednesday, when we received the ashes, we hear the words: "Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return." The custom of distributing the ashes arose from the practice observed in the early Church by penitents. The church recommends three means of conversion and renewal of life, during the period of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is an outward expression of our inner craving for a deeper relationship with God. In the Old Testament fasting, prayer and almsgiving were public. But if we look at the Gospel passage for the Ash Wednesday from the Gospel of Mathew, it talks about a more interior aspect of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. It does not mean we don’t have to do the exterior action, but the season demands interior discipline.
Prayer: We devote ourselves in prayer: in personal prayer, participating in Atweekend Mass, and if our schedules allow, attend weekday Mass.
Fasting: Fast from anything that harms ourselves and others. It could be food or other things, habits, or situations.
Almsgiving: Freeing ourselves from greed and helping others. It can be through prayers, inviting others to pray at Mass, spending time with others, and/or giving financial help.
The season of lent we increase our regular prayer, intensify our regular fasting and regular almsgiving to prepare for the feast of Easter and the Christian Passover.
Fasting and Abstinence: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence. For members of the Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.
Take a Prayer Button for Lent: At the entrances of the Churches in our cluster, there will be a basket with Prayer Buttons. Please take one and place on your jacket during this Lent to remind yourself about the sacrifice of Jesus, the gift of Eucharist and to remember every Sunday to prepare and actively participate in the Eucharist. I invite everyone to take a few minutes to prepare for Mass by looking at the reading for the Mass and by fasting for an hour before Mass. And invite someone you know to come with you to Mass. Jesus had to give everything to give us the Eucharist. What are we going to give up to celebrate the gift of Eucharist more meaningfully?