Lent – Season of Grace
Pope Francis, in his Lenten message for 2021 reflected, “In our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us remember the One who ‘humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross' (Phil 2:8). During this season of conversion, let us renew our faith, draw from the ‘living water’ of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Lent is forty days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that begins on Ash Wednesday. The season of Lent is a season of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection at Easter. It is a time of renewal of faith and follows in his footsteps more faithfully.
Ash Wednesday is the Church’s ‘Day of Atonement'. It is not only the first of the forty days of Lent, but along with Good Friday, the Church describes it as a day of full fast and abstinence from meat for Catholics from the age of 18 to 59, meaning only one full meal and two smaller meals not equal to a full meal are permitted. Fridays during lent are obligatory days of abstinence from meat. These are not just a rule for the season of Lent, but it is a means to grow in our relationship with God and one another.
The readings for Ash Wednesday remind us of the spiritual nature of the Lenten season. The first reading is from the book of the prophet Joel. The message of the book of Joel can be summoned up as a call to repentance in the face of coming judgment, which the prophet refers to as “the day of the Lord.” He insists in the reading that we should experience a complete conversion of heart and not simply sorrow for our sins. In the book of Leviticus 16:30, we read that “For on this day atonement is made for you to make you clean; of all your sins you will be cleansed before the LORD.” Saint Paul, in the second reading, says, Christ took on our humanity and became the victim in a sacrificial act so “we might become the righteousness of God.” The sacrifice of Christ has infinite value and enables us to be reconciled to God.
Today’s Gospel instructs us to embrace the true spirit of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. This passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount which begins in chapter 3 and ends in chapter 7. In this Gospel reading, the sermon continues with a warning against doing good to be seen and gives three examples, almsgiving (Mt 6:2–4), prayer (Mt 6:5–15), and fasting (Mt 6:16–18).
Forty days of prayer is a time to reflect on the part we play in God’s one human family. Part of that prayer journey may include praying our prayer card, which is a prayer for our cluster community. Forty days of fasting is a time to remove the obstacles getting in the way of loving God and our neighbor. Forty days of almsgiving is a time to experience the spirit of poverty and come closer to those who are in need.
What can I do this Lent? A simple suggestion: 1. Take a few minutes for daily prayer (please include praying our prayer card, which is a prayer for our cluster community). 2. Find time to attend Mass every Sunday. And if you go every Sunday, try to find time for weekday Mass at least once or twice? Or go for the Stations of the Cross. 3. Pray for one or two of your friends/families each week and invite them for the weekend Mass and come with them for Mass.
Lenten Reading - The Wisdom of Fulton Sheen
On Ash Wednesday you can get a book named "The Wisdom of Fulton Sheen" - 365 days of inspiration- is an easy, short read for each day. It is designed to read the whole year. We can start on March 2, Ash Wednesday, and finish on March 1, 2023.
I would like to express my gratitude to our St. Anthony CCW, Immaculate Conception Christian Women, and St. Francis Sodality. Their generosity made these books available for all of us.