Blessed John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia in America “In this life, conversion is a goal which is never fully attained: on the path which the disciple is called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, conversion is a lifelong process”. Our process of conversion, though it is a lifelong one, is of special importance during the season of Lent. The Church gives us this beautiful season so that we might open up our hearts to the transformative power of God. When we do this, we are able to more fully pattern our lives after the one who is our Lord, Jesus Christ, who is the model of our Christian life.
Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving
The three basic tenants of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These staples of Lent allow the disciples of Christ to grow in their relationship with Him and His Church. The practice of prayer, fasting and almsgiving is something the Christian should do throughout the entire year; however, there is an extra emphasis during the penitential season of Lent. Each action is a movement beyond the self, directed toward or for the other.
When one prays, the Christian raises his or her heart and mind to God. It is a turn away from the self toward the One who has the power to save: our loving God. As Saint John Damascene described prayer, it is simply “speaking with God”.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where there is much competing for our attention; there is lots of noise that drowns out the voice of God. Jesus tells us “when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Mt 6:6). The Prophet Elijah encountered God in the still silence (1 Kg 19:12), not wind, fire or earthquake. The temptation of modern man is to fill one’s life up with all sorts of external distractions that easily block the voice of God. Blessed John Paul II reminds us that“prayer, both personal and liturgical, is the duty of every Christian”.
The penitential act of fasting has the potential to draw us into a deeper relationship with God and neighbor. The voluntary act of fasting is in imitation of Christ who went into the desert to pray and fast for forty nights. Like prayer, it serves as an exercise in turning from the self, in willingly denying ourselves, so that we may become more aware of the presence of Christ.
Lastly, almsgiving consists of offering our treasure to help those who are in need. Almsgiving allows us to be in solidarity with the poorest of the poor. Much like fasting, this sacrificing and rejection of worldly pleasures turns us toward love of God and neighbor, rather than the love of self.
Blessed John Paul II wrote in Ecclesia in America “In order to speak of conversion, the gap between faith and life must be bridged.”It is one thing to say that we are Catholics, but to truly follow Christ during this Lenten season, we must also put his commandments into action. By praying, fasting, and almsgiving, we bring our faith into our own lives, and the lives of others.
Purification and Enlightenment
We keep in our prayers those who will enter the Church though the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. Lent is a time of purification and enlightenment for those preparing to enter the Church through the Easter Sacraments. Please keep our brothers and sisters in your prayers as they look forward to receiving the sacrament of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. They too have heard the voice of God and have set out to follow His call in their lives. By entering into this Lenten season before they are fully initiated as Catholics, they are learning the practices of prayer, denial of self, and charity toward others – practices that they will be called to continue for the rest of their lives. In fact, these are practices that all Catholics must implement. The Season of Lent is a gift which points us in the right direction – toward the glory of God.
“As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.” ~Blessed Teresa of Calcutta