Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God. Joel 2: 12-14
Today begins the holy season of Lent! This is a joyful season, a positive time for new life to appear, bad habits to disappear, a time of preparing with our minds and hearts renewed. If we have been fasting all year, let’s step it up a bit and perhaps add an additional day of fasting.
Lent is about so much more than giving up chocolate. Lent is about renewing our hearts and minds, focusing on Jesus, learning to be selfless instead of selfish and increasing in character and virtue.
In Pope Benedict XVI’s papal Lenten message (2009), he wrote: “The Sacred Scriptures and the entire Christian tradition teach that fasting is a great help to avoid sin and all that leads to it. For this reason, the history of salvation is replete with occasions that invite fasting.”
The self-denial of fasting helps us to appreciate and embrace what Lent is all about: a time to return to the Lord with our whole hearts, a time of penance to prepare our hearts for the Risen Lord. Since we have already been fasting throughout the year on Wednesdays and Fridays, what can we do to make Lent even more penitential? What can we do to “step it up a notch?” What other practices can we take part in over the next six weeks to prepare our hearts and souls for the Risen Lord?
Daily Mass, reading/reflecting on Scripture, reciting the Rosary, the Seven Sorrows Chaplet, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Chaplet of the Holy Fast and almsgiving are all excellent ways to journey with Christ through Lent. We can give our time to others as part of our almsgiving. The gift of our time during this penitential season is something that can be priceless to those who are lonely and shut in.
Tomorrow, as we begin Lent in earnest, let us pray that the self-denial of fasting will help to prepare our hearts for the Risen Lord. Let us joyfully attend Mass as often as we can, read Scripture, recite the Rosary and the Fasting Chaplet as well as other chaplets. Let’s visit the elderly and the sick.
Note: Today is also Valentine’s Day, which is a secular holiday so we are still obliged to fast and abstain from meat (there is no dispensation from fasting or abstinence).
Let us fast and pray today for all the community intentions, for all our community members, for peace in the world, and for success in preparing our hearts over the next 40 days.
Holy Mary, pray for us! Holy Spirit, teach us to pray!