My Dear Parishioners
Since the earliest days of the Church, the Lenten season has been understood as a time of repentance and spiritual preparation for celebrating the joy of Easter. While the focus and purpose of Lent has remained unchanged over the years, many today have come to consider it an annual retreat of 40 days.
As we embark upon this annual retreat, we do not do it alone. Rather, we journey with Jesus, who spent forty days and forty nights in the wildness immediately following His baptism by John. And, remembering that Jesus was tempted by Satan, we are invited during the Lenten season to confront the reality of our own humanity and vulnerability. To help us do this, we strive to abstain from what we truly do not need, while also embracing a new and deeper commitment to living our faith by serving others. The three Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving can help us in this undertaking.
As we pray, fast, and give alms, we uncover another way of considering the Lenten season as a time for our Annual Attitude Adjustment. Our efforts at prayer challenge the conventional attitude that we can do everything on our own and that we do not need God in our lives. Our practice of fasting challenges the attitude that we can find true happiness and fulfillment in anything other than God. And our acts of almsgiving challenge the attitude that we do not need to take responsibility for the well-being of others. Because our attitudes are often so self-centered and so deep-seated, we need to work on them year after year, Lent after Lent. When we do this, we can slowly, but steadily, grow in our faith and holiness. We also can grow in our fidelity to living out our baptismal calling.
As our readings today remind us, God has initiated a covenant with us, His people. The waters of Baptism are a symbol of that covenant and the salvation it offers us. Never again will the waters of a flood destroy the earth, as they did in the days of Noah. Instead, the water of baptism will serve as a sign of our having died to sin and risen to new life in Christ. This points to another important purpose of the Lenten season. It is a final time of preparation for many faith seekers, as they ask to be baptized and initiated into the Catholic Church. It is also a time for those already baptized to prepare to renew their baptismal commitment at Easter.
And what is that commitment? It is to reject what is evil, in favor of embracing what is good and holy. Put it another way, it means living for Christ, living like Christ, and loving like Christ. And that is the purpose and foundation of our lives as Catholics. It is our conscious decision to live as followers of Jesus in everything we do, not just during the Lenten season, but each and every day of our lives.
However you envision the season of Lent, one thing is very clear; it is God’s gift to us. It is a forty day opportunity of grace, during which we are invited to know God in a deeper way, to follow Him each day, and to love Him with our whole heart mind, and soul. How will you make use of this forty day retreat to deepen your relationship with the Lord? What attitudes within you need to be adjusted so that you can more faithfully live out the call of your Baptism?
God Bless,
Msgr. Maresca