March 9, 2011
Joel 2: 12-18
II Corinthians 5: 20-6:2
Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18
Today the Church invites us to begin our observance of Lent, a 40 day period of Prayer, Fasting and Service to the Poor.
This annual period is, in fact, a journey, a Pilgrimage, which culminates in our celebration of the central Feast of Easter, the Resurrection of Christ from the dead.
In addition to the ascetical practices of Prayer, Fasting and Service to the Poor that were mentioned above, it is also essential that we pay close attention to each of the Scripture Lessons which the Church has chosen for all of the Lenten Masses.
We know that the Readings from the Bible form a kind of “conversation” which God has with those who choose to listen attentively.
As so today, Ash Wednesday, the Prophet Joel pleads with us to “return to (God) with your whole heart…for gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger and rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.”
And in his second letter to the Christians at Corinth, Saint Paul implores us “to be reconciled to God…not to receive the Grace of God in vain…behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
And since the Liturgical Season of Lent calls upon each of us to do some form of penance, Jesus reminds us that these penitential practices must be done in a way that does not draw attention to ourselves. We are not, as Christ tells us in Matthew’s Gospel, to behave as the hypocrites do.” In a word, the penances we choose for ourselves should not be a penance for those around us.
May this Lenten observance of 2011 be a time when each one of us will rediscover the importance of Prayer, by seeking as much interior and exterior silence as possible; that each one of us will rediscover the importance of Fasting, by seeking to reduce and moderate our consumption of food, beverages and the use of various forms of entertainment; and may we learn by our Service to the Poor, to live a life of evangelical simplicity and refrain from the acquisition of those things which we do not need and which assume an importance that they do not have.
Accompanying us on our Lenten Pilgrimage is Our Lady, whom we invoke as Mater Redemptoris and Mater Dolorosa. May her intercession and her example help us to persevere in our Lenten Resolutions.