Reading I : Gn 9:8-15
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: 1 Pt 3:18-22
Gospel: Mk 1:12-15
Liturgical colour: Violet.
My dearest brothers and sisters in Christ:
The season of Lent in the Church Liturgical year has begun. The purpose of Lent is for each and every one of us to prepare ourselves for the upcoming sacred days of Holy Thursday with the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday with the Lord’s Passion, and Holy Saturday with the Lord’s triumph, the Easter Vigil and with the resurrection of the Lord on Easter Sunday.
Now the word ‘Lent’ itself means ‘springtime!’ “but Springtime so early?” you well may ask. The answer is “Yes!” In ancient English, the word ‘lent’ is short for the meaning of ‘lengthening,’ as in ‘when winter’s darkness begins to give way to the ever-lengthening light of day.’
Lent, then, announces to us the beginning of the Church’s springtime season.
Whilst Lent is, indeed, a season of penitence — a season of calling us to turn our lives around and to bring our hearts back to God — it’ should not become a time for us to moan and groan or to feel shame for our past sins and for our present failings.
Rather, Lent is a time for us all to rise up and to prepare ourselves to greet the dawn of the new season of hope and of joy.
Lent is first and foremost the celebration of the presence of the Lord among us. For our Lord has come indeed, and he has come to stay: to live with us, to suffer with us, even to die to the past and rise with us to embrace a newness of life together. This saving grace of Jesus, and his redeeming presence, are with us again, and always, as is spoken in the Holy Scriptures, “His love is everlasting.”
What, then, are the works that we are called to do during this Lenten Season — we who are called to change the world?
How small and insignificant are we, and hardly able for the task. And yet, consider for a moment the size of the ant.
When I was a young girl, on a summer’s night, I loved to sneak out of bed, run outside and gaze at the ants busily going about their busy lives, ants, the smallest of the smallest of God’s creatures. I’d gaze and look upon how they darted about every-which-way, but filling my eyes with wonder and flooding an empty heart with new hope and dreams.
So too, must we learn from the ants, and let our good works shine forth and we ought to dart about showing the light of Christ and the warmth of his love in this often-dark world in which we now live, and listen to the words of Jesus our Lord, “Let your light shine before others, so that seeing the lovely things you do, they may give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Since ancient times there have been only three basic works common to a proper Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Prayer, for the good of our soul:
A return to a daily, intimate dialogue with God our Father, speaking and listening with the heart, experiencing His presence and love not only in the safety of our own solitude but in the work of building up a community of love with each other — remembering his words, “Wherever two or three of you are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of you.”
For this, during this sacred season, we must search out quiet places and, even more importantly, we must learn to sit still!
Fasting, for the good of the body:
Fasting to feel and share in the experience of the hunger of the breadless poor and to taste the tears of those who live on the edges of despair. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice sake” … those who work for the growth of peace and harmony, for the righting of wrongs, for the breaking down of barriers and for a new birth of compassion, understanding and love in this world…
Yes, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice sake, for they shall be satisfied.” Christ is one with them when he cries out from the cross: “I thirst.” Who, if not we, are listening? Who, if not we, are to respond? Take courage: For as it is written: “In the chaos of learning to love, we are redeemed.”
Almsgiving, for the good of our neighbour:
To take upon ourselves personal responsibility for helping a brother or sister in need is to reach out and touch God Himself. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, this you do unto me.” (Matthew25:40)
Let us finish with this prayer from Dimitrii of Rostov:
Come, My Light
Come, my Light,
and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life,
and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician,
and heal my wounds.
Come, Flame of divine love,
and burn up the thorns of my sins,
kindling my heart
with the flame of thy love.