This Wednesday we will begin the Season of Lent. We will have ashes imposed on us as a reminder that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. For the next 40 days we are led into the desert of our own hearts to look deep within, face our sins, and ask for God’s mercy.
We are not just spiritual beings. We are also physical entities, and the way to the soul is through the body. That is why Lenten discipline has historically centered on Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving.
Fasting is not just a spiritual diet. By denying our bodies, our physical hunger reminds us of the hunger of our souls for God, our longing for a deeper relationship with the Lord. As the Psalmist wrote, “As the deer longs for running waters, so my soul longs for you, my God.”
The emphasis on prayer during Lent is a way to stir up our love and ardor by having a deepening conversation with God. Remember that the light of God’s love shines more brightly in the darkness of the recognition of our own sinfulness
Almsgiving teaches us to separate ourselves from material possessions. By freely giving of our money and possessions, we learn to trust the Lord more deeply for our own daily needs. As we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
I would also like to remind you of the Church’s discipline regarding fast and abstinence during the Season of Lent:
Canon 1249 of the Code of Canon Law (Church law) states: All members of the Christian faithful in their own way are bound to do penance in virtue of divine law.
All Catholics from the age of 14 until death are bound to the law of abstinence. This means that one cannot eat the meat of warm blooded animals. Ash Wednesday and all of the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence.
All Catholics from the age of 18 to 60 are bound to the law of fast. This means that only one large meal is allowed, with the other two meals being of lesser proportion. Also, one is not permitted to eat between meals. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast.
May the Season of Lent be a time for renewal and growth in all of us. In this spirit I offer you the following prayer of St. Ephrem the Syrian:
“Lord and Master of my life, keep from me the spirit of indifference and discouragement, lust of power and idle chatter.
Instead, grant to me, your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humble-mindedness, patience, and love.
O Lord and King, grant me the grace to be aware of my sins and not to judge my brother or sister; for you are blessed now and forever. Amen.”
— Fr Dennis, March 3, 2019