After Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, He was led by the Spirit into the desert to prepare for his public ministry. There He fasted and prayed for 40 days. During this time, his faith was tested by the Evil One. Jesus was tempted by Satan with the usual temptations that we all face, to choose riches, power, self over God and others. The Liturgical season of Lent is our 40 day retreat into greater intimacy with God and deeper self-awareness of our need for His mercy and an unique time to answer Jesus’ call to conversion.
When Jesus began his public ministry, He began to proclaim in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali… beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light…on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen….Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:15-17)
Lent is the perfect time to clean the slate, wash the soul through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The sacramental sign of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are the words of absolution through which forgiveness of our sins and distinctive graces of sanctification are conferred.
This Sacrament was instituted by Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, on the evening of his resurrection. “In the evening of the same day…Jesus came and stood among them…Peace be with you…. As the Father sent me…so I am sending you…Jesus breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit for those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. For those whose sins you retain, they are retained.'” (John 20:19-35)
Today God the Father of mercy awaits our return home as illustrated in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11) Today, the Church Jesus founded is the custodian of conversion, forgiveness of sins, absolution and reconciliation. This is God’s will that none be lost.
In our modern self-centered, self-indulgent, all-about-me world, the concept of fasting is very foreign and many Christians resist it. But according to Scripture and many historic Christian writings, fasting is supposed to be a normal part of our spiritual life here on earth.
We need, after all, every reminder we can get that God is the one in charge. We are in need of his mercy. We must deny ourselves if we are to choose God on a regular basis! Fasting is an important element of the cleansing process. It humbles us. It causes us to acknowledge our needs, go way beyond the needs of the flesh, and reminds us who we are and our dependence on God. Fasting brings the appetites of our flesh under control.
Indeed, if we find it easy to indulge ourselves in food, then it is much easier for us to indulge ourselves in other “appetites” of the flesh as well. By denying ourselves food, we help strengthen our wills — which is so important in conquering sinful addictions. Saint Paul warns us in Romans chapter 8, to live according to the spirit,”if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live….”
Prayer, spiritual reading, reading the Bible can all assist in the practice of fasting. Pray for the grace to fast. Pray that your fast will be effective. Pray that your fast will move mountains in your life and the lives of others. Perhaps praying the Rosary and mediating on the Sorrowful Mysteries would be helpful to you. “Work as if everything depends on you, and pray as if everything depends on God.” (St. Ignatius of Loyola)
When a Christian practices the sacrifice of self-denial and joins his sacrifice to the sacrifice of Jesus, the power for good is unleashed in miraculous ways. Fasting or self denial is not just about abstaining from food. There are many other ways to deny yourself.
What will your Lenten resolutions be? There are things you might do (commission) and things you may refrain from doing (omission) Beyond food and drink there are acts of charity such as donations to food banks, clothing drives, visiting the sick, work on reconciling family disputes, praying for the Souls in Purgatory, or attending Mass one day during the week. There are things you may refrain from such as: talking bad about someone, not watching your favorite TV shows, refrain from seeking attention or praise, refrain from dwelling on your real or perceived wounds.
Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share in the full joy of Easter.
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