If there is one thing that stands out about the new Pope, it is his exuberant joy. In so many pictures he is smiling or laughing. No other Holy Father has appeared with such manifest cheerfulness. His Apostolic Exhortation, “Gaudium Evangelii” is a summons to all Catholics to embody the same Easter joy, the joy that filled the hearts of the apostles after the resurrection.
Our Liturgy Committee has suggested a line from our Pope’s letter as the theme for our Lenten journey: “Light a fire in the heart of the world.” By our joy and hope, we are called upon to light a fire in the heart of the world. We can arrive at that joy and hope if we take our Lenten discipline seriously. Let us remember that without Lent there is no Easter; without Good Friday, we cannot see the light of Easter Sunday; and, without the Cross, there will be no empty tomb.
As we all know very well, there are three pillars to our Lenten discipline: penance, prayer and almsgiving. Catholics, as a whole, seem to obsess over the penance part. They are talking about what they give up. Often the best penance or mortification is to fight our own sinful tendencies. Some of us are prone to anger. Some of us struggle with pride. Some of us are beset with temptations of the flesh. Whatever our propensity to sin is, let us try to fight it with all our strength during this Lenten season.
I know many of us get motivated to pray more during this time. I see greater numbers attending daily Mass, and our Sunday Mass attendance increases. There are a few other prayerful practices that we can embrace. For instance, let us make the Stations of the Cross a part of our Friday routine. Why not stop by the Adoration Chapel at least once a week – even for a few minutes? Perhaps we can read one gospel from beginning to end. These attempts at prayer will enable us to draw closer to the Lord.
And finally there is almsgiving. This year our Lenten sacrifice will enable Our Lady of the Angels Mission to repair their boilers. These recent winter months have been brutally cold and our help to our needy sisters and brothers will bring them warmth – literally. We can also give alms by giving of our time. Maybe we can volunteer our time by helping someone less fortunate than ourselves.
There is another aspect of almsgiving that I would like to point out. I know that thinking of our Capital Campaign during the Season of Lent can be distracting. At the same time, we realize that giving to our parish needs is certainly a laudable form of almsgiving. Many of those who went before us were not rich. Yet they made tremendous sacrifices to build our church and facilities, and bequeath to us an amazing faith community. Filled with gratitude, we want to do the same for coming generations. What is more beautiful than to give alms so that faith of future parishioners will be nourished? Our participation in this campaign is another exercise of giving alms. As the old saying goes, “Charity begins at home.”
On Ash Wednesday we hear the clarion call of St Paul: “This is the acceptable time; this is the time of salvation.” God gives us this exciting period of grace to deepen our baptismal calling. Let us hold our catechumens and RCIA candidates in prayer. They are preparing for the Easter Sacraments and we need to accompany them through our prayerful participation in the Lenten discipline.
There will be many opportunities to grow in our discipleship. I would like to recommend in particular the Parish Mission that will be preached by Friar John Paul Cafiero, a well-known Franciscan preacher of parish missions and retreats. Plan to attend the three days of the mission (March 22, 23 and 24) and you will be glad that you did. Friar John Paul is an engaging speaker and you will come away spiritually enriched and energized.
The Gospel of Luke recounts the touching story of the two disciples journeying towards Emmaus. Disillusioned and depressed, they meet the Risen Lord on the road. They do not recognize Him as they take Him to be some ordinary stranger. They recognize Him at the Breaking of the Bread and their eyes are opened. Almost spontaneously they declare to one another: “Were not our hearts burning when He spoke to us along the road?”
That is what the Risen Lord can do for us. He can set our hearts on fire. May this Lent help us to meet Christ on Calvary so that He will light a fire within us at Easter!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...