“Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God” (Joel 2: 13)
Lent is traditionally observed within our faith journey around three pillars of: Fasting, Prayer, and Almsgiving. In so many ways, of these three pillars, Fasting seems the most highlighted. So often, we hear friends as well as family relatives questioning one another: “What did you give up for this Lent?” And the list is never short…However, notwithstanding the importance of such reminders in our daily lives; we seem to focus mainly on the ritual and certain formalistic way of observing Lent. A time of grace, Lent is especially a time of Conversion; conversion of hearts from sin. Unfortunately, in today’s culture we struggle with the loss of the sense and meaning of sin.
In his message for this year’s Lent, Pope Francis invites us to “renew our faith, draw from the “living water” of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God, who makes us brothers and sisters in Christ.” Lent insists the Pope, is the sacramental sign of a conversion that “invites Christians to embody the paschal mystery more deeply and concretely in their personal, family and social lives.”
The three pillars are intrinsically connected to the three theological virtues: Fasting embodies the Faith that makes us rely solely on God and consequently frees us from all that weighs us down. We are called to fast from lethargic faith in order to engage in courageous discipleship; we are called to break the barriers which hold us within our comfort zones in order to live the vibe that comes from encounter with Jesus Christ and His mercy. To get there, we are called to dive in strong personal relationship with the Lord in prayer. Prayer reminds us that trusting in the Lord will always reveal the mercy of God and strengthen our Hope for a better tomorrow, especially during this challenging time where everything seems to fall apart. Says Pope Francis, “Through recollection and silent prayer, hope is given to us as inspiration and interior light, illuminating the challenges and choices we face in our mission.” And again, “prayer teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy.” As for Almsgiving, it is the expression of Love. To experience Lent with love means caring for those who suffer or feel abandoned and fearful because of the Covid-19 pandemic. For love is the gift of ourselves in the footsteps of Christ. That way, our Almsgiving will be the gift of ourselves to the Lord through our service to our brothers and sisters as we bear witness as missionary disciples.
Let us rend our hearts in order to make this Lent a beginning of a journey of transforming faith and discipleship for and in our parish as we continue to pray for one another and for our parish family.