My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As Lent begins so does the 40 days of preparation to celebrate the Pascal Mystery. Forty days of preparation to celebrate the Pascal Mystery. Each year, our Holy Father, Pope Francis and his predecessors, have given a Lenten Message to the faithful. The theme for this year is “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” (Rom 8:19). This passage taken from the Letter to the Romans reminds us that we are on the journey of life. It is a journey toward eternity. Each Lent becomes a mini pilgrimage which leads us ever closer to our own encounter with God in eternal life. Each year, we are called upon to make our preparation more serious.
St. Augustine, in his commentary on the Gospel of John tells us that “We are destined to die and we do everything we can to avoid death. We cannot say the same for our efforts to avoid sin, despite the fact that we are called to eternal life.”
Yes, Lent is a time of preparation: for Easter and for eternal life.
The Lenten program each year is outlined in the Gospel. This year, our Holy Father puts it distinctly by saying the following: “Fasting, that is, learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to ‘devour’ everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts. Prayer, which teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and His mercy. Almsgiving, whereby we escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us. And thus to rediscover the joy of God’s plan for creation and for each of us, which is to love Him, our brothers and sisters, and the entire world, and to find in this love our true happiness.”
Pope Francis also tells us that “Unless we tend constantly towards Easter, towards the horizon of the Resurrection, the mentality expressed in the slogans, ‘I want it all and I want it now!’ and ‘Too much is never enough’, gains the upper hand.”
This Lent, I would suggest that we concentrate our prayer, fasting and almsgiving on two important events that have recently occurred. The first is the recent expansion of the abortion law in the State of New York, the so-called Reproductive Health Act. Soon you will receive information at your parish about a program called “40 Days for Life.” This will give us an opportunity to concentrate our prayer, fasting, and giving of alms, in order to promote the value of life from conception to natural death. During this time of Lent, we can visit and pray at abortion clinics with the groups who do so in our diocese, particularly the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants. The schedule for the month of March and April is as follows:
- Saturday, March 23, 7:30 am Mass at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs in Forest Hills followed by the praying of the rosary and praying at a nearby abortion clinic
- Saturday, March 30, 7:00 am Pro-Life Mass and Witness at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Jamaica
- Friday April 5 & Saturday April 6, 7:30 pm – 9:00 am, Pro-Life Overnight Prayer Vigil at St. Leo’s Church in Corona
- Saturday, April 13, 7:30 am Mass at St. Mary’s in Long Island City, followed by the praying of the rosary and praying at a nearby abortion clinic.
Also, our almsgiving can be directed towards the organizations which assist pregnant women to bring their baby to full term such as the following:
Bridge to Life
Life Center of New York
New Beginnings Center of Hope
Hopefully, we may all take this seriously.
On the other hand, the recent scandals that plague our Church regarding the sexual abuse of minors will also be an opportunity for us to offer our prayer and fasting so that truth and justice will prevail. The hope is that victim-survivors can be helped in finding healing and not allowing this to become a stumbling block to their faith. When the full truth is known, we can better understand this sinful situation in which the Church finds itself and recognize that “Where sin abounded, grace abounded all the more.” (Rom. 5:21).
Yes, it is so important that we recognize the presence of the Lord in our lives. In 2002, at the height of the beginning of the sexual abuse crisis, I was visited by a mother superior who was bringing some Sisters to minister in my former Diocese of Camden. As we were speaking, Sister said that she wanted to share with me the fruit of an elderly Sister’s prayer from that morning. “Because she knew I was coming to see a bishop, Sister approached me and said, ‘Whenever the pruning takes place, the vine dresser is never closer.”
How true this is. We are in a time of pruning, a time when we must let go of the high opinions we have had of certain priests. We recognize that the Divine Dresser, Christ Himself, is never closer to us than He has been during these times. We should feel abandoned; however, we must recognize that the Savior is here to save us at all times, especially when we most need Him.
This year during Lent, as we put out into the deep longing for eternal life and the celebration of the Pascal Mystery, we recognize that our journey is one in which we must be engaged, one for which we must prepare. If we were going on a long journey, as St. Augustine tells us on his meditation on St. John, “We prepare ourselves spectacularly for a short trip, but how are we organizing our timeless final voyage?”