My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Lent is almost half over, but it is never too late to start if perhaps our resolutions have not been fulfilled or if we did not even make any resolutions. This is a good time to begin again, because no matter what we may not have done, what we can do is much more important to our keeping of the season of Lent.
Sunday, March 11, is called Laetare Sunday, which is a time of rejoicing because Easter is ever nearer. We take this opportunity now to refocus ourselves on Lent itself. How can we get back on track? How can we be better prepared to celebrate the Pascal Mystery than at this Easter time?
World events perhaps give us something for which to pray about and sacrifice in our Lenten observance; prayer for victims of violence around the world, prayer for the recent shooting victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, and many other world events that remind us that evil, unfortunately, exists around us. Evil is only conquered by the power of good. Our ability to pray comes from the Holy Spirit. God accepts our prayers and sacrifices, and this is a good reason for our Lenten observances.
At the beginning of Lent, we took our general theme of observance from the Ash Wednesday Gospel that first we should pray, we should fast and we should give alms. How have we accomplished this already during this Lent? And how can we take up again the call to deeper prayer? Again, some people have made their resolutions to go to Mass each day, others to read some part of the Scripture and meditate upon it, others to give a few minutes of prayer and quiet time asking God’s help in their life. All of these efforts of prayer are in themselves prayer well accomplished, because the Scripture tells us that even our attempt to pray is the result of inspiration from the Holy Spirit.
But what about our fasting? Yes, our fasting can take two forms, either passive or active. The passive form of fasting consists of accepting the idiosyncrasies and contradictions that come in daily life. All of the difficulties that we suffer, patiently without complaining, without rebelling, can be a wonderful type of passive fasting offering our patience in difficult circumstances as a sacrifice to God. On the other hand, active fasting we seem to understand better: the giving up of something that we like, taking less food, keeping the fast days of Lent as described to us by the law of the Church. But the Lord has told us that He desires not fasting, but works that come from the heart. We are not just keeping a diet during Lent, but rather we are focusing our attention more on God by abstaining from what we like.
Finally, the giving of alms is so important during our Lenten observance. This injunction comes from our Lord, Himself. There are many ways in which this can be accomplished. The Catholic Relief Collection comes up this Sunday. This is a wonderful way to make a sacrifice to this agency of the U.S. Bishops that functions around the world in numerous countries providing aid to refugees and development assistance to nations. There are many other opportunities to give to those in need. Certainly, in our own diocese in Brooklyn and Queens, our food pantries are in need not only of foodstuffs, but also of financial donations. Our own Catholic Charities issues periodic appeals for assistance to those in need. The Annual Catholic Appeal that we have begun also is an opportunity to give generously, so that we might accomplish the aim of alms giving, depriving ourselves of something good for a greater good.
As we come to the second half of Lent, we ask the Lord to embolden us, to give us the grace we need to keep our Lenten resolutions, and to find new ways to draw closer to Him. That way when Easter comes, having put out into the deep waters of Lent, we might come with greater fervor to celebrate the Pascal Mystery, the dying and rising of Jesus Christ, which liberates us from the power of sin.