A Shepherd's Message - Feb. 10, 2015

February 10, 2015

Feb. 18 is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. This yearly 40-day retreat of the Church is a blessed invitation and a joyful summons to all. It is a time of renewal, repentance, prayer and fasting, mercy and forgiveness. In Jesus Christ, the Father reconciles us and the wounded world to Himself; Lent is the time to hasten to this embrace of reconciliation. The time is short and the summons is urgent.

During this 40-day retreat, there are “Lenten” practices. The practices include the Church’s request for a minimum of fasting and abstinence: fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstinence from meat on Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent. Fasting from food and other good things is a signal that if we are too full of ourselves, there is no room for the Lord and his grace. Fasting is a sign that we lack some significant dimensions of our friendship with the Lord and want to reinvigorate these dimensions and make room for them. Perhaps we could fast as well from over-reliance on social media.

Other Lenten practices involve prayer. These include the journey of the Stations of the Cross, more attention and time to the Rosary and reading of the Scriptures in a more meditative and focused way. Additionally, many faithful also increase the participation in daily Mass during Lent.
One beautiful Lenten practice of inestimable worth is the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance; going to Confession is a must. And, the practice of almsgiving, of reaching out in mercy to those in need, is one of the most palpable ways of celebrating the season and doing it well! “Lenten” practices assist us in overcoming a constant spiritual pitfall: to grow bored with the Lord! The Lord is not boring!

In addition to “Lenten” practices and there are “Lenten” persons! Catechumens for baptism at Easter and candidates for full communion with the Church are Lenten persons, and there are many of them in Galveston-Houston. They must be in our orbit of remembrance. So too should be the priests, deacons and catechists who help prepare people for Easter Sacraments. Those who are poor, wandering, at the margins, sick or imprisoned are very definitely “Lenten” persons. To assist them is not only a work of charity but also of justice. Those persecuted for the Faith, especially in the Middle East and other countries are very much “Lenten” persons. The list of “Lenten” persons is impressive.

In his ‘Letter for Lent’ this year, Pope Francis writes that selfish indifference to others has begun to take on global proportions. He names it the “globalization of indifference” and asks all Christians to make this issue their primary concern for Lent. There can be a fatal withdrawal into ourselves which blocks our sense of solidarity and our appreciation of many broken members in the Body of Christ that cry out for attention and help. The Holy Father reminds us that the term “Communio sanctorum” (the Communion of Saints) refers not only to our unity with holy persons, but also to our communion in “holy things,” especially the Sacraments and life together.

These are persons and realities we have in common and must care for in common. There is an overwhelming possessiveness today that can rob us of our sense of mutual giving in Christ and produce a terrible indifference. We should center our Lenten observance on Jesus washing the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. There is the reality of truth and love. Faith, Truth and Charity must embrace; they destroy the globalization of indifference.

May Lent be joyful but also challenging this year. May we come to Easter ready to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection as genuine resurrection in ourselves, our parishes and our communities. May our hearts be made pure, be reconciled in the blood of Jesus Christ and ready for every act of solidarity with the members of the Body of Christ. †