We have officially entered the holy season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. The pandemic had already made us use Q-tips to impose ashes. This year too we have received ashes from our ministers in the same way. Many loved that the cross on the forehead is not just a smudge, but, someone told me, “it is a high definition cross!” Using Q-tip can be a nice practice to follow even in non-pandemic times.
The Gospel reading for Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) reminded us of the three traditional pillars of Lenten observance.
Prayer: More time given to prayer during Lent should draw us closer to the Lord. This can happen not only when we sit quietly in silent prayer or reading Scriptures, but also in sharing faith with others in small groups. It is truly astonishing that we have so many groups meeting at different times and days of the week for this purpose. What is more important is to have a regular time for prayer. If not, our good intentions will remain unrealized.
Fasting: Fasting is one of the most ancient practices linked to Lent. We Americans seem to like the word ‘dieting’ rather than fasting! No matter what word we like, it is more than a means of developing self-control. It is often an aid to prayer, as the pangs of hunger remind us of our hunger for God. Fasting should be linked to our concern for those who are forced to fast by their poverty, those who suffer from the injustices of our economic and political structures, those who are in need for any reason. Abstaining from meat traditionally also linked us to the poor, who could seldom afford meat for their meals. It can do the same today if we remember the purpose of abstinence and embrace it as a spiritual link to those whose diets are sparse and simple. That should be the goal we set for ourselves—a sparse and simple meal. To forego a hamburger on a Lenten Friday and feast instead on lobster seems a bit hypocritical as the U.S. Bishops point out: “While fish, lobster and other shellfish are not considered meat and can be consumed on days of abstinence, indulging in the lavish buffet at your favorite seafood place sort of misses the point.”
Almsgiving: Almsgiving is a sign of our care for those in need and an expression of our gratitude for all that God has given to us. Works of charity and the promotion of justice are integral elements of the Christian way of life we began when we were baptized. We can be grateful to God that our Parish has the best track record on this – not only during Lent but throughout the year – thanks to our parishioners practicing solidarity with those in need, with our
very active St. Vincent De Paul Society, taking lead in this.
In this context, I wish to promote a wonderful initiative that Bishop Checchio has just launched, inviting us to put mercy into action by doing 40 works of mercy during this Lent and Easter seasons. Titled “40 Act Impact,” this campaign is established to remind us Catholics in our diocese that just as God has impacted our own individual lives, we are called to go out and do the same for others. For more info, go to https://diometuchen.org/worksofmercy
Wishing us all a meaningful and fruitful Lent,
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal