Before Jesus began His public ministry, He went out into the desert to spend time in prayer, anchoring His heart to the Father. Scripture tells us that Christ spent 40 days fasting, praying, and resisting every temptation the devil threw His way in preparation for His ministry in the world. Then, He went about preaching and teaching the reality that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and calling all men to Himself.
In an effort to aid us in strengthening our connection with the Father — as well as the Son and the Holy Spirit— the Church gives us the season of Lent, a period of 40 days wherein we are encouraged to fast and to pray. As we live the season of Lent, we are preparing to celebrate the greatest mystery of our Faith — the resurrection of Jesus Christ. These 40 days offer us an opportunity to strengthen our faith in a particularly intentional manner so that we can both more deeply enter into the celebration of Christ’s Paschal Mystery at Easter and bear greater witness of His truth to the world as we live our daily lives.
“During Lent, we focus on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as our primary tools of preparation for Easter,” says Deacon Dan Joyce. “Prayer is communication with God whom we want to know better — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Fasting is a way we humble ourselves, through self-denial. And almsgiving takes that humility further through charitable giving of our possessions to others. If we use this special time of Lent to practice these three things, they can become a larger part of our lives the rest of the year.”
So, how do we live Lent in such a way that the practices become a larger part of our daily lives, strengthening our commitment to Christ and our witness to His Gospel? On a personal level, we can offer some of our daily habits as sacrifices to the Father. We give up coffee or fast food or even social media, and replace that with something beneficial. Rather than buying fast food for lunch, we could give the money we would spend on it to those in need. Rather than spending time scrolling social media, we could add a more intentional prayer time to our day. The options abound, and it is important for each one of us to consider what will serve our personal relationships with God best as we determine what to do.
Yet, Lent is not only a personal journey through the desert. It is also a time for us to gather as a parish community and strengthen ourselves in faith. Accordingly, the parish has multiple opportunities for us to come together throughout the Lenten season.
“It is important for the parish to provide communal opportunities for prayer, meditations, and penance so that people can experience the time of Lent as Church, as members of the Body of Christ,” Deacon Dan says.
On Wednesday evenings throughout Lent, we will offer evenings of Benediction and reflection here at the Cathedral of St. Joseph. Additionally, every Friday, we will pray the Stations of the Cross together. The times for both will be published in the bulletin, so keep your eyes open for them.
In January, we began a Scripture study entitled Genesis: Seven Life-Changing Encounters with the God of New Beginnings. This study, which is based on the first book of the Bible and is intended for everyone, will continue throughout the Lenten season. If you are interested in participating, contact the parish office. It is a wonderful opportunity to dig into the Word of God and let it transform you as we grow deeper in our understanding and love of Scripture together.
What’s more, there will be Penance Services held throughout our deanery during Lent. The days and times will be published in the bulletin. Make sure to make it a priority to participate.
“Jesus came into the world to atone for our sinfulness,” Deacon Dan says. “Lent is the time when we examine, contemplate, and develop a deeper appreciation of His passion, death, and resurrection. That makes it a particularly good time to acknowledge our sins and ask for forgiveness from the God who made our salvation possible.”
Indeed, Lent is a wonderful time of opportunity for our spiritual growth. We have only to make it a priority to live Lent intentionally. God is here and ready to pour out His graces upon us. He calls us to Himself and rejoices heartily when we respond. May we all make this Lent a fruitful experience of deeper devotion to the God who lovingly calls us to live for Him!