Dear Parishioners, +JMJ
Here is the opening prayer for the Mass of Ash Wednesday, which begins the holy season of Lent:
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
I thought it would be good for our reflection as we begin Lent (although I can hardly believe that Lent is already here!). I added the underlining of the words in this prayer I’m commenting upon here.
First, there is the assumption that Lent will involve some fasting. Truth be told, each of us should be doing some fasting all throughout the year. It is simply a part of basic Catholic life. Fasting helps us connect to our very deepest drive for life itself, life which is nourished physically by food. But, life is nourished just as much at the spiritual level; and fasting on the material level helps us appreciate more fully the spiritual level. Fasting also helps us be united with those who do not have all of the material luxuries that we do.
Second, the prayer refers to Lent as a campaign of Christian service. Our life, both inside and outside of Holy Mass, is meant to be of service to God in Jesus Christ. So, in that sense nothing would be special about the season of Lent. But, referring to the time as a “campaign” of service helps us realize that this element of service to God intensifies during the holy season of Lent. We should be more aware of serving God – again, both inside and outside of the Mass – and also more aware of serving our neighbor, especially those in great need. Perhaps there is some extra service project we take on for somebody in need.
Third, the prayer refers to our efforts during Lent as a battle we take up against evil spirits. It would be foolish for us ever to forget that we are in the midst of the spiritual battle. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul writes about the way our battle is not against mere earthly principalities and powers, but against the principalities and powers of the spiritual world. By our work to live greater holiness, the powers of darkness are pushed back in the holy season of Lent. The battle intensifies during Lent.
Finally, the prayer refers to weapons of “self-restraint”. This line helps us to realize that much of the battle – perhaps the most important part of the battle – is actually inside of us. The greatest evil in the world comes to pass when human persons forget self-restraint and forge ahead only to feed the flesh, to feed selfishness. The selfless gift of Jesus, even to the point of death, should make us all aware that the only way to overcome evil – even the evil of death itself – is to live the gift of self-donating love, sacrificial love. Sacrificial love is impossible, if a person is given primarily to self-indulgence.
So, there is an orientation to Lent, based on the opening prayer of Ash Wednesday. Please remember everything that was said at Mass regarding the Bishop’s Annual Catholic Appeal, and look at the materials that were mailed to your home directly from the Diocese, as well as my last bulletin letter covering the many ways the Diocesan Pastoral Center supports the mission of our parish. Thank you for considering a gift to this Appeal!
Have a blessed Lent!
In cordibus Iesu et Mariae,