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Lent will be here soon

Lent will be here soon
Lent is nigh! On Wednesday 2nd March, we begin the great season of Lent – a wonderful time of 40 days when we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter and the Passover of the Lord from death to life. It is a time of healing when we ask God to renew within us His love. We seek by God’s grace to cast off the old ways and to take on the new, that is, to die with Christ – and to rise again with Him to new life. Lent is not simply about ‘giving things up’ or ‘doing something extra.’ St. Leo reminds us there are three saving works: (1) self-denial, fasting and mortification; (2) prayer and devotion, study and reflection; and (3) charitable outreach or almsgiving. Although these works are good in themselves, we don’t do them for their own sake. True, fasting may be good for our physical health – and almsgiving is a really practical means of helping the poor. Yet we do these works out of love for God! We do them in order to bring about change in our inner selves and spiritual lives. We do them as a penance for our sins. We do them as a prayer for God’s mercy that we may come to a deeper relationship with Him.

During Lent, those who are preparing for initiation and reception into the Church will be looking forward to the Easter Vigil. Let’s assist them with our prayers and support. Meanwhile, why not read this short extract from a Sermon of St. Leo?

From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, pope
(Sermo 6 de Quadragesima, 1-2: PL 54, 285-287)
Dear friends, at every moment the earth is full of the mercy of God, and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea and all that is in them bear witness to the goodness and omnipotence of their Creator, and the marvellous beauty of the elements as they obey him demands from the intelligent creation a fitting expression of its gratitude. But with the return of that season marked out in a special way by the mystery of our redemption, and of the days that lead up to the paschal feast, we are summoned more urgently to prepare ourselves by a purification of spirit.

The special note of the paschal feast is this: the whole Church rejoices in the forgiveness of sins. It rejoices in the forgiveness not only of those who are then reborn in holy baptism but also of those who are already numbered among God’s adopted children. Initially, men are made new by the rebirth of baptism. Yet there still is required a daily renewal to repair the shortcomings of our mortal nature, and whatever degree of progress has been made there is no one who should not be more advanced. All must therefore strive to ensure that on the day of redemption no one may be found in the sins of his former life.

Dear friends, what the Christian should be doing at all times should be done now with greater care and devotion, so that the Lenten fast enjoined by the apostles may be fulfilled, not simply by abstinence from food but above all by the renunciation of sin. There is no more profitable practice as a companion to holy and spiritual fasting than that of almsgiving. This embraces under the single name of mercy many excellent works of devotion, so that the good intentions of all the faithful may be of equal value, even where their means are not. The love that we owe both God and man is always free from any obstacle that would prevent us from having a good intention. The angels sang: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. The person who shows love and compassion to those in any kind of affliction is blessed, not only with the virtue of good will but also with the gift of peace.

The works of mercy are innumerable. Their very variety brings this advantage to those who are true Christians, that in the matter of almsgiving not only the rich and affluent but also those of average means and the poor are able to play their part. Those who are unequal in their capacity to give can be equal in the love within their hearts.