Lent is a special season of preparation, a sign of how “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God.” Just as the Son of God spent forty (40) days in the desert of creation with the goal of making it once more that garden of communion with God, Christians are invited to undertake a similar journey of preparation, from Ash Wednesday to sundown on Holy Thursday, that leads to true inner conversion of heart and renewal of life in Christ.
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:Isaiah 58:6-7, 9
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!”
Through prayer, fasting and giving alms, Christians acknowledge their need for God’s mercy, empty their hearts of vain desires, rediscover the joy and true happiness found in love of God and love of neighbor. From the start of the journey, the faithful are clearly instructed as to what the Lord means by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. “The Lord says: The kind of fast that pleases me is sharing your food with the hungry and sheltering the poor and homeless. Do this and I will listen to your prayers; when you call on me, I will say: I am here.” “When the Son of Man comes in glory, he will say to those on his right: Come, inherit the kingdom, for I was hungry, and you gave me food.”
Simply put, the Lenten journey is not meant to lead the Christian faithful to a false sense of holiness based on countless empty prayers and pointless ascetical practices. Rather, true inner transformation of heart in Christ bears fruit in the love shown to brothers and sisters in need, and by the sharing of our spiritual and material goods with them.
This year…more than ever, particularly in light of recent events, let us rediscover how crucial helping the poor is to the purpose of the Lenten journey.
friar Antonio Moualeu OFM Conv.