Today begins lent’s fasting, prayer and almsgiving. The first reading recalls the flood, when people spurned God for an evil which destroyed them. Jesus tells us to repent and believe lest we die too. Lent’s prayer, fasting and almsgiving ensure our soul survival; for it purifies and strengthens us against Satan’s wiles. In its believing repentant spirit lets confess our sins..
Perhaps you know St. Augustine’s story. A great figure in the Roman empire, in early life he was wildly pagan. His mother Monica, a Christian, prayed constantly with tears for his conversion. One day in his garden, feeling empty inside, he heard a child’s voice say: “take up and read”. Picking up a Bible from the table it opened at Paul’s words: “cast off the old man of sin and put on the Lord Jesus”. Tears poured down his cheeks and joy entered his heart. He left worldly ways and became one of the greatest bishops, theologians and saints the church has produced.
Here’s a personal response to today’s gospel call to repent and believe. Agustine after years of seeking happiness in worldly pursuits came alive in the spirit. Like Christ in the wilderness he finally saw through the devil’s temptation to put one’s whole trust in worldly pleasure and self-seeking. Lent challenges us to do the same. But it can be difficult today when a new pagan Empire in the west would lure us away from faith and true values. Lent provides us with an opportunity to face that head on. To answer Christ’s call to repent, to find the joy of belief anew.
For that’s a struggle we must keep up if we’re to attain real happiness in this world and the next. Rather than give in to the world, the flesh and the Devil our constant challenge is to deepen our life as members of God’s holy people. To help us achieve this the church puts before us each lent Christ’s death, resurrection and second coming. It tells us to keep us the good fight here below so as to meet Christ with all the saints at last. And that struggle to be his faithful is not easy today. Powerful prophets of the evil one in the media and elsewhere would lead us and our youth in the opposite direction. So we need to keep Christ’s invitation to life before us, to purify our hearts with prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a preparation for Easter and inner resurrection. As the baptism prayer says, the challenge is to keep the white garment of faith & goodness on so that we’ll go out to meet Jesus with all saints at last. Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation, Paul reminds us. Lent is a time of saving grace. So that we’ll be ready to meet Christ when he comes.
The air is stirring with spring now and no wonder lent is in spring. For it asks us to leave behind any dark winter in our hearts. To restore the spring innocence we had as newly baptised children when we put on the white garment of Christ. At lent I myself say often say the beautiful words of psalm 30: “A pure heart recreate for me o lord and take not your holy spirit from me”. Lets pray for a spring of faith and the spirit in our lives.
That’s what Augustine prayed for in his classic work, The Confessions. He confesses not sin but his joy in finding the faith. We’re called to similar joyful Christian conversion this Lent and Easter through fasting, almsgiving and prayer. What saved Augustine? The prayers of his mother. In the same way we should pray for those we love. To bring them to happiness in this world and the next. For the things of this world fade to dust at last, but Christ is lord of love, goodness, happiness, beauty, and salvation for this world and forever and ever, amen…
So as God’s people called to renew our souls and rise at Easter with Christ by prayer, fasting and good works now, lets profess our faith with fresh enthusiasm..
Prayers of the Faithful
As the people of God lets pray for what we need this Lent..
For our Holy Father and all the leaders of the church that they may continue to call all to repent and believe..
For civil leaders that they govern all with integrity and impartiality, and foster people’s spiritual welfare also..
For our youth that turning to prayer, fasting and almsgiving this Lent they may know the deeper joy of self-giving in Christ..
For ourselves that in our homes this lent we may encourage some extra prayers, giving up of some luxury, and setting aside of some of our surplus money to help the poor at home and abroad..
For the sick; through our sacrifice of some of our time to help aged or sick relatives may we gain a great reward in heaven..
For the dead that their sufferings over, they may come to their heavenly home with the help of our communal and personal prayer..
And we ask all these prayers through Christ who lives and reigns forever and ever, amen.
“Man does no live on bread alone”. The key temptation in every age is to abandon God and put our trust in corrupt earthly ways. I often think that the debt crisis is partly due to that. As someone said recently its like the flood, or the Tower of Babel, that came tumbling down. Certainly the tower of godless human pride, greed and arrogance always leads to a dead end. Lets pray to Mother Mary that we will not go that way..Hail Mary