First Sunday of Lent

My dear parishioners and friends of our parish community: Praised be Jesus Christ!  King of endless glory! 

The Holy Season of Lent 2009 has begun.  This Lenten Season is to help you make a profitable 40-day period of increased prayer, penance, almsgiving, and spiritual exercises in preparation for the proper celebration of Easter.  As we were constantly reminded in seminary days, “40 Days of Lenten preparation leads to 50 Days of Easter celebration!”  The Catholic Lenten discipline consists of three separate parts:

(1) CORPORAL OR EXTERNAL FAST includes abstinence from certain foods and meats, drinks, and amusements i.e. blasting music and parties during Lent.  These points of fast should be stressed today especially with the mania of entertainment besetting our society. 

(2) SPIRITUAL OR INTERNAL FAST which consists of abstinence from “all evil” which is sin.  St. John Chrysostom taught that the “value of fasting consists not so much in abstinence from food but rather in withdrawal from all sinful practices.”  St. Basil the Great explains, “Turning away from all wickedness means keeping our tongues in check, restraining our anger, suppressing evil desires, and avoiding all gossip, lying, and swearing.  To abstain from these things, herein lies the true value of fast!” 

(3) SPIRITUAL CHANGE is achieved by the practice of virtues and good works which must be the main objective of our Lenten fasting.  The Fathers of the Church insisted that during Lent the faithful attend Lenten church services and daily Mass.  In the course of the centuries, our fasting discipline has undergone numerous and radical changes.  Today, unfortunately, the observance of Lent is but mere formalism, reduced to abstinence only on each Friday of Lent and without any stress on one’s spiritual growth or the amending of one’s lifestyle. 

It is urgent that we Catholic return to the pristine spirit of the Great Fast which is so badly needed in our materialistic world.  During these Lenten weeks ahead, I will offer suggested practices that may be used along with your usual Lenten family traditions of sacrifices and penances.  I encourage all of you to better use our website, www.saintjohnchurchmiddletown.com during this Lent of 2009. 

Each year on the First Sunday of Lent the Gospel is one of the accounts of the temptation of Jesus in the desert by Satan.  The choice of the story coincides with the Christian community’s beginning its wandering in the desert during the 40 days of Lent.  With our hectic pace, sometimes we need to have the Spirit drive us out into the desert.  Once in the desert we reflect on all those areas of our lives in which we are thirsting for God. 

Lent has begun!  You and I have the opportunity each day to instill in our souls the desire to remain with Jesus in the desert, so that we might be open to celebrating our new life at Easter.

                                                               Blessings on your Lenten Days!  
                                                                 
Devotedly in Christ Crucified, 
                                                                                             
 Father Jim 
                                                           SaintJohnChurchMiddletown.com

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