Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

St. Lucy/ St. Luke Catholic Churches

Houma-Thibodaux, LA

 

 

In the Catholic Church and some other churches the holy season of Lent begins on February 10, known as ASH WEDNESDAY. This day is the first of 40 days leading up to Palm Sunday on March 20. The readings assigned for Ash Wednesday are: Joel 2: 12-18, Psalm 51, 2 Corinthians 5: 20-6:2, and Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18.

 

For those who observe Lent, it is a time of more focused and sincere prayer, a time of fasting and purification, and a time of more generosity to others, especially the poor and the powerless. And all of this is preparation for the Week we call “Holy” during which we recall the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

 

And all of this “activity” stems from the core belief that God loves us without reservation or qualification, we are simply loved because we are God’s creation and all that God makes is good. So we say “what can we return to the Lord for all the good God does for me?” It is only through God’s mercy that we exist and are loved.

 

For us to experience God’s Mercy we ought to take time to pray, to be in God’s presence and not attempt to overwhelm God with words. During Lent maybe we could practice “Centering Prayer” or “wordless” prayer. That means we find a quiet place, acknowledge God’s presence and simply let God’s love and mercy seep into our pores and change us ever so gently. Do this ten minutes in the morning and at night. It will not be easy. Select a mantra like “Jesus Love,” or “Come, Lord Jesus.” And as your mind races from one thought to another, simply return to the mantra and realize that part of the prayer is to deal with these distractions without getting upset. There is much written about Centering Prayer that you can find online.

 

Our next focus is Fasting. And here we can get way off track. Fasting doesn’t mean giving up something and then patting yourself on the back for your self-control. Yes, fasting does entail giving up food and drink. The Church recommends that we eat two small meals and only one main meal. But, you can see that this is pretty much a personal decision based on so many variables. The spirit of fasting calls for sacrifice and maybe some hunger pangs. And Fridays in Lent are also special: no meat. I would add that anything expensive should be off the menu. I don’t think eating a lobster would be in the spirit of Lent.

 

And finally, Sharing and Caring (giving alms) is essential for a good Lent. Maybe this is the time to start volunteering at a Meal Program for the poor or a time to truly practice the virtue of generosity and start “percentage” giving of our income to the poor. We often speak about 10% as the biblical norm. It might be good to start there, if we are giving woefully less, but it is only a starting point. But let’s be realistic. If we are giving 1% of our income now, maybe a leap to 2% is all we can handle spiritually at this time. God is good all the time, so we can return our portion to God through the poor as we deepen our understanding in the fact that we are the recipients of God’s great Mercy all the time.

 

As we receive the Sign of the Cross on our forehead with the ashes of our palms from last Palm Sunday, the minister says to us: Repent (Turn Around!) and believe the Good News. Through Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving we show we do believe!

 

And all of this leads to our goal: to be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus to those we meet, especially the poor and powerless. As we deepen our prayer, become more aware of what we eat and how much, the more we dig into our wallet or bank account and share with others, the more we will rejoice in the celebration of Easter. Come Lord Jesus, Come.