Prayer, fasting and almsgiving: these time-tested spiritual disciplines proclaimed by Jesus in today’s Gospel work and the sacred Season of Lent calls us to embrace them with a renewed commitment and fervor. Think also of these three words: do, daily and dependent. For these spiritual disciplines to work: we must actually do them on a daily basis ever dependent upon God’s grace. Such a way of living will lead us to the spiritual transformation and conversion to which Lent calls us; to a deeper and more intimate union with the Lord; and to abundant blessings throughout this sacred season.
One of my best retreats as a bishop was during Lent and directed by a well-known spiritual guide and author, Fr. Cantalamessa. Throughout the retreat, I took copious notes as Fr. Cantalamessa shared many profound spiritual insights and guidance. At the end of the retreat, I purchased a holy card and asked him to write a message on it and sign it for me. I thought he would include a sentence or two from one of his talks. Instead, he simply wrote three words: “God loves you.”
Spend today not so much telling the Lord what you will do for Lent but rather by reflecting on the truth that “God loves you.” His love is perfectly revealed in his Son whose cross we are called to take up especially throughout these sacred days as we follow him to Calvary and to his victory at Easter. If you are convinced of God’s love for you then you will want to love him even more and will embrace Jesus’ call to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. If you do them on a daily basis dependent on God’s grace, you will indeed have a Blessed Lent.
As we begin our Lenten journey, may our prayer be that of today’s psalm: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.”