Responding to the Lord’s call to renew baptismal promises
On Ash Wednesday, Feb. 18, we will once again be entering the liturgical season of Lent. The biblical texts of the first Sunday of Lent, with their vivid imagery of desert, fasting and temptation, announce the season’s fundamental message of sin, grace and the triumph of the new Adam. As we begin the season signed on the forehead with the ashes, we will hear the Lord’s call to radical conversion and trust in God’s loving mercy once again.
Each year, the Holy Father sends us a special message for Lent. This year Pope Francis invites us all to avoid giving in to the temptation of indifference that gives in to a feeling of our complete inability to help in the face of so much human suffering all around us.
We must be convinced that we can indeed help all of our brothers and sisters in need throughout the world. We can do this initially by our prayers in communion with the church on earth and in heaven. We can never underestimate the power of so many voices raised in prayer.
Secondly, the pope suggests that we can help by acts of charity reaching out to all those in need, both near and far, either personally or through the church’s many charitable organizations.
And thirdly, the Holy Father tells us that the suffering of others is a call to conversion, for it is through the needs of others that we are reminded of the uncertainty of our own lives and our dependence on God and on our brothers and sisters.
Overall, from the very beginning, the season of Lent in the third and fourth centuries has been seen as setting a double task before all Christians: namely, as a call for us to renew our baptismal promises and commitment and as a time for stressing penance and conversion
For St. Francis of Assisi and his followers, the season of Lent was a most special time of the year which they observed with particular devotion (Rule of 1221, Ch. 3). It disposed Francis and his disciples to a total openness to God’s call to repentance and renewal, nurtured by prayer and strengthened by the asceticism of fasting and proving itself in good works.
Throughout this holy season, as we relive the Paschal Mystery of Christ, may we continue to grow in faith and love of the Lord and our neighbor, and may this holy season be truly a time of renewal and conversion for all of us!
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Dominic F. Scotto, T.O.R.