Pastor Column, First Sunday of Lent: March 12, 2019
Msgr. Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus Parish
Dear friends / Estimados amigos,
“Lent is like a long ‘retreat’ during which we can turn back into ourselves and listen to the voice of God, in order to defeat the temptations of the Evil One.” – (Pope Emeritus Benedict VXI)
This past Wednesday we began our 2019 Lenten retreat. From Ash Wednesday until Holy Thursday evening we journey through the liturgical season of Lent, that period of 40 days where we are led into the desert of our hearts – to look within – on our weaknesses and sins and ask for the mercy of Almighty God. In its earliest form Lent was observed as a time to prepare those who were to be baptized at Easter. Over the centuries it became a time when all of us get ready to renew our personal baptismal promises on Easter. The Church reflects on the dying and rising of Christ that has made human salvation possible. As individuals and as a community of faith we enter into the dying and rising of Jesus Christ as we try to purify and renew bodies, minds and souls. When speaking of our spiritual growth and development, the image of “journey” is often employed, as our goals become our spiritual points of “forward movement” and growth in discipleship. The journey begins for most of us today, the 1st Sunday of Lent.
With Jesus we enter into our own spiritual deserts where we can experience the grace of God’s mercy in the silence of our hearts. We are told in the gospel how Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit. He needed to reflect on the nature of His mission and prepare Himself to carry it out. How appropriate for us to reflect for a time on the nature of our personal missions, and how we can better carry them out. As a dad, for instance, men might want to consider the type of father they want their child to have. Perhaps some were disappointed by a dad who was not around much; others were overjoyed that theirs showed up at almost anything with which they were involved. Take the best from your experiences and ask God to solidify the resolve to accomplish this mission as a father to your son or daughter. Young adults currently in school or university might be asking for God’s help to find a vocation/career/job in which they can use their training to benefit the good of all. In the spiritual desert of Lent, we can truly become aware of our personal spiritual strengths. After 40 days Jesus emerged from the desert, purified, strengthened and ready to bring people along the path to God. We also have to face “the desert.” We can all pray better, fast more, and die more easily to our old selves. After all, Lent is a season of grace! It calls us to conversion at all levels, turning our minds and hearts over to God. Jesus will give us the strength to do it.
Keeping Lent is a lot different than keeping up New Year’s promises. By mid-January, few of us can even remember what we said our resolutions were. Lent has to be different. We are dealing with our hearts and souls. We need to pray for that grace to be faithful to what we have undertaken. The world in which we live is competitive and uncaring. If that is going to change, then it is up to you and me to do something about it. I cannot hope to convert all those people in the world, but I can and should resolve to begin with the person I know best – myself.