“She took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” —Genesis 3:6
When we sin, we become alienated from the Lord and others. In sin, we become spiritually blinded, confused, enslaved, and insensitive. By sin, we hurt the other members of Christ’s body, the Church. These are only a few of the countless effects of one sin. Nevertheless, although we all are familiar with these bad effects of sin, we can hardly fathom the enormity of the first sin, that is, the sin that changed the origin of our species and gave us a fallen nature. The effects of our sins are not genetically inherited by our children and their children, etc. However, the effect of Adam and Eve’s sin was genetically inherited by humanity. This boggles the mind and is the root of every evil on earth.
The original sin and our subsequent fallen nature can only be dealt with by our being begotten from above, born again (see Jn 3:3), created anew (see Gal 6:15). Jesus made this possible by His death and resurrection. We accept this new birth by being baptized (see Jn 3:5), and we live the resulting new life by faith.
The purpose of Lent is to help us live the new life of baptism by deepening our faith. After Lent, at every Easter Sunday Mass, in every Catholic Church in the world, the Church will call us to renew our baptismal promises. This is one of the greatest possible expressions of faith, and is the heart of God’s plan of salvation.
Give alms, pray, fast, repent, go to Confession, prepare to renew your baptismal promises.
Prayer: Father, may I “grasp and live the immense, extraordinary richness and responsibility” of my baptism (Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People, Pope John Paul II, 61).
Promise: “Not on bread alone is man to live but on every utterance that comes from the mouth of God.” —Mt 4:4
Praise: Glory and praise to You, risen Lord Jesus Christ!
Jesus “saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’ Leaving everything behind, Levi stood up and became His follower.” —Luke 5:27-28
Our Lenten fasting can be used by the Lord to transform Levis into Matthews and to convert whole strata of society. Even the hardest hearts can be opened, and even areas of our society which are openly anti-Christian can become openly Christian. Imagine TV news anchors, celebrities, and billionaires proclaiming on their TV programs that they have accepted Jesus as Lord of their lives.
Yes, the Lord can work through this Lenten fast, as promised by the prophet Isaiah, but there are several conditions:
“if you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech” (Is 58:9),
“if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted” (Is 58:10), and
“if you hold back your foot on the sabbath from following your own pursuits on My holy day” (Is 58:13).
If we satisfy these conditions, “then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (Is 58:10). “The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake, and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up; ‘Repairer of the breach,’ they shall call you, ‘Restorer of ruined homesteads’ ” (Is 58:12).
Fasting, indicative of a life totally in submission to the Lord, will be used to do the humanly impossible and transform the world. “Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high!” (Is 58:4)
Prayer: Father, send the Spirit to teach me to fast.
Promise: “Then you shall delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth.” —Is 58:14
Praise: St. John of God died a happy death. He passed into eternal life with Jesus while kneeling in prayer before the Church altar.
“My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, You will not spurn.” —Psalm 51:19
The prayer of King David begins: “Have mercy on me, O God, in Your goodness” (Ps 51:3). If David, a powerful King, could humble himself before God, what is stopping us from doing the same? The Lord asks this of each of us, and He will not spurn a person who approaches Him with a humble, contrite heart (Ps 51:19). It’s not always the other person that needs to open themselves up to God; to that someone else we might be the person who needs to be open to the Lord. God asks me to acknowledge my offense (Ps 51:5) so He can thoroughly wash me from my guilt and cleanse me of my sin (Ps 51:4).
Fasting is a powerful way to quiet the world around us and make your prayer be “heard on high” (Is 58:4). God has given us His “wish list” for our fasting: sharing bread with the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, and not turning our back on our family and friends (see Is 58:7). Humbly asking God for forgiveness opens our hearts to the Lord to heal us. It also opens our eyes to those around us who are hurting and in need.
As St. Teresa of Avila said, we are God’s hands and feet. We seem to think what He asks is difficult; His request is simply to approach Him with a humble, contrite heart. He will do the rest (see 1 Thes 5:24).
Prayer: “Have mercy on me, O God, in Your goodness” guide my mind to be open to Your will for me this Lent.
Promise: “The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” —Is 58:8
Praise: Sts. Perpetua & Felicity differed from those who killed them: they loved their enemies. Several of their executioners came to believe in Jesus by witnessing their faith as they died.