Help us expand our reach! Please share this article
For Catholics, Lent has always been a special time in our lives. We immediately associate this season with ashes, meatless Fridays and sacrifices, 40 days to diet or to be a teetotaler. But we all know that Lent is much more than that. It is a time when the whole Church follows Jesus into the desert for a 40-day retreat.
At the end of the retreat, many thousands of adults will be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil in parishes throughout the world and all of us will be asked to renew our own baptismal vows. The object of Lent is to reaffirm our baptismal commitment and to draw closer to God and to one another. Therefore, I invite you to plan your Lenten retreat by making more time for prayer and the word of God. Having a plan for how to live our Lent is essential.
As we are in this Eucharistic Year, our Lenten practices might focus on the Mass and eucharistic adoration. Many Catholics try to attend daily Mass or make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament each day during Lent. We should also take advantage of this season to invite inactive Catholics to reconnect with the Eucharist and the community of faith. Likewise, our eucharistic prayer should also be coupled with petition to the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers into the harvest, to bless the Church with good and holy priests and religious. Promoting vocations is everybody’s business.
An important feature of Lent for us Catholics is the Sacrament of Confession. Christ has given this wonderful gift, a sign of His mercy and love. Confession affords us the opportunity to review our lives in the light of the Gospel and to ask God’s forgiveness for our selfishness, our sloth, our indifference. God’s commandments are a road map for a human existence. Confession helps us return to the good road when we stray. It is a sacrament in which we experience God’s mercy and pledge ourselves to be merciful to others. Beginning with this Eucharistic Year, I am extending to all the priests in the archdiocese the permission to lift the excommunication penalty associated with the sin of abortion so they may pardon these sins without seeking authorization. I want to encourage all of those men and women who have had the tragic misfortune to be involved in an abortion to return to the sacraments. Our God loves us and forgives us, and in this sacrament of His mercy He takes away our sin and clothes us in the wedding garment of grace that allows us to partake of the Eucharist.
During Lent, we relive the great mysteries of our Faith. We recall that Jesus died to save us from our sins. As Paul says: “God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5: 8) His cross is a sign of love and hope. By that cross, Christ has conquered both sin and death. Love can now cast out fear. We draw near the throne of His mercy knowing that our God loves us more than anyone else could ever love us. Our God rejoices when He can forgive us. Let our shame give way to gratitude for “by His stripes we are healed.”
I pray that this Lent will be for all of us a time of conversion and spiritual renewal and a call to solidarity. Lent is about prayer and penance. It is also about almsgiving, sharing who we are and what we have with others. The generous response to the appeal for the victims of the tsunami by the people of the archdiocese has been overwhelming; one of the largest collections in the history of the archdiocese. Our Lenten sacrifices should be a way of continuing this spirit of compassion and concern for those who are in need and who are suffering. We live immersed in consumerism and wastefulness. Lent is time to take stock and to give up some of our creature comforts so that others might enjoy the necessities of life. God will bless us for almsgiving that is done in His name and for love of Him who has made a gift of Himself to us.
The Eucharist is the center of our life as believers and the source of strength to carry on our mission. There, we are bolstered in our faith by the witness of brothers and sisters who share in our discipleship, there we are challenged and inspired by the word of life and fed and nourished by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Let us all strive to walk worthily the vocation to which we have been called.
Know that each day as I celebrate the Mass and pray the Rosary of Our Lady, I pray for each of you, the priests and people of this archdiocese especially for those who are sick, lonely or in pain. May God’s love dwelling in the Tabernacle be the source of our strength and our joy.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap.
Archbishop of Boston