Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Ps 91:1-2, 10-15; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13
We are already at the beginning of Lent. My resolution for Lent is to get as close to Jesus as I can. As I look back at the daily gospel readings from St. Mark, I am overjoyed at so many people Jesus touched and healed. Jesus wants to do the same in our lives today. He lives within us from our baptism. He comes to increase his love in us in our daily prayers and in the sacraments, especially at Mass. Do we want to receive this increase?
To get closer to Jesus we can look at Lent as our end of winter / spring-cleaning of our house, office and garage. Where are some things out of order we need to clean out? I love to collect and save things. That gets to be a mess after a while. What are the many things you and I need to put in order in our lives?
To get closer to Jesus, we need to get to know more of who he is and what he came to do on earth. He is the Son of God, sent to earth to show us how much God loves us. He comes to take away our sins, heal us, and put us on the right track to heaven. Yet we have a lot of work to do here on earth to have the joy of living a better life in Christ.
We can set a time aside in our busy day to say a little prayer to the Holy Spirit asking for more wisdom and understanding that we initially received in seed form at baptism and confirmation. Then, with the direction of the Holy Spirit, read one gospel story at a time. Then ask, “What did Jesus do day by day?“ He went around loving and blessing God’s children. Then ask how Jesus wants to bless you that day. Then we will need to change some behavior, like TV, so we have that time to read the gospel stories. That is where we see more ways Jesus can bless us. This brings us much joy.
Then we can spend some time talking to Jesus about how we can receive more of his grace through daily prayer. Jesus fills us up with more love. Then as we are with family and friends we have more of his love to reach out and help others. That grace simply flows out of us to others. This leaves us a bit drained and so we go back to Jesus for a refill.
Do not be afraid, there is always more grace. Helping and serving others is part of what it means to be Catholic Christians. "Whatever you do to the least of mine, you do to me,” Jesus told us. We are Jesus’ heart and hands helping others. Others come to know the love of Jesus through us.
Jesus spent 40 days in the desert in prayer and fasting before his public ministry began. We take this example to pray and fast for 40 days to better prepare ourselves to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection at Easter. Jesus blocked satan’s temptations by focusing on his heavenly Father and quoting scripture back at the devil. We too focus on God and learn to be watchful of the temptations and distractions in our own lives.
There have been changes to our church practice of fasting. We are asked to focus on what keeps us from daily prayer and being good examples to others. We learn in scripture how Jesus was merciful to others and then how we can be forgiving, helpful and loving.
Church fasting now is greatly relaxed for more personal choices for growing in holiness. Those 18 to 60 years old are required to fast. This means one full meal and two smaller meals with no solid foods between meals, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Those 14 years of age or older are to "Abstain from Meat" on Ash Wednesday and "all the Fridays of Lent." It is healthy to eat fish with scales and fins (those feed on live things) for the fish oils our body needs. It is good to refrain from those fish that feed on dead things.
Have a good Lent feeling greater joy each day as you get closer to Jesus. His joy is worth living.
Peace and all good,
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2016 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR)