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Lenten Message - Fr.(Dr.) Francis Carvalho

Today is Ash Wednesday the gateway to the season of Lent, so as pastor I thought of sharing with you a few thoughts.  Lent is a time given to us to prepare for the celebration of the feast of Easter.

The Teutonic word Lent, originally meant no more than the spring season, lengthening of day light hours. It reminds me of a time for spring cleaning, a time to heed the call to ‘repent’ – turn back to the Lord. Lent then is a time for repentance.

Jesus called the people to repentance, but nowhere in the  Gospels did He tell them to be  sorry for  their sins. Repentance does not mean being sorry for one’s sins. As Fr. Errol Fernandes S.J. puts it, “Repentance is a call to a change of mind, heart and vision. It is a call to look at everything anew. It is a call to leave the  negative behind and take on the positive of God’s newness.”

The Church at the start of the season in today’s Gospel gives us a three pronged approach to Repentance i.e. Prayer, Fasting  and Almsgiving.

Prayer – an invitation to grow in a deeper relationship with God, “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). It would be good if we as individuals and family could set aside some time to pray. Remember Fr. Peyton’s words, “A family that prays together stays together.” Praying the Scriptures would be ideal in this season. Your animators have already  given you cards which will guide you step by step in the process of praying the bible. You may also  follow this format: Begin each prayer session  with  a prayer to the  Holy  Spirit  and/or  Our Blessed Mother Mary then (i) READ a passage from Scripture prayerfully.  (ii) THINK about what struck you most as you read the passage. Why this?   (iii) SPEAK  to God about your thoughts.  (iv) LISTEN to God’s response. Rest in God’s presence with an open mind and an open heart.  (v) If praying with family SHARE what struck you and why.  (iv) END by praying the Lord’s Prayer – the Our Father and the Glory be... very reverently.

Fasting – not just avoidance of food for mortifying oneself but also avoidance of sin and sinful situations. Fasting should be a means to make a “U” turn in our lives, a conversion  to  God – an  acknowledgement of our dependence on God.

Almsgiving – reaching out  to  the less fortunate, sharing with  them God’s graciousness to  you, there by brightening their  day. As the song goes “ what the  world needs is love, love, love.” – a gift we all can share with the sick and lonely.

Our participating in the daily Eucharist would be the best aid to sincere repentance as the Readings of the first week sets the tone of repentance by calling for right action. The Second week begins with an invitation to imitate God who is compassionate –by  a call for concern and service of the marginalized. The third week focuses on forgiveness as often as needed. The fourth and fifth weeks draw us to encounter the person of Jesus. Finally in Holy Week we read about the supreme sacrifice of God’s love for us.

I pray that through your participation in this holy season,"the Lord bless you, and watch over you. May the Lord let His face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look kindly upon you and give you His peace.”

Francis Carvalho