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Monday, February 26, 2024

Announcement of Lent

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Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth

On Wednesday next week, the season of Lent begins.

The Gospel of John uses the metaphor of the grain of wheat to depict the transforming process of growth for us to understand all about Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The seed falls to the ground and the warmth of the sun and moisture help the seed grow until the life secreted within it bursts its hull.

A sprout pushes above ground into sunlight and roots spread out underground in search of nourishment.

In time, the wheat grows taller and bigger as grain of wheat grows a stalk that heads out with a hundredfold new seed.

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It takes a while to flourish, but unless the seed falls to the ground, it cannot produce new grain of seeds.

The Gospel not only tells us about the fruits that Jesus death and resurrection will generate but also teaches us some invaluable lessons about humility, the fleeting nature of man, love of God for his creatures and the importance of obedience to the Father.

It is a source of inscrutable mystery that God for what he truly is, all powerful and all knowing, would come down from his throne in heaven and become one like us and allow himself to suffer in the hands of man.

This tells us the depth of God’s love for man—his beloved creature.

By his death and resurrection, he exalted the Father and raised man, a pitiable creature enslaved by sin, to partake of the divine. By becoming man, he has shown to us the greatness of his love.

God is humble and meek.

Unless a grain of wheat falls and dies—words which exhorts us to be meek and humble for in truth we are abject creatures in contrast to greatness, majesty and holiness.

It is ridiculous to think that man, despite his insignificance in the scheme of things, would often think and act as if he is greater than God.

In the words of Christ, we learn about the fleeting and temporal nature of life and the importance of following God.

Jesus said: Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. Indeed, we are all faced with the reality that life is brief and temporary; that wealth, fame and power are but empty expressions of vanity.

It is a pity that many of us devote most of our time seeking recognition, praise, accumulating wealth and pursuing beauty but neglecting the most important thing—cultivating our relationship with God and fellowmen.

Seeking the pleasures of life as if there is no tomorrow is foolishness.

The world is all a carcass and vanity, as a renowned essayist once said. It is by seeking God that life assumes an eternal and divine dimension.

To help us to be faithful, according to Pope Francis, the Church in this Lenten season brings to us the “soothing” remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting:

“By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.”

“Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbor as a brother or sister. When we give alms, we share in God’s providential care for each of His children.

If through me God helps someone today, will He not tomorrow provide for my own needs? For no one is more generous than God.

Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth.

On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbor.

It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.”

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