Recently, I saw a bumper sticker that read: "What you are is God’s gift to you. What you become is your gift to God." The more we realize the magnitude of the gift that God has given to us, the more we will want to grow closer to him and give him a great gift.
This is the primary reason why the church celebrates the season of Lent. For the next six weeks, the readings from Mass will invite us to fix our eyes on Jesus, on his sacrificial death, and on the life that he made possible for us when he rose from the dead. And it is these readings from Scripture that will help us answer the question posed by this bumper sticker: "How can I make the gift of my life more pleasing to the Lord?"
"Proclaim a Fast." As we were praying and asking the Lord what we should write about this Lent, we thought the Spirit was telling us: "Call for a fast." We felt that he wanted us to take the first reading for Ash Wednesday and expand upon it and explain it. And so we have.
As we prayed, we kept reflecting on the power that prayerful fasting has to unite us as a church—rich with poor, old with young, educated with uneducated. We were struck by the way that fasting helps us be more open to God’s guidance in our lives. And we thought about the Bible stories that show how physical self-denial can bring about spiritual insight and heavenly grace.
In order to make these points, we decided that our articles should focus on three issues: how fasting helped the ancient Israelites follow God’s will; the critical role that fasting played in the growth and development of the early church; and the grace we can receive from fasting today—the grace to grow in holiness and bring people to faith in Christ.
Let’s Join Together. So as we begin this Lenten season, we want to urge all of you to join with us and "proclaim a fast" in your own homes. Together, let’s make fasting a part of the gift we give back to the Lord this Lent.
No matter how you decide to fast this Lent, be sure that you do it in conjunction with prayer, repentance, and the Eucharist. Do the best you can to live out your fast, and leave the rest in the Lord’s hands. Jesus sees what we are doing as we fast, and it pleases him. He knows how much we want to draw close to him. He knows the obstacles that we face in fulfilling this goal. And he will help all of us as we seek his presence. May God bless all of us during this wonderful season of Lent!