Lent -March 23, 2014
Lent is a preparation for the annual celebration of
the Mysteries of our redemption, the Passion and the Resurrection of the
Christ. They are mysteries of faith, deep mysteries. They are historical, of
course, but at the same time most spiritual mysteries. To understand these
mysteries, to live and celebrate them in a worthy manner, we need to purify our
hearts. Purify our heart of worldly things to receive the heavenly ones.
For this reason Lent is a time of prayer, penance and
almsgiving. Penance moves us away from our sins, prayer moves us closer to God,
almsgiving moves us closer to our neighbour.
Why these three practices? Once Jesus said: “It is
very difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” The apostles,
poor fishermen, asked Jesus: “If this is so, who can be saved?” (cf. Mark
10:23-26). We may wonder why poor men asked such a question. The answer is
that, for God, it is not important how much do you have in your pocket, but how
much do you have in your heart. It is the desire of riches that makes you rich.
It is the desire of God that makes you a saint. We are good or bad when our
desires are good or bad. Lent is the time to purify our heart of bad desires.
Bad desires lead us to wrong decisions. There are
basically three desires that can give us a hard time. The first is the
disorderly desire of money. It is when a person puts his or her happiness in
having more, and because of this, he or she sometimes offends other people, o
neglects prayer, or does not take care of the poor. There is nothing wrong with
having money, but God is first. The bad desire should be corrected. That is why
we do almsgiving: when we do this, we put in our heart the opposite desire:
instead of desiring to have more money, we desire to have less, and we give it
to the poor. Our heart changes direction, with the grace of God.
The other desire that leads us astray sometimes is the
desire of pleasure. Because of the disorderly desire of pleasure, we offend the
dignity of people and take them as objects of enjoyment, and not as persons to
be loved. Bad desires lead us also to excesses that hurt our health, or the
health of our neighbour. They may lead us to
different addictions. How do we change our hearts? How do we take away those
desires? By desiring the opposite. Instead of desiring to have more pleasure,
we desire to have less, to do a little sacrifice, or a big sacrifice. In that
way, we purify our heart, and teach our heart to desire rightly. This is the
sense of fasting, and of the little sacrifices we do in Lent.
It is as when a tree is growing bent to the left, and
you want to make it straight. You need to bend it in the opposite direction.
The tree will resist, but it is the only way to put it straight. In the same
way, we suffer fasting, but it helps us to correct bad desires.
Finally, there is the disorderly affection for
ourselves, pride. The desire to be in control, the affection to our own views,
to make our own will. In prayer we desire the opposite: we recognize that God
is in control: we have to work, but he will give success. In prayer, we
recognize that God is always right, even when we don’t understand. We pray in
faith. We trust in God, even if sometimes we cannot feel that he is with us. We
pray “thy will be done,” not mine. How many times we sin because we think that
what God says will lead us nowhere. We prefer to do our own will instead of
following the commandments. “God says this,” the sinner says, “but I think it would be better to do the
opposite.” When we pray, we try to correct this desire, by putting in our
hearts the desire of God, of doing his will, of knowing him better and loving
May the Lord grant us purity of heart.
Let us desire the good things, not the evil ones. Let us say to the Lord: “Lord
Jesus, for the times I have too much desired money, I offer you this charity
for the poor. Please forgive me.” “O my Jesus, for the times I have desired
wrong pleasures, I offer you this fasting, or this sacrifice. Please forgive
me.” “O my Lord, for the times I have not given you thanks for what I have, I
thank you, I love you. Please help me to remember your
love.” May the Holy Virgin Mary help us to remember always the love of God,
manifested in the Cross of Christ Jesus. Amen.