Lent is here. It begins with our Lord Jesus Christ submitting himself under the prophetic call to repentance from his cousin, John, the Baptist, and allowing himself to be submerged in the water of the Jordan river for the ritual baptism, a commitment to convert and render his life to God.
We see the heavens opening up, the Holy Spirit descending upon him in the form of a dove; and we hear the gentle voice of God, the Father, declaring: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
God the Father loves Jesus and declares to all creation of His love for His only-begotten Son. In so doing God the Father also declares His love for you. God loves you and He loves you first; that’s why He sent Jesus to you. So “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Love is the motif and the motivation for all that Jesus does for us. He loves God, the Father, and thus enters into this world to live, suffer and die for us. He reveals to us not only through His stories and examples, but also by His life and death, the love of God the Father reserved for us from all eternity.
The very first act of love Jesus wants to show us is fasting. He enters into the desert with the Holy Spirit for forty days and forty nights to confront His own human weaknesses and the Devil. He endures hunger and thirst, the lonely life in the howling desert and the assaults of the Devil. He fasts, He prays and He trusts in the Word of His Father. This is to show us how to repent and render to God what belongs to Him.
Following Jesus’ footsteps we are called to embark in this pilgrimage of forty days of Lent. With Jesus we listen to the loving voice of God, the Father; we do penance and deny ourselves. The following meditations are 40 straight-forward acts of repentance to help you look back and re-examine your own life with Jesus.
Let us take this pilgrimage of repentance to pray for our Catholic Church, especially for our priests.
O Mary, Queen of the Apostles: Walk with us on this pilgrimage.
Let us pray.
Grant us, O Lord, to begin our Christian warfare with holy fasts; that as we are about to do battle with the spirits of evil we may be defended by the aid of self-denial and the protecting gaze of our Blessed Virgin Mother Mary. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Once again, the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking to your heart: “Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:15).
You remember this from yesterday. You remember the ash traced on your forehead in the form of a Cross. ┼ With the vertical line the Lord is calling you to repent; and with the horizontal one He is exhorting you to believe in the Gospel.
To repent feels like the tracing of the ash from your hairline down to the glabella, right in between the brows. The downward move of the dusty trail on your forehead makes you feel dirty; some of the ashes may fall on your face, nose and clothes. Externally, it reminds you of the downward move of humility: to dust you return. Inwardly, that ash reminds you of the dirty sins you have been attempting to hide, ignore or make excuses. Repentance demands desistance. Stop hiding your sins. Stop ignoring them. Stop making excuses for them. They are dirt; that’s why they are dirty. They do no good for you. Stop them now.
Then listen to the firm gentle voice of the Lord as He traces across your forehead with a little bar of ashes calling out: “Believe in the Gospel.” Believe it because Jesus believes in you. He believes in you more than you believe in yourself. On that horizontal bar of the Cross, He has lowered Himself to be at the same level with you. He’s looking into your eyes and telling you: “This is why I came. I came to stake my life on the Cross for you. I believe in you even when you are a sinner. I am not asking you to do anything for me, but only believe that I am good to you and so be good.” That’s the Good News.
Take a deep breath… Let us pray for all priests to believe in the Gospel and be good.
O Mary, Queen of the Apostles: Make your priests believe in the Gospel and be good.