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.
The second righteous deed Jesus promoted by practicing it is fasting.
Here’s how Jesus wants us to fast: “Do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting…. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.” (Matthew 6:16-18).
Let’s convert Jesus’ instruction into action. Here’s what we will do.
We fast from looking gloomy.
We fast from acting like hypocrites.
We fast from wanting to get attention.
We fast from demanding recognition.
We fast by washing our face, not only with water but with the Word of God.
We fast by washing up our soul in the Confessional.
We fast by anointing our head, not only with perfume but also with blessings of the Holy Spirit.
The whole purpose of fasting is not to become self-focused but to be God-conscious. We know that God the Father, though hidden, is always conscious of us, so how can we learn to be conscious of Him?
Ask yourself where was Jesus when He fasted? In the desert. He was alone by Himself. He did not eat or drink for forty days and forty nights. Day after day all He sees under His feet is sands and sands, an endless sea of sands; and above His head, the scorching sun. Night after night what He hears is the sound of silence. Sometimes the air sings; sometimes it weeps; other times it remains in dead silence. In all this Jesus remains still in order to listen. This is how He fasted: he remains still and silent. This is also the secret of how Jesus becomes ever conscious of the presence of God, His Father.
God speaks in silence. In fact, silence is the language of God. Fasting is the school that trains us to communicate with God and others in the divine language; it teaches us silence.
Listen again to the instruction of Jesus on how to fast. What do you hear when you see yourself acting gloomy or hypocritical? Was it noisy or silent? What does it sound like when you want to get attention or demand recognition from others? Was it noisy or silent? Of course, they are all deafeningly noisy.
Then how do we stop the noises? By washing our souls in the water of the eternal word of Jesus and anointing ourselves with the fragrant blessings of the Holy Spirit. Sound familiar? Water and the Holy Spirit? When do we receive those? Was it not at our baptism?
Listen again. Is the water and the Holy Spirit noisy or silent? You answer for yourself.
Take a deep breath…. Let us pray for our priests to love the silence of fasting.
O Mary, Queen of the Apostles: Make all your priests love the silence of fasting.