Sunday Reflections

1st Sunday of Lent – February 18, 2024

Reflection by:

Reflection by:

Fr. Jim Donohue, CR

For many people, Lent is a somber time because of its emphasis on prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.   However, the Preface of Lent 1 suggests that this season includes joy—a joy that comes from being “led to the fullness of grace that God bestows on God’s sons and daughters.”  Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are simply the means by which we are led into a deeper relationship with God and one another.

One of the most difficult of Jesus’ sayings is “whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mk 10:15).   In this saying, Jesus brings to mind a child and how that child has complete trust in his or her mother and father for everything.  This saying holds out for us an image of the kind of trust that we need to have in God.  Yet, we all know how difficult it is to trust totally in God.  There is always the fear that God will not be “enough” for us; that we need to fend for ourselves just in case God does not come through for us.  We often take comfort in trusting in other things: money, possessions, reputation, honor, status, image, work, etc. 

Knowing our tendencies, the Church presents us with a wonderful gift each year.  This is a time for us to take stock of our lives, to reflect upon our treasure, and to realize where our heart is really devoted.  The Church offers us certain practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving so that we can once again learn to empty ourselves as we focus upon God and the other.  These practices serve as opportunities for us to “die to ourselves” in some small ways so that we will be able to experience the new life that God bestows on those who wait in hope. 

As we pray, we give up our time.  As we fast, we give up our food.  As we provide alms, we give up our wealth.  In each case, we are creating some “space,” some “emptiness” that can be filled—not with things for which we grasp—but with God’s presence, with God’s grace, which is freely given.  These practices help us to long and hunger for the true and living Bread that will satisfy us in ways that we cannot imagine.  Understood properly, it is these practices that will nourish our faith, increase our hope, and strengthen our charity.  What greater gift could the Church give us each year?  No wonder Lent is best understood as a joyful season.

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