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Perspective: On Lenten journey, we don’t travel alone

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By Auxiliary Bishop Michael Pham

The Lenten season, which consists of 40 days, reminds us that, because of our fallen nature, we need to be united with God by a spirit of penance with Christ’s work of redemption. Through prayer, fasting, almsgiving and other penitential exercises, Lent enables us to unite ourselves effectively with that work.

There can be no Lent worthy of the name without a personal effort to make our lives better, to lead them with greater fidelity, and to make reparation for our past sins through the practice of “giving up something for Lent.”

Lent is like a long retreat that leads us to the practice of a Christian life more fully. It sets before us the example of Christ and, through fasting and penance, it unites us to His sufferings, which enable us to share in His redemption.

We should remember that we are not alone, that it is not just we who are concerned with Lent. We belong to an immense body in which we are united with the whole human family to be redeemed by Christ.

In the Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent, the Spirit led Jesus out into the desert for 40 days to be tempted by Satan. The account of the temptation of Christ shows Him to us as the new head of humanity, at grips with Satan’s power and overcoming him with divine power. This is an assertion of Christ’s victory over “the prince of this world,” who was cast out of heaven.

The meaning of Lent for us, then, is as a season of spiritual development. It is shared with the entire Church as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal mystery – the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Every year, the entire Christian people, following Christ, takes up the struggle against evil, against Satan and the sinful human that each one of us bears within ourselves. In order to draw from the Easter joy, from the very source of Divine Life, and to continue our journey to be with Him, we are challenged to develop a life of holiness.

In this spiritual development, we can spend time considering the things we truly value in life. Then, we begin stripping away at least some of the things that keep us from living out those values.

Sometimes, we need to make difficult choices and lifestyle changes. Perhaps a simpler way of living, less overtime, or fewer creature comforts will allow us more time with family, friends, and God. Lent can help us put first things first!

At the end of Lent, we will be asked to renew our baptismal promises, our commitment to the Lord Jesus and to what Christian discipleship is all about. Everything we do in Lent — as we try to “put first things first” — should prepare us to make our re-commitment to Jesus at Easter as honest and sincere as we possibly can.ay God bless you all in this season of Lent!

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