Written by Sunnie Lain, Director of Conferences and Community Outreach.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. In his 2016 Lent message, Pope Francis said, “In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbor and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.”
The Ash Wednesday reading from the prophet Joel calls us to action (Jl 2: 15-16):
“Blow the trumpet in Zion!
proclaim a fast,
call an assembly;
Gather the people,
notify the congregation.”
On Ash Wednesday, Christians are called to reflect on our relationships and to think about what we need to do in order to grow more in love. The Lenten Season is a time for us to stop what we are doing and make needed changes in our lives. We are each individually and as a community challenged to rethink our priorities and our actions. During Lent, we are reminded that we need to focus on loving relationships with God and with our neighbors. Jesus tells his disciples then, and us now, to pray, fast, and give alms as a means of turning away from our old selves as we prepare for the new birth that Easter brings.
The Lenten practice of fasting is a way in which we grow closer to God by giving up things that may distance us from Him. “Fasting for others” is a way in which we can give up something by giving something to those in need. St. Augustine wrote, “Don’t believe that fasting suffices. Fasting punishes you, but it does not restore your brother. How many poor people could be nourished by the meal you did not take today?” The Church encourages this sort of fasting-for-others during the season of Lent. Christians are called to confront the poverty of our brothers and sisters and to take practical steps to alleviate it.
What steps will you take this Lent to help our brothers and sisters in need?
Learn how you can join our mission to help our neighbors here