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Make Your Hearts Firm

Make Your Hearts Firm

Lent. Ashes on Ash Wednesday, abstinence from meat on Fridays, fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, sacrificing, praying, giving alms. Does that cover it? What does Lent mean to you? Pope Francis calls it a "time of grace" (2 Cor 6:2). In his Message for Lent 2015, he examines the ways that Lent can be a time of renewal for the whole Church, for the smaller communities of parishes, and for each individual. Our world is sorely in need of renewal and we are each given a part to play in bringing about that change. That does not mean to look for something to give up that will help you reach your weight loss goal. The sacrifice called for in Lent is one of self-mortification, a way to discipline ourselves, to put to death those habits or obsessions that call us away from God and our neighbor.

Make Your Hearts Firm                    

Lent. Ashes on Ash Wednesday, abstinence from meat on Fridays, fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, sacrificing, praying, giving alms.  Does that cover it? What does Lent mean to you?  Pope Francis calls it a "time of grace" (2 Cor 6:2).  In his Message for Lent 2015, he examines the ways that Lent can be a time of renewal for the whole Church, for the smaller communities of parishes, and for each individual.  Our world is sorely in need of renewal and we are each given a part to play in bringing about that change. That does not mean to look for something to give up that will help you reach your weight loss goal. The sacrifice called for in Lent is one of self-mortification, a way to discipline ourselves, to put to death those habits or obsessions that call us away from God and our neighbor.

Pope Francis calls to mind the growing indifference that has been infecting us. He says we need to hear the prophetic voices which trouble us, which awaken our consciences, calling us to be joined to the whole body of Christ in the Sacraments and in prayer.  In the Sacraments we allow God to fill us, to enliven us, to fortify us to be the missionaries He sends out to bring merciful love to all.  

God is not indifferent, and neither can we be, to the plights of those who suffer apart from us, but also those who are near. The Pope writes, "We share in the merits and joy of the saints, even as they share in our struggles and our longing for peace and reconciliation. Their joy in the victory of the Risen Christ gives us strength as we strive to overcome our indifference and hardness of heart."  We join our prayers to the communion of saints, with the whole Church, and let our Lenten practices bring us closer to our neighbors and to God. When we feel powerless to effect change in the world, we must remember that the prayers of all joined together really are a positive force, and really can make a difference.

We can also look for ways to give charitably, giving concrete assistance to those in dire need. Let our sacrifices hurt a little and remind us of the suffering of others. "Make your hearts firm!" (Jas 5:8) is the reflection the Pope proposes to each of us this Lent. Pope Francis reminds us that a merciful heart is not weak, but strong, resistant to temptations to selfishness and indifference, and ready to be "pierced by the Spirit so as to bring love along the roads that lead to our brothers and sisters."

Look also to add something to your life that brings you closer to God and neighbor.  Lent is a great time to add a spiritual practice that might be new to you. The six weeks are perfect for forming a new habit. Attending Mass on days other than Sunday, praying the rosary and Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and spiritual reading are excellent habits to begin in Lent. This year of 2015, one can make a thirty three day de Montfort "total consecration" to Mary during Lent, beginning on February 21, making the consecration on the Marian Feast of the Annunciation on March 25. One very useful resource to this devotion can be found right on the internet at http://totalconsecration.ageofmary.com/index.html . There are also excellent books which set out the practice simply, such as Fr. Michael E. Gaitley MIC's
33 Days to Morning Glory
,
Preparation for Total Consecration according to St. Louis de Montfort
by Fr. Hugh Gillespie, SMM, and
St. Louis de Montfort's True Devotion Consecration to Mary
by Fr. Helmuts Libietis.

This year, endeavor to be part of the renewal of the whole world, by working on your own interior renewal. Prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving are designated parts of a Lent properly observed. The Church in her wisdom prescribes practices designed to start us on the path to holiness. We can round it out by entering fully into developing deeper spiritual habits which help up to "make our hearts firm."

 

Nancy Arey

February 12, 2015

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