“Today is the beginning of the Lenten fast. A good beginning is important. On Ash Wednesday and the three days afterward the scripture readings focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In Ash Wednesday‘s gospel, Jesus offers advice about the disciplines. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say ‘if you fast. ‘Jesus says ‘when you fast￼.’
Many Christians struggle with Jesus comand pray, fast and give alms. People want to know how. What are the traditions? How can these be adapted to the way we live now? There is no one right way to keep Lent. Saint Catherine of Siena said that those who practice self denial ‘are happier to see people walking in many different ways then to see just one way.”
Lenten fasting usually means eating and drinking less than usual. During Lent many people eat just one full meal a day. Fasting also includes abstinence. That means not eating certain kinds of foods, such as meat.
The book of Tobit says, ‘Prayer with fasting is good. But better than both is almsgiving with justice. Giving a little to the poor with justice is better than giving a lot with injustice.￼
In the language of the church, this is called ‘mortification’, which means ‘death to self.’ Mortification is one reason ashes are put on our foreheads at the beginning of the Lenten fast. Ashes are what’s left over after something burns up. For Ash Wednesday the church burns up the palms and branches left from last Palm Sunday. When Lent is nearly over we will have fresh green palms again, and the cycle will be
complete.” Companion to the Calendar
Dear God, I know that you intensely desire to embrace me with your infinite love. I pray for a special grace to open my heart during these forty days and to welcome you in love. Let us remember that our Lenten journey is about coming closer to God each day.