Archbishop Borys Gudziak, the archeparch of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia wrote, “evil truly manifested itself for the world to see” in Ukraine. The recent events there have reminded us of the human capacity for evil.
Humans are capable of enormous good: caring for the poor, proclaiming the Gospel and educating the young, but we are also capable of immense evil.
Ash Wednesday, March 2, marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, at the end of his general audience on Wednesday, Feb. 23, invoked the intercession of Mary, the Queen of Peace, to preserve the world from the “madness of war.” He called on believers to dedicate the first day of Lent to prayer for peace in our world.
As people of faith, we can unite not only our prayer but our fasting and almsgiving — those traditional Lenten practices — for the sake of peace. Leo, the saintly pope who earned the epithet “the Great,” reminded Christians in the fifth century that what we should be doing all the time should be done during Lent with “greater care and devotion.”
Exploring each of these practices briefly helps to set the tone for this season of penance.
We pray, but at times, we complicate it. Prayer is the simple turn of our mind and heart to God. We hear his assuring voice, the voice of a close friend and father. Peter Kreeft, professor of philosophy at Boston College, has pointed out that some people think prayer is an unaffordable luxury, that there are more pressing needs in the world. We certainly feel the urgency of those challenges today, but what the world really needs are saints. And saints are not made without prayer.
We fast not because we disdain the world, but because we know that the desires for food, drink and sex can supplant our desire for God. We fast to allow that deeper longing for God to emerge. He alone can satisfy the restless heart. What is too dominant in your life? Fast from it. Our Lord reminds us that some things can only be driven out by prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus warns us that we will be judged based on how we have loved our neighbor (Matthew 25:31-46). Almsgiving allows us the opportunity to share our goods with our brothers and sisters. We do not need a lot to do this. Remember the lesson of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44). Jesus praises the woman because “she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living” (Mk 12:44). A concrete way to give to the crisis in Ukraine is located here.
This Lent need not pass us by unchanged. We can make little efforts through these Lenten observances to prepare for the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. With lives renewed, Easter, by the grace of God, will be filled with resurrected joy.
Father Christopher C. Moriconi is a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia pursuing a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.
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