LENT for the Soul

Message From Pope Benedict XVI for LENT 2009

“He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry” (Mt 4,1-2)

“The practice of fasting is very present in the first Christian community. The Church Fathers, too, speak of the force of fasting to bridle sin, especially the lusts of the “old Adam,” and open in the heart of the believer a path to God. Moreover, fasting is a practice that is encountered frequently and recommended by the saints of every age. Saint Peter Chrysologus writes: “Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself.”


Dear brothers and sisters, it is good to see how the ultimate goal of fasting is to help each one of us, as the Servant of God Pope John Paul II wrote, to make the complete gift of self to God (Encyclical Veritatis splendor.)  May every family and Christian community use well this time of Lent, therefore, in order to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in whatever nourishes the soul, moving it to love of God and neighbor. I am thinking especially of a greater commitment to prayer, lectio divina, recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and active participation in the Eucharist, especially the Holy Sunday Mass. With this interior disposition, let us enter the penitential spirit of Lent. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Causa nostrae laetitiae (Cause of our joy,) accompany and support us in the effort to free our heart from slavery to sin, making it evermore a “living tabernacle of God.”

Background Music

The “how to” of coming to live with a charged bit of Holy Scripture playing like music in the background, amid all the happenings of your day, is relatively simple.  Like everything in life that we desire, obtaining it means we have to reach for it in some way.  This “reaching” may be reading some scripture before you go to bed or at the beginning of a day.  Perhaps,  listening closely to the Word proclaimed at Mass.  You may think, so many words.  I know it can be messy.  The secret is to simplify.  What can be simpler than inviting the One whose words they are to speak to you.  Come Holy Spirit.  Speak to my heart. In effect, the Word you are seeking will choose for you.  Remember this Word is alive.  You dialogue with someone and here our someone is the third Person of the Trinity.

The thought that stops you for an instant, that seems to sink beneath your stony surface, is the one with which to stay.  The injunction of Holy Scripture that tells us “Pray without ceasing” (1Thessalonians 5:17) indicates the Holy Spirit’s desire for this conversation.  Recall the words that were given to you.  Listen during the day.  Ask questions or just remember.  That’s the beginning.  I don’t know about you, but in one way or another,  I’m always at the beginning.

Living Lexio Divina

Living with a charged bit of Holy Scripture playing in the background of my day sets me up for some animated discussions in my car, at the sink, wherever my day may take me.  Occasionally the conversation turns to Presence.  How we hunger for this Presence, this awareness of God, even though we may be flying in all directions.  Perhaps, the more the activity, the more the hunger.  It’s akin to searching for the car keys.  We begin thinking we know where to find them.  As they remain hidden, our pursuit turns to frustration and then to frenzy.  Relief comes only when we hold the keys in our hot little hands.

What does searching for car keys have to do with Lexio Divina, ruminating on Holy Scripture?  It’s simply that we are always on the go.  Getting to our destination depends on something as ordinary and necessary as the car keys.  Holy Scripture is such a key, however,  it is not inanimate but living and active.  When the Word, Lexio, comes to fruition, it is the listener who becomes the Word, in essence, and so reaches his destination.