February 18, 2024

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

As we embark on the first week of Lent, we enter a profound 40-day journey coinciding with the springtime – a season of rebirth and new life that we witness in nature around us. This sacred time invites us to deepen our spiritual growth, renew our relationship with God, and progress in our path to holiness.

Like the catechumens preparing for their initiation into the Church at Easter, we are all called to undergo a conversion, examining our lives and sins in the light of God’s grace. As Catholics, we are called to pray, fast and abstain, but it’s crucial to reflect on how these practices enhance our prayer life, generosity, and sanctity. Our Lenten observances should lead to true conversion and a richer life in Christ; otherwise, they risk becoming mere rituals.

In fact, Lent isn’t solely about penitential practices; it’s also a season of joyful spiritual feasting. I’d like to share with you some inspiring thoughts from William Arthur Ward that I found particularly meaningful:

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ within them.

Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.

Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger; feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.

Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.

Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.

Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.

Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that sustains.

Fast from instant gratifications; feast on self-denial.

Fast from worry; feast on divine providence.

And finally, fast from sin; feast on the abundance of God’s mercy!

Pope Francis, in his message for Lent, reminds us that this season is a time to refocus on God’s mercy. Lent leads to the triumph of mercy, liberating us from what diminishes our worth as God’s children. This understanding of Lent can be truly freeing, helping us shed attitudes and behaviors that stifle our spiritual growth and realigning us towards those that foster our development into the individuals God envisions us to be – people of the Resurrection.

As your pastor, I carry you and your family in my daily prayers, especially at the Altar. May this Lenten season be a time of transformation for you all.

Faithfully yours,

Msgr. Cuong M. Pham