Fasting, Praying and Acting during the Fourth Week of Lent
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)
“The Christian identity card is joy, the Gospel’s joy.”
The fourth Sunday of Lent is also known as Laetare Sunday. This name is based on the first word of the introit or entrance chant for Mass that day which invites us to rejoice always.
Lætare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum lætitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestræ.
Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.
From the very beginning of his pontificate Pope Francis has spoken against fear and anger and has emphasized the importance of joy and gratitude.
Profound Joy, rooted in the assurance of God’s love for us and our salvation in Jesus Christ is one of the main themes discussed by Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium or The Joy of Gospel promulgated in 2013, the first year of his pontificate.
He put it more succinctly and poignantly in a homily Pope Francis preached on May 23, 2016 as he stated that “the Christian identity card is joy, the Gospel’s joy, the joy of having been chosen by Jesus, saved by Jesus, regenerated by Jesus; the joy of that hope that Jesus is waiting for us, the joy that - even with the crosses and sufferings we bear in this life - is expressed in another way, which is peace in the certainty that Jesus accompanies us, is with us."
During this fourth week of Lent let’s mend our heart by fasting from fear and anger; bend our knees by praying Morning and evening Prayer; and lend our hands through acts of kindness and gratitude.
Mending our Hearts by Fasting from Fear and Anger
- Fear and anger are omnipresent in our world today. Many people thrive on these sentiments, and some even promote them. Fear and anger rather than joy and happiness have become the hallmark and detriment of our society.
- This week let’s resist the powers that tell us to be fearful or to hate and let’s embrace the gospel values of joy and gratitude.
- Practicing gratitude and joy, while choosing to fast from ingratitude and sadness is not only physically healthy but mentally, emotionally and spiritually enriching. And after all, this is our only possible response to the mystery of God becoming one of us so that we may become more like God.
Bending our Knees while Praying Morning and Evening Prayer
- Early Christians, based on their Jewish heritage marked sunrise, midday and sunset with prayer, giving thanks to God for the many gifts they received.
- Ever since, Christians have done the same, sometimes in very simple and informal ways. Other times in highly structured and elaborate ways.
- Let’s continue this great tradition by intentionally marking Morning and Evening with prayer, either individual or with family. You may also consider joining us at The Basilica for morning prayer on Tuesday and Thursday at 9:15am or evening prayer on Sunday at 3:00pm.
Lending our Hands through Noticing and Savoring Blessings and Expressing Gratitude
- Let’s open our eyes and hearts to the good things in our life. Granted, there are many reasons to be sad and weep for our world. But maybe this week we can focus on all the reasons we should be grateful and allow ourselves to celebrate the many blessings bestowed on us.
- Once we have become more attune to the many blessings of everyday life, we can learn to savor them. When we become aware of a specific blessing in our life let’s relish the moment and allow for a deep sense of gratitude to take hold.
- The next step is to give expression to our gratitude. Let’s express heartfelt gratitude to our family, our friends, our God. This is not about mere pleasantries of politeness, rather this is about genuine appreciation. Profound gratitude may even inspire us to act with kindness and thoughtfulness or to return a favor.
And please remember to be patient with yourself and others. Lent is neither an endurance test nor a time to prove our Christian heroism. Rather, Lent is a time to slow down and ponder what is essential to our faith and thus to our life as Christians. So please pace yourselves. Give yourself and others the necessary space. And above all be patient with yourself and others.