My brothers and sisters in the Lord! I am grateful for this opportunity to share with you my Lenten and Easter message, my thoughts and reflections these days. I have to tell you that I have been very much inspired by the Lenten Message of our Holy Father for us this liturgical year.
The Season of Lent
In the days of the season of Lent, we are supposed to prepare for the glorious celebration of Easter. In the words of Pope Francis: “Lent summons us and enables us to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life.”
In one of the Prefaces of Lent, we pray… “You have given your children a sacred time for the renewing and purifying of their hearts, that freed from disordered affections, they may so deal with the things of this passing world as to hold rather to the things that eternally endure.” That is why, at the beginning of Lent, we were reminded: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Or, as in the popular Lenten song that quotes the prophet Hosea, the Lord says, “Come back to me with all your heart…” So, the real challenge and opportunity in these days of Lent is to return to the Lord and trust him to renew us.
Lent is about to end, my dear brothers and sisters. In fact it is ending this Holy Thursday, daytime; for in the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we will already start the celebration of the Easter Mysteries.
The Church has kept the beautiful tradition of Lenten practices for us, to help us return to the Lord, and these are prayer, almsgiving and fasting.
Thus, we ask ourselves as we are about to conclude the preparatory days of Lent:
Have we prayed enough in silence, in the depths of our hearts, crying to the Lord, struggling to return to him?
And, have we prayed with the Church community in her beautiful Lenten liturgy, in the sacraments, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, listening to God’s word, and participating in the table of the holy Eucharist so that, I hope by now, we have become closer to the Lord?
And how about our almsgiving? Almsgiving, but not in the sense that we give because we have extra resources to give, but really giving of what we really have, including even ourselves. An almsgiving that is closer to the giving of Jesus of himself for us. True almsgiving helps us to stay away from greed and self-centeredness and inspires us and allows ourselves to be Christ-like to others.
Fasting allows us to experience the pain and misery of the poor around us. And fasting also helps us discipline ourselves in our attachment to our worldly needs symbolized by the strong need and attraction of food and nourishment. And in fasting, we have the opportunity to bring our attention to the grace and mercy of God in our miserable human condition.
In short, Lent makes us realize how certainly we would return to dust, as we were reminded on Ash Wednesday, if we do not return to the Lord.
My dear brothers and sisters, Lent is about to end, but there is still ample time to bring ourselves closer to the Lord.
The Easter celebration is our prayerful memory of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus: his suffering, his crucifixion and death and his glorious resurrection.
May it be that our Lenten observances have made us ready to be with the Lord in his suffering, death and resurrection. May it be that our Lenten observances have made us ready to go through the many ‘darknesses’ of our present life, when often we are desperate and have lost hope, and still we walk with Jesus deeply believing that with him, we will see light and life. Our resurrection is possible, and our resurrection is ours because of Jesus. How deeply he loved us, painfully embracing death in order to conquer and defeat it, so that we might live, and live life eternally.
Thus, in the liturgy of the Easter Vigil, we hear this beautiful line in the prayer: “May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”
Easter is the most wonderful feast in our Church’s life of prayer and worship. In this feast, we are again at the heart of God’s loving presence. Easter is the Lord’s promise of eternal life and happiness.
+ ROMULO G. VALLES, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines