Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This week, we began the season of Lent. Lent is the church's primary penitential season, a 40-day period of more intense prayer, focused fasting and increased charity or almsgiving. These efforts are designed to help us deepen our spiritual lives as we prepare to celebrate the Paschal mystery of the Lord's saving passion, death, and resurrection, which we will celebrate at Lent's conclusion during Holy Week and Easter.
The mark of ashes we received on Ash Wednesday is an outward sign of our interior desire and need to die to ourselves so that Christ, the Risen One, will live more fully in us, in order that his presence will be more visible in our world. Jesus invited us in the Gospel "to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow him." Lent encourages and challenges us to do this more thoroughly and effectively. Because of this, these 40 days are a gift, for which we can and should be ever grateful.