Lent begins. The Church observes Lent as a time for spiritual renewal. What does that mean? Spiritual renewal means that you and I recommit ourselves to seeking God, to obeying God, to doing His will lovingly in our service of one another. The traditional three foremost means for spiritual renewal during Lent are prayer, fasting, and giving of charity to the needy. On fasting you either know and understand by now, or choose not to take it seriously. Almsgiving or charity to neighbor includes not only financial contributions, but looking for ways to help the needy, and offering acts of kindness to all—especially towards those whom we naturally may not like. They are our brothers and sisters, too.
On prayer, practices include attentively sharing in the Eucharist (Mass); listening to God and speaking heart to heart; praying various devotions (such as the rosary or the stations of the cross); sitting still in the presence of God; and spiritual reading. This Lent, I have chosen to emphasize the importance of spiritual reading (lectio divina, divine reading) in the everyday lives of the faithful. Why do spiritual reading? To nourish your mind; to increase your appreciation for the truth, goodness, and beauty of God; to move you to love God more as the Beginning and End of all things; to increase your faith in God as your Lord and Savior; and to help you to know more truly and to walk more faithfully on the path of life.
What should you read this Lent to nourish you in God? First, I am asking all parishioners to read selected chapters from the book of Exodus, the work that for many centuries has been the foremost book for spiritual reading in the Church during Lent. To these I add some chapters from Deuteronomy. And with each week I add one or several short Psalms for your prayerful reading. Remember that the Psalms are the foremost prayerbook of Israel, and of the Church. Be attentive! Here are your assigned readings for the 6 weeks of Lent:
Week 1: Exodus chapters 1-5; Psalm 90
Week 2: Exodus chapters 6-13; Psalm 1
Week 3: Exodus chapters 14-20; Psalms 113-115
Week 4: Exodus chapters 21-24; and Exodus 32-34; Psalm 136.
Week 5: Deuteronomy chapters 4-7; Psalm 105
Week 6: Deuteronomy chapters 8-11; Psalm 106
In addition, for those attending our adult faith class that meets Sundays at Holy Trinity, Centerville, immediately after Mass (and includes a pot-luck meal), I request that each of us choose an additional book to read closely during Lent. Some recommendations would include: the Confessions of St. Augustine; the Proslogion of St. Anselm; Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales; the Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux (St. Theresa, the “Little Flower”). Each of these 4 books is a masterpiece of the human spirit, each written by a faithful, loving, gifted Catholic saint. Or, you may find another book which interests you and turns your thoughts and attention towards God. That is the point of spiritual reading: to immerse oneself more fully in the Presence of the living God.
May this Lent be a season of grace for you. Make good the gift.