March 7, 2011
“What are you giving up for Lent?” For Catholics this question is as universal as the distribution of ashes will be this Wednesday. Fasting is an important part of our Lenten journey, but it is just one third of our way to Easter. Prayer and giving to the poor, which we call almsgiving, are the two other important parts of a complete Lenten experience. This Lent, I invite everyone to know that the Light is ON for You in churches across the area for reconciliation and prayer and that there are multiple opportunities to give in service and gifts to the poor.
Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-11). Fasting is a time-proven way to join ourselves to Jesus in his prayer and ultimately in his suffering for our sins on the cross. The cross was the means to the Resurrection whereby Jesus conquers sin and death and transforms them into healing, forgiveness and eternal life. The suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus is what we call the Paschal Mystery. He has won the victory for us. Our life should be a participation in the triumph of Jesus’ cross and Resurrection.
Lent is only complete when we experience the healing and forgiveness that was won by Jesus’ death at Golgotha. He told Saint Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16: 19). Jesus gave the Church the power to release us from sin, to receive his healing. Starting March 16, churches across the area will be open on Wednesday evenings for Confession and prayer throughout Lent. The Light is ON for You to encounter Jesus for yourself.
In every Catholic church there are many lights, but there is one that is particularly important. Near the tabernacle, the sacred place where the Eucharist is reserved, there is a lamp burning. It is a sign that Jesus is truly present body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist in the tabernacle and at Mass on the altar. Even if you are not going to receive Reconciliation, I ask you to stop by any Catholic church to be with our Lord in prayer. Perhaps you may use this time to pray for those of your family and friends who are away from the faith.
Helping the poor is the third part of our Lenten journey. The Archdiocese of Washington is the single largest nongovernmental social service provider in the area. We feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, visit those in prison, care for the elderly and sick, protect the unborn, help women make life-giving choices and provide access to services that support both the mother and child after her baby is born. In addition, this year we will offer over $5,000,000 in tuition assistance for children, both Catholic and non-Catholic, to receive the gift of a Catholic education. We also are blessed to have 67 men in the seminary studying for the priesthood. This list is a brief snapshot of the important works that are funded in part by the Cardinal’s Appeal.
As always, you are in my prayers and I ask for you to remember those who have been away from the Church that they may know that Catholics can always come home.
||Faithfully in Christ,
Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington