by Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach
Pope Francis has given us some very good advice in his annual Lenten Message this year. It is about not growing tired of doing good as expressed in the words of St. Paul, “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all” (Gal 6:9-10). The Pope reflects that Lent is a particular time for doing good. This goodness should be part of our lives at all times, but Lent gives us the opportunity to focus on this. We have determined some practice of prayer, penance and doing good during this season and the Holy Father’s message can help us reflect on how we are doing. He determines five areas of getting tired that we can fall into while doing good. A short reflection on each of them is beneficial for a spiritual growth during the season.
1. “Let us not grow tired of praying.” Prayer is at the center of our spiritual lives and essential for keeping us in union with the Lord. During Lent, prayer is the most important part of the season as it is all during the year. Perhaps we have chosen some particular form of prayer to deepen our spiritual life during the season such as the daily recitation of a particular prayer, the rosary, the Stations of the Cross, more time before the Eucharist and many other possibilities. Of course, the most important prayer is that of celebrating the Eucharist in which we enter into the very action of Christ and receive His Body and Blood as our spiritual food.
It is important in prayer to give ourselves completely to it. While many distractions can understandably come our way as we pray, it is essential to concentrate on what we are saying or doing. Otherwise, the prayer can become too routine as Jesus warns, “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think they will be heard because of their many words” (Matt 6:7). It is essential to pray from our heart to the heart of the Lord. It is also important to pray to the Lord in our own words and to listen to His response. There are so many things that affect us during the course of our day, and it is good simply to talk to the Lord about them. Pope Francis frequently encourages this type of prayer.
2. “Let us not grow tired of uprooting evil from our lives.” Lent is a good time to look deep within ourselves and to see those areas which need to be changed and corrected. So many times, it is easy to see the faults of others while overlooking our own. We can change others more easily by correcting our own faults and sins. Only then are we in a better position to correct others. As the Lord reminds us, “Remove the wooden beam from your own eye first; then you will clearly remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Matt 7:5).
3. “Let us not grow tired of asking for forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation.” As we recognize and confront our own sins and failures, we need to take them to the Lord in the great Sacrament of His forgiveness. Lent is a perfect time to celebrate this wonderful Sacrament. However, we can become discouraged because, even though we confess our sins and try to do better, we keep failing. Pope Francis has constantly reminded us that we can never be discouraged in asking for God’s forgiveness over and over again. The Pope reminds us that God never tires of forgiving.
4. “Let us not grow tired of fighting against concupiscence.” There is a weakness inside of all of us due to the effects of original sin which inclines us to selfishness and turning away from God in a variety of ways. The devil is very effective in tempting us to turn away from the Lord just as he tempted Christ to turn away from His mission during His forty days in the desert. Pope Francis reminds us in his Message this year that the use of digital media can be over employed which only impoverishes human relationships because we tend to speak not to each other but through our iPhones. Lent is a very good time to resist this temptation and to communicate with each other in a human fashion as intended by God.
5. “Let us not grow tired of doing good in active charity towards our neighbors.” Doing good to others is so important as part of our Christian spiritual lives, especially today when there is so much division and anger present. We need to listen to the needs of others and to understand people for who they are. There are so many ways in which we can do good for others especially by taking care of their material and physical needs. However, reaching out to others who need to be listened to, who are lonely and need to be visited is a very important element of doing good. So many times, such people can be right before us in our family and we do not recognize their needs, especially for being understood and appreciated. Lent is an excellent time to reach out to others in this regard and to allow others to reach out to us in the same way.
The forty days of Lent will go by very quickly as they already have since its beginning on Ash Wednesday. It is important to understand that no matter what practice we have decided to take up, it is not an end in itself but a means to a deeper relationship with the Lord. When Lent is over, our growth in the Lord is not over and whatever we do during the season should help us in that growth. As always, the Holy Father has given us good advice and insights and a deeper reflection on his words can only assist us in our spiritual growth.
May the continuing season of Lent be one of grace and peace. “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then while we have the opportunity, let us do good” (Gal 6:9-10).
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
March 11, 2022