Below is an excerpt from Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller’s presentation to the Theology on Tap Hill Country gathering in Boerne on Feb. 12.
Our most powerful image for Lent has always been Jesus’ 40 day walk into the desert. We also remember Israel’s 40 year journey through the wilderness on the way to the promised land. We remember Jesus being marched through the streets of Jerusalem with the Cross, or Peter following the crowd during Jesus’ trial. All of these images are images of a journey. We don’t just sit around during Lent. We walk through Lent with the Lord. In a couple of days we will start this journey anew, so let’s take some time to prepare ourselves to start the season well.
We most certainly have the sacraments. Go to reconciliation, my friends. If you go regularly, take a friend with you during this blessed season. If you have not been in a while, then this is God’s message to you today: the time has come to go to the sacrament of forgiveness and mercy! That is what waits for you in confession. Attend Mass very regularly during Lent — daily if you can. Make the sacrifice of time! Conversion in Christ is supposed to take effort. Reject the false prophet of ease or comfort — seek the Lord with everything that you are, there is nothing more important you can do in a day.
We also have the great disciplines of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Do you pray every day — and I mean every day? This is not an option for Christians. It is okay if you are not there right now, but this Lent is the time to change that. If you don’t know how to pray, ask someone who does. You have plenty of good examples right here around you. Ask your priest, a religious sister, a prayerful family member. At its core, prayer is spending time in communication with God. Just start, and God will guide you in your relationship with him. Go to adoration, pray a rosary, a litany, a novena. There are so many wonderful ways to pray. Make the time to learn more about prayer. The Holy Spirit lives within you, and you were made to pray!
Fasting helps us to see the world as it is. We deny ourselves what our body or heart wants, not to hurt ourselves, but to help us see what is truly important. We certainly fast, as well as abstain from meat, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but take up a deeper Lenten fast of some kind. It will silence the false prophets trying to lead you astray.
Finally, we have almsgiving. This one is probably the least utilized. In the United States, we have a twisted relationship with money and possessions. Many of you are students or just starting out in careers, so you do not have a lot of money to give. But you do still go get that cup of coffee or take that night out with your friends. Sacrifice those things and give that money to those who have less than you do. Our love and efforts for the poor are not optional as Christians. How we care for the poor flows out of our love for God, and the two are connected. Scripture is filled with this message, and Lent is a time to renew our commitment to the poor and marginalized among us.
With these tools to help us, we will keep our eyes fixed on the Lord during our journey through the wilderness of Lent, my friends. Do not be afraid of the challenges, because we do not face them alone. God is with us, and the church is with us. All these wonderful brothers and sisters here are with us. We are united as a church and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit! May we make this journey together and draw closer to the God who loves us.