By Archbishop JOSÉ H. GOMEZ of Los Angeles
We are almost at the halfway point along the road in our Lenten journey.
Time moves fast! I hope you are making good progress on the resolutions you set for yourself this Lent.
Lent is not meant to be about temporary fixes or short-term self-denials. We are not giving up sugar in our coffee just so we can look forward to how good it’s going to taste when Lent is over. We don’t give up eating dessert just so we can lose a little weight.
All the little denials and sacrifices we make are meant to help us grow and get stronger in our spiritual lives. We need to look at our Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a kind of training of the body, mind and spirit. These works are meant to help us form good habits. They should help us develop virtues, practices and actions that will continue as a part of our daily life.
So it is important for us to try to live Lent well — to use this time to grow in our understanding of our faith. We want our Lenten habits to stay with us so that we lead better lives as followers of Jesus Christ.
Our Lenten journey is meant to be a symbol for us, a reminder that our lives are a journey to God. A journey that we are making by following Jesus Christ.
The question is always how do we “follow” Jesus — 2,000 years after he walked on this earth?
Sometimes we can look at the world of Jesus and think that the Gospels can’t possibly relate to our modern reality. The world he came into was so radically different than the world we are living in. No freeways. No global economy and finance system. No electricity or running water. No technologies, advertising or media.
And it is true: our world is very different. We live in a complex society and we all lead complicated lives, with many demands and obligations.
Yet still we are called to follow Jesus. So how?
Our faith is not an agreement with a set of principles or theological ideas. Our faith is faith in this person, Jesus Christ.
We meet this person — we come to know him, love him and trust him — in his Catholic Church. And that’s the key to understanding how we should follow him.
Jesus promised that he would remain with us in his Church. No matter how complex the world becomes and no matter how long the world may last, his promise is true.
That means we are never following Jesus alone. We follow him always in the company of others, as his brothers and sisters in God’s family, his Church. No matter where we are in our journey, we have Jesus — in the words of sacred Scripture and in the sacraments of his Church.
That’s why it’s so important for us to have an active participation in the life of the Church. Through our continuing education in the faith, through our service to others, through partaking in the sacraments, we grow in our awareness of Jesus’ presence in our lives.
Our following of Jesus must always stay rooted in our prayerful reflection on his words and example in the pages of the Gospels. To really make progress in our spiritual lives, we need to nourish ourselves every day with the Word of God.
I think it would be a beautiful habit for you to get into — to pray and read a passage from the Gospels every day.
We have to read the Gospels with prayer and as followers of Jesus. We should always read as if we are “on the ground” with Jesus and his first disciples — hearing his words and witnessing his miracles; talking to Jesus, asking him questions; praying with him.
When we get into this habit of prayerful reading, we discover that we are uniting our lives to Jesus’ life. Our journey becomes a part of his journey. He is walking with us and we are following in his footsteps in our own lives. Our lives become a continual conversation with him. Our thoughts, actions and prayers become a fruit of his thoughts, his actions and his prayers.
So let us pray for one another as we enter this next stretch of our Lenten journey. Let us strive together for an adult faith that is more generous, more prayerful, and marked more by a spirit of simplicity, penance and sincere love for our brothers and sisters.
And let us ask Mary, our Blessed Mother, to help us in this time of Lent to hear again her Son’s call to conversion from our selfishness, our pride and our injustice.
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