Fasting is an important way to prepare ourselves to hear God’s message. Through spiritual fasting our focus is shifted from physical things so we can concentrate on God. Fasting requires self-control and helps us acknowledge that physical desires are secondary to spiritual needs.
Fasting empties our body and clears the mind to bring us closer to God. The purpose of spiritual fasting is not to earn God's favor. Instead, we fast in preparation, to gain a clearer understanding of our dependence upon God.
The New Testament teaches to practice fasting with a cheerful attitude. Also, fasting is not a public display of spirituality, it is between us and God. Jesus specifically instructed our fasting to be done privately and in humility, else we forfeit the benefits. (Matthew 6:16-18)
Without realizing it we all fast all the time. We prepare ourselves by doing without something, such as TV or sugar, as a way of helping us focus on an upcoming exams or getting our bodies ready for athletics.
By Christopher Hale. Executive director at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and the co-founder of Millennial.
Pope Francis’ Guide to Lent
Christians around the world mark the beginning of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. This ancient day and season has a surprising modern appeal. Priests and pastors often tell you that outside of Christmas, more people show up to church on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year—including Easter. But this mystique isn’t reserved for Christians alone. The customs that surround the season have a quality to them that transcend religion.
Perhaps most notable is the act of fasting. While Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during the Lenten season, many people—religious or not—take up this increasingly popular discipline during the year.
Pope Francis has asked us to reconsider the heart of this activity this Lenten season. According to Francis, fasting must never become superficial. He often quotes the early Christian mystic John Chrysostom who said: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”
But this isn’t to downplay the role of sacrifice during the Lenten season. Lent is a good time for penance and self-denial. But once again, Francis reminds us that these activities must truly enrich others: “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”
So, if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, Francis suggests that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others.
In his annual Lenten message, the pope writes, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”
Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalization of indifference, Francis writes that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” He continues that, “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”
But when we fast from this indifference, we can began to feast on love. In fact, Lent is the perfect time to learn how to love again. Jesus—the great protagonist of this holy season—certainly showed us the way. In him, God descends all the way down to bring everyone up. In his life and his ministry, no one is excluded.
“What are you giving up for Lent?” It’s a question a lot of people will get these next few days. If you want to change your body, perhaps alcohol and candy is the way to go. But if you want to change your heart, a harder fast is needed. This narrow road is gritty, but it isn’t sterile. It will make room in ourselves to experience a love that can make us whole and set us free.
Now that’s something worth fasting for!
Talents vs. Gifts
We are all blessed with God given talents such as math, sports or music. These talents are acknowledged by others and with hard work we improve the skills needed to live off that talent. Gifts of the Holy Spirit are also come from God but with intent. A gift will bring people closer to God by providing one or more of the Fruits of the Holy Spirit. The gift does not change us, it makes us the best version of who we are.
People may pay to watch a great music performance without coming closer to God. Yet every Sunday Tim, our music director, performs and I receive the Fruits of calm and patience with my kids. Tim has a Gift of the Holy Spirit that brings me in communion with God.
Symbols of the Holy Spirit
Water, To Cleanse or Refresh. The symbolism of water signifies the Holy Spirit's action in Baptism, it becomes the sign of new birth. As "by one Spirit we were all baptized," so we are also "made to drink of one Spirit." Thus the Spirit is also personally the living water welling up from Christ crucified as its source and welling up in us to eternal life.
Fire, Powerful Cleansing. While water signifies birth and the fruitfulness of life given in the Holy Spirit, fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit's actions. John the Baptist, proclaims Christ as the one who "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." In the form of tongues "as of fire," the Holy Spirit rests on the disciples on the morning of Pentecost and fills them with himself. Tradition has retained this symbolism of fire as one of the most expressive images of the Holy Spirit's actions.
Oil, Healing or Anointing. The symbolism of anointing with oil also signifies the Holy Spirit. In Christian initiation, anointing is the sacramental sign of Confirmation. Its full force can be grasped only in relation to the primary anointing accomplished by the Holy Spirit, that of Jesus. Christ (in Hebrew "messiah") means the one "anointed" by God's Spirit. The Spirit filled Christ and the power of the Spirit went out from him in his acts of healing and of saving.
Wind, Energy and Power. The original Hebrew and Greek words for “Spirit” can be translated as “wind.” The wind that appeared on Pentecost was reminiscent of the wind that blew over the waters at the beginning of Creation. The wind calls attention to the Holy Spirit breathing life into the Church. Although you cannot see wind, you can discern its presence by watching its effect on its surroundings (for example, trees moving). It is the same with the Holy Spirit.
The dove, Blessing and Gentleness. At the end of the flood, whose symbolism refers to Baptism, a dove released by Noah returns with a fresh olive-tree branch in its beak as a sign that the earth was again habitable. When Christ comes up from the water of his baptism, the Holy Spirit, in the form of a dove, comes down upon him and remains with him. The Spirit comes down and remains in the purified hearts of the baptized.
The New Testament begins with four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Our English word “gospel” translates the Greek term euangelion, meaning “good news.” Each gospel is a collection of writings presenting Jesus’ life, works, teachings, passion, and resurrection. For this exercise you will read the end of each gospel describing the burial and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
As a reminder: The readings are displayed as, Book (Chapter: first line – Chapter: last line)
Matthew (27:62 – 28:20), end of chapter 27 and all of chapter 28
Mark (15:42 – 16:18)
Luke (23:50 – 24:49)
John (19:38 – 20:29)
Please write a paragraph (6+ sentences) explaining what the four gospels had in common. Another paragraph (6+ sentences) talking about the unexpected things you learned from each Resurrection story.
Finally take 10 minutes in quiet meditation:
Church vs. church: a church (lowercase) is the place we worship, like St. Luke. The ‘Church’ encompasses every Catholic in the world, now over 1 Billion people.
Our Church is ‘apostolic’ meaning that the Jesus laid hands upon the apostles that began his ministry. The apostle St Paul laid hands on his successor and that man laid hands on the next. This happens over and over until the current apostolic succession of Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis. The entire 2,000 year history of succession is recorded in Church histories.
The Pope leads our Church with support of over 200 Cardinals and under them, many Archbishops. Bishops report to Archbishops. The Pope guides from the Vatican. Archbishops run each Archdiocese, containing several (3-10) Dioceses which are headed by a Bishop(s). Within each Diocese there are many Parishes, like St. Luke, run by a Pastor. Other priests serve in every level of the organization with over 1,000,000 priests in the world.
‘St. Luke Parish’ is part of the ‘Diocese of Phoenix’ within the ‘Archdiocese of Santa Fe’. Father Pawel works for Bishop Olmsed and Aux. Bishop Nevares. Our Bishops report to Archbishop John Charles Wester.
In the second chapter of Acts of the Apostles, St Luke wrote about the coming of the Holy Spirt on the followers of Jesus. This event takes place 10 days after the Ascension of Jesus during the Jewish feast of Pentecost. This marks the beginning of the Catholic Church’s mission to spread Jesus’ message of Love and Charity. While reading this account consider who this message was for.
There are many Fruits of the Holy Spirit. We experience these Fruits when the Holy Spirit acts through us or when someone filled with the Holy Spirit affects us. Prayer is good way to ask for the Fruits, quiet prayer helps us to recognize to Fruits we experience every day.
Define the following Fruits: Altruistic Love (charity), Joy, Peace, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control, and Patience.