Letter to Parishioners for Lent 2015

“One does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”  (Mt. 4:4b).

The liturgy for the First Sunday of Lent offers this verse for the Gradual before the Gospel, setting the tone for the entire Season of Lent.    Living by “bread alone” is the consistent temptation which we all struggle with.   But what does it mean to say that we do not “live by bread alone”?   What is this “bread” which the Lord reminds us that we do not solely depend on?   The first temptation the devil used against the Lord in the desert was to end his fast in order to eat, to command rock to become bread for food.   This temptation is symbolic of our exaggerated desire for pleasures or passions.   St. Thomas Aquinas referred to these temptations as the disordered appetites.  How often does our succumbing to these desires (food, drink, sleep, sex) in a disordered way bring nothing but pain and chaos into our life?   They are disordered when they are allowed to dominate our will, when they are abused, and when they are misused.    The Lord recognizes that we have needs, which is why he doesn’t reject the “bread” but we are not sustained by “bread alone”.      We are created with a rational will; this means we are created with a rational soul, with intellect which ought to moderate these desires.    We don’t live off raw instincts, but instincts guided by reason.    

Lent affords us the opportunity to discipline ourselves in order to overcome and master our desires.   This is why it is very important for us to do penance during this season.   Penance helps to train the will, to teach it self-control and moderation.   A customary practice of Catholics is to “give up” something during Lent.   This means to offer as a sacrifice a luxury that we deny ourselves, something usually connected with these disordered pleasures.    We have often heard that we can substitute penance with prayer or a spiritual practice.    While prayer is also a pillar of Lent and a necessary component, it doesn’t eliminate the need for us to deny ourselves of a pleasure or a good.    All of us experience weakness when it comes to our appetites; all of us need to make a corrective, to practice self-control.    I strongly encourage you to take up a challenging penance for Lent, one that will help you overcome your temptations.   There is no need to be ashamed of our struggles against alcohol or lustful desires, our struggles against laziness and irresponsibility, or our weaknesses when it comes to food or other pleasures.    Shame only keeps us from confronting these temptations and cooperating with God’s gift of grace.   That is why now is the time to begin to conquer our sinfulness and not live by “bread alone.”

The Lord redirects our wants, our needs and desires to “every Word that comes from the mouth of God.”   This is the one need that can never fully be satisfied.   What a wonderful opportunity for us to focus our prayer, our spiritual practices and devotions on the Word of God.   I recommend for your Lenten observance this year that you to read your Bible during Lent, focusing on one book and reading it purposefully.   Time spent on reading the Word of God is time savoring the delights from the Lord.    For Lent this year make a commitment to read a little from your Bible every day.    Open your hearts to every word you read, they are alive and have the power to change, transform, instruct and admonish us.   God desires to speak to us.  Give him some of your time, it will never be time wasted.  

During this most holy season, I will be praying for you that the Lord to do his good work in you.    Allow this to be a powerful season for you, where through the healing word of God you can overcome your weaknesses and conquer sin.    May the Lord guide us as we begin our journey of Lent together.  

Fr. Vasquez



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