Pastoral Letter on Lent 2014
Ho Chi Minh City
To: Brothers Priests, Clergy,
Men and Women Religious,
the Laity of the Diocesan Family
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Ash Wednesday ushers the whole Church into the Season of Lent as she prayed, “Dear God, today we are fasting as we enter into the observance of Lent through spiritual practice. Please help us to live an austere life and to overcome evil spirits.
Thus, Lent is the season of spiritual battle against the evil spirit, to overcome the old man and to become the new man in the image of the risen Christ.
1. To be able to win this spiritual battle, one must clearly see and ponder what is our spiritual condition and what are the means to apply for the appropriate training so as to enhance spiritual strength.
In his 2014 Lenten message, Pope Francis said there are three miserable forms of human life. First is material poverty, living in conditions unworthy of human dignity and lack of basic needs such as food, water, jobs. Second is moral misery. It is the slavery of sin and bad habits like drug addiction, alcoholism, gambling and carnal passion. Third is the spiritual impoverishment when we reject God’s offer of love and lead our life separate from God.
We are lucky then that we are not living in poor situations, but we do live in the miserable condition morally or spiritually. It is because we are enslaved with sin and evil passions. Each person needs sincerity to explore and to recognize the state of his soul before God. If you are patient, you would understand clearly how to treat and uplift others in their misery and become their strength in weak moments.
2. To help us practice the spiritual life of fasting, prayer and corporal works of mercy,(charity work) a long tradition in the Church.
Fasting is not simply fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday but includes self-discipline and self-denial by getting rid of vices, reducing arrogance and pride, thereby allowing oneself to become closer to God.
Prayer is the lifting up of our hearts to God, to see things in His light and to think according to His mind so that we become more like Him and belongs to God in its fullness.
Charity work help us to reach out for others, to be considerate of others’ needs, to be sensitive to the suffering of others and to help them, in imitation of Jesus who is poor, but poverty has become for us, so that by His poverty we might become rich ( cf. 2 Cor 8.9 ).
3. We live by the Gospel - Family Life and Culture. Hence, we are summoned to let the spirit of the Gospel permeates in our being and family life. Therefore, we are called to live the spirit of fasting, prayer and charity within the Family of God.
Family life fasting would mean restraining words and impatient gestures that would caused discord and division. Instead, one must be gentle and friendly as St. Paul has admonished: "You do not ever uttered venomous, but if necessary, speak good words, avoid anger, slander or violent temper and exclude all acts of wickedness " (Ephesians 4.29 to 32).
Family prayer is spending time each day praying with in the household. . In prayer, we offer praise and thanksgiving to God for all the blessings received. Listen to the Word of God so as to enlighten and guide our way of life. Let us earnestly ask God to comfort the suffering, uplift us during hard times, and be at peace in every circumstance. The Family that prays in this spirit unites them with God, but also with the people that are associated with them too.
The Catholic family doing charity work. Firstly, charity must begin at home: "Be kind to one another, be merciful and be forgiving to one another, as God has forgiven you in Christ" ( Eph 4:32 ).
However, charity should go outside the family framework. It has to abound in the network of relationships; to our brothers and sisters who are living in poverty, deprivation, or are facing great challenges. Faced with these realities, Pope Francis reminds us: " Where the poor and the suffering are, we see the face of Christ, if we love and help the poor, we love and serve Christ Himself. We must also attempt to stop the violation of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world because this is often the pretext to create misery " (Message for Lent 2014).
My dear Brothers and sisters, through the intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, we pray to God the Father who is rich in mercy that He always keep your family in His love.
In this season of Lent 2014, I wish that it will become a golden opportunity for all of us to live and deepen our spirituality of fasting, prayer and love. May it penetrates and permeates in every Home Life. Thus we may become witnesses of the love and mercy of God to everyone around us.
Translator: Sr Fenecia