Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." These words of Jesus as we heard in today’s gospel reading from the gospel of Saint Mark 1:12-15 launches us into the season of Lent. Lent is a 40 day season that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. It's a period of preparation to celebrate the Lord's Resurrection at Easter. During Lent, we are invited by the Catholic Church to seek the Lord in prayer; to serve the Lord by giving alms; and to practice self-control as Christians through fasting. These threefold program is very essential in helping us heed the words of Jesus in today’s gospel when He said, "Repent and believe in the gospel." So how can we let these threefold practices bring us closer to God this Lenten season? We are called to seek the Lord in PRAYER. Of course many, if not all of us pray, but we have turned our prayer lives to empty rituals with no spiritual significance as we just recite the words. This Lenten season, let us pray and communicate to God from or with our hearts by inculcating prayers of Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and not just Supplicatory prayers. Since prayer brings us closer to God, let us compose and prepare ourselves well by placing ourselves in the presence of God both physically and mentally to make God ever present in our midst as we speak to Him. Let us also pray for others and other needs in our world not only for ourselves.

The Lenten season call us to serve God better by GIVING ALMS. Almsgiving is not just about giving out money to those in need, but entails giving out our time and energy in helping or assisting others who need our assistance. It even entails being there for the lonely, praying for those who have no one praying for them, being hospitable to those we encounter, reaching out to those in need of help or facing the loss of a dear one etc.

We are also called to practice self-control as Christians through FASTING. Fasting is not just staying away from food or pushing away goodies at the table, it should be a detachment of the heart from doing away with things that we believe are necessary in our daily living. We can fast from gossiping, speaking ill about others, from watching our favorite TV shows or reading our favorite books or magazines.

My brothers and sisters, during Lenten season let us seek the Lord in prayer; let us serve our Lord by giving alms; and let us continue to practice self-control as Christians through fasting. Amen.