There is much food for reflection in the Holy Father’s Message for Lent 2012.

A few snippets …

The Servant of God Pope Paul VI stated that the world today is suffering above all from a lack of brotherhood: “Human society is sorely ill. The cause is not so much the depletion of natural resources, nor their monopolistic control by a privileged few; it is rather the weakening of brotherly ties between individuals and nations” (Populorum Progressio, 66).

Concern for others entails desiring what is good for them from every point of view: physical, moral and spiritual.

We should never be incapable of “showing mercy” towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor.

“Being concerned for each other” also entails being concerned for their spiritual well-being. Here I would like to mention an aspect of the Christian life, which I believe has been quite forgotten: fraternal correction in view of eternal salvation. Today, in general, we are very sensitive to the idea of charity and caring about the physical and material well-being of others, but almost completely silent about our spiritual responsibility towards our brothers and sisters.

Here we touch upon a profound aspect of communion: our existence is related to that of others, for better or for worse. Both our sins and our acts of love have a social dimension.

The time granted us in this life is precious for discerning and performing good works in the love of God.

The spiritual masters remind us that in the life of faith those who do not advance inevitably regress.

… and much more!  Read the whole message here.

Perhaps you might print the whole message out and read it prayerfully when you would normally be eating lunch on Ash Wednesday.

Don’t forget: this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and it is a day of FAST and ABSTINENCE (no meat).  Ash Wednesday and Good Friday should be observed as days of true penance.

From the Canadian OrdoPrivileged forms of penance are to be recommended to the faithful, especially during Lent.  These forms are privileged because they are based on the teaching of the gospels (fasting, almsgiving, prayer, works of mercy) or because of their traditional value among the people of God (abstinence from meat).

Christian fasting obtains its full meaning when we deprive ourselves of food in order to be more open for prayer, to share more in the suffering of those who are starving and to save money to give to the poor.  Fasting among Christians is a penitential discipline intended to open our hearts to God and others, a means of purification and spiritual liberation, a witness of the depth of our faith.

The law of abstinence from meat binds those who are 14 and older; the law of fasting binds those from 18 to 59 years of age.  Parents and educators are reminded of their duty to introduce children gradually to the understanding and practice of penance.  Adult example will be the greatest influence in this matter.

Whilst fasting and abstinence are only strictly binding on some, nothing prevents those older or younger from voluntarily undertaking these forms of penance if they are able to.