Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The season of Lent is here once again, and though it always manages to sneak up on us, it is never too late for us to seek the face of the LORD anew through His Son Jesus Christ. As Deacon Stomberg wisely reminded us at our Annual Meeting, we must not neglect this opportunity provided by the Church for spiritual discipline and renewal.

Since the days of the Early Church, the season of Lent provided a time when converts to the Faith were prepared for Holy Baptism; when those who were separated from the Body of the Faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness and restored to the Church; and all Christians reminded of their need to renew their repentance and faith.

We can consider Lent as a type of spiritual retreat. As with any retreat, we should want to “get away from it all” in order to clear our minds, rest, and return refreshed and ready to do the work we need to do. In Lent, this “getting away from it all” is accomplished through the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, which are designed not to burden us, but to free us from the clutter of life which clings so closely to us. By observing these disciplines even in small ways, we make room for the Holy Spirit to refresh us and prepare us anew for the work the Lord has given us to do.

Before starting his public ministry, Jesus retreated to the desert for forty days, where he was tempted by the devil (see Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus endured these temptations so that he could identify with our weaknesses, and he conquered them so that he could empower us to do the same through faith in him. When we thus embark on our Lenten journey, we are joined to a Savior who will carry us all the way to Easter Sunday, if we will let him.

Beloved, we are all in different ways weary and in need of renewal. Our hearts cry out with the Psalmist, as we pray in Psalm 51 on Ash Wednesday: “Give me the joy of your saving help again / and sustain me with your bountiful spirit” (Psalm 51:13). Our Lord knows our burdens, and he is inviting us once more to join him on this forty-day retreat: an invitation to a holy Lent. May we accept his invitation – refreshing our hearts through prayer and fasting, and allowing God to renew a right spirit within us – and so rediscover the joy of our salvation.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Elder Nathan

Image: Rafael, The Transfiguration (1516-1520), detail

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