Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
In the second reading for Ash Wednesday, St. Paul reminds us that we are “ambassadors for Christ.” As the baptized, announcing the Good News by our words and actions is our privilege and our responsibility. However, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we have not always lived the Good News with clarity — either as individuals or as a church community.
Therefore, the church asks us to journey into the deserts of our own hearts and, by our prayer, fasting and almsgiving, to open ourselves to God’s grace so we can once again say “yes” to our baptism at Easter. At the same time, our Lenten observances are not undertaken for ourselves alone, but in communion with and in support of our catechumens as they prepare for their death and rebirth in the Easter waters.
Our fasting, almsgiving and prayer also proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and give testimony that we are called to gratitude for the many gifts we have received.
In regards to fasting and abstinence, please allow me to remind you of our Lenten discipline:
• Everyone 14 years of age or older is bound to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 25, 2009) and all the Fridays of Lent.
• Everyone 18 years of age and under 59 years of age is bound to fast on Ash Wednesday (Feb. 25, 2009) and Good Friday (April 10, 2009).
On these two days of fast and abstinence, only one full meal is allowed. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal one full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids (including milk and fruit juices) are allowed. When health or ability to work would be seriously affected, the law does not oblige.
To disregard completely the law of fast and abstinence is a serious matter.
Remembering that Lent also calls us to serve the poor and the suffering, I would like to encourage everyone to take part in the Rice Bowl Program sponsored by Catholic Relief Services. Through study and reflection and through our almsgiving, the Rice Bowl Program offers an intentional way for us to join in solidarity with our sisters and brothers around the world.
Finally, I would ask all of us to remember the many people around the world who are in need of our prayers. In particular, please keep in prayer those who are suffering in this economic climate and those who live under the shadow of violence and the denial of basic human rights, especially the right to life.
May our Lenten journeys be grace-filled; may we renew our Easter promises with renewed hope and faith at the end of our 40 days.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev. Martin Amos
Bishop of Davenport