Lent is nothing other than the preparation for the beautiful feast of Easter. Before becoming partakers in the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we must be partakers in His Passion, in His Redemption, in His Sacrifice.
Lent is undoubtedly a time of penance. Therefore, we must make some efforts to deny ourselves usual satisfactions - in eating, drinking and the like. It is good to deny ourselves in these things in order to attach ourselves more to spiritual goods, forgetting temporal goods in order to elevate ourselves towards the eternal ones.
But God is more pleased by our observance of His Commandments than by our penances. God created us to be with Him one day. The way that leads us to Him through the years that we have to spend here below is set out by His Law. His Law is, in fact, nothing other than a series of road signs which Our Lord has placed along the way of our earthly life to lead us towards Heaven so that we may attain to its bliss.
What, then, are these Commandments of God? Our Lord Himself took care to remind us of them and St Paul repeats them too. They consist in loving God and loving our neighbour.
All the Commandments of God are summed up in this. In the very measure in which we love God and our neighbour and put this love into practice in our daily lives we are walking peacefully towards the happiness of Heaven.
How can we show our love for God in a particular way? I think that the most profound, the most essential way to do this is to pray. Our catechism has taught us all how to pray. I am speaking of the little catechism of old, since today’s catechisms have distorted everything and teach nothing clearly. We shall stay with the good definition of the old catechisms: prayer is an elevation of the mind to God.
It is simple, it is short, but it is much - to elevate the mind to God. I think that if we would put this definition of prayer more into practice, and elevate our minds to God, we should indeed be less attached to the goods of this earth and more attached to God Himself and goods of Heaven.
[…] I beseech you, during this Lent, to put yourselves into the hands of the Good Lord, to forget the things of this world in order to attach yourselves to Him. This is the first advice I shall give you: fulfil the Law of God, Who asks us to love Him.
The first tablet of the Law of Moses bore the three Commandments which relate directly to God. The second tablet shows us the laws of fraternal charity. How can we show our love for our neighbour? Undoubtedly we show it in the services we render [him ...] but we could also ask ourselves where we most frequently fail to love our neighbour.
[...] Let us make an effort to practise charity in our words and by this very fact charity in our thoughts. Thus let us avoid rash judgments, detractions, and calumnies, which are so easy and sometimes so tempting in our conversations. Unfortunately, some love to criticise this or that, dividing rather than uniting, rather than practising charity. Let us make efforts to show the love we have for our neighbour by striving to avoid detractions and calumnies - all the sins of the tongue. Such is, my dear brethren, the advice I deem good to give at the beginning of this Lent. †
[Archbishop’s last sermon, May 1990]