Lent in the Holy Land

Message from the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem

  1. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt 4, 17).  Repent for your sins and for the evil that is in you so that you might become capable of entering the kingdom of heaven, of seeing God, hisProvidence and his love, and of finding joy in doing his will.  Only then will you be able to pray as Our Lord taught us to d “Our Father, who art in heaven, thy kingdom come; thy will be done.”

To fast is to submit one’s body and will to an exercise whose purpose is to free us from compulsion and slavery. We know from St. Paul’s experience that the spiritual life is a struggle: “I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; the desire to do right is there but not the power.  What happens is that I do, not the good I will to do, but the evil I do not intend. […]  My inner self agrees with the law of God, but I see in my body’s members another law at war with the law of my mind; this makes me the prisoner of the law of sin in my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who can free me from this body under the power of death?” (Rom 7, 18-19, 22-24).  The Lord said to him: “My grace is enough for you” (2 Cor 12, 9).  God also says the same thing to us.  Through fasting, and by God’s grace that never abandons us, we want to become free, capable of living according to the spirit and of doing the good we want to do

  1. Fasting and almsgiving go together.  Fasting exercises our body and soul and renews our energies toward good.  Almsgiving directs these energies toward our neighbor whom we love because he/she is the image of God.  Almsgiving is therefore our communion with all human beings within our society or the world, especially with the lonely, the abandoned and the suffering.  At the present time, Lent (fasting and almsgiving) puts us in communion before God with the victims of the earthquakes and the tsunamis that have recently taken place on the two continents of Asia and Africa.  It puts us in communion with the victims of incurable diseases.  It puts us in communion with the victims of the injustices imposed by human beings on their brothers and sisters in the name of national interest, or in the name of pure violence as the only road to peace.  It also puts us in communion with all resistance to all oppression and to all occupation, like the one taking place in our Holy Land, an occupation that profanes and demolishes Palestinian human beings by depriving them of their freedom and Israeli human beings by depriving them of their security and of their ability to do what is right.
  2. We are witnessing today, in our daily life of conflict and of occupation in our Holy Land, a renewed effort toward justice and reason.  We are also witnessing a renewed involvement of the international community.  We thank God for this.  We ask him to strengthen the leaders in their new visions.

Fasting is also needed in politics, a fasting that allows those who hold power to purify their intentions and their individual or national egoisms, a fasting that allows these leaders to see and understand not only that they are mandated to serve and save but also that all human beings, in all nations, are also created and loved by God.  They are not divided into two camps, the good and the bad, the strong and the weak.  All have received their dignity from God, and all are called to enjoy the same freedom and the same security.

  1. May our fasting sanctify and purify our souls so that we might be counted among the “pure of heart who see God, who see him in every brother and sister beyond the barriers of religion, nationality, or geography.  Then, with all our brothers and sisters throughout the world, we will know how to pray as the Lord taught us to d “Our Father, who art in heaven, may your kingdom come; may your will be done.”

Michel Sabbah, Patriarch