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"Through the two-fold theme of repentance and baptism, the season of Lent disposes both the catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery [the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ]. Catechumens are led to the sacraments of initiation [Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist] by means of the rite of election, the scrutiny's, and catechesis. The faithful, listening more intently to the word of God and devoting themselves to prayer, are prepared through a spirit of repentance to renew their baptismal promises" (Ceremonial of Bishops, no. 249; see also General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, no. 27).
Fasting is to be observed by all 18 years old of age and older, who have not yet celebrated their 59th birthday. On a fast day one full meal is allowed. Two other meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs, but together they should not equal another full meal. Eating between meals is not permitted, but liquids, including milk and juices, are allowed. Fasting is observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
Abstinence is observed by all 14 years of age and older. On days of abstinence no meat is allowed. Note that when health or ability to work would be seriously affected, the law does not oblige. When in doubt concerning fast and abstinence, the parish priest should be consulted.
Key words and phrases: sinners repent, cut it down, I shall cultivate … and fertilize it, may bear fruit
To the point: The owner of the fig tree only cares about whether the tree bears fruit—he has no regard for the tree and its life. The gardener, on the other hand, cares about the fig tree, sees the life still there, and wants to give it every chance (“I shall cultivate … and fertilize it”) to produce. He understands that as long as there’s life, there’s potential to bear fruit. What wastes away life within us and prevents us from bearing fruit is sin. Repentance, then, means choosing to nurture new life and all the fullness it can bring.
To the First Reading: Paul, like Jesus, offers examples from Israel’s history as a “warning to us” (Second Reading) not to stray from God’s guidance. God offered every means for coming to new life to the people of Israel; so, too, Jesus offers us every means for coming to new and fruitful life (“I shall cultivate the ground ... and fertilize it”).
To Experience: Growing up takes hard work. Getting ahead in life takes hard work. Deepening our relationship with God and others takes hard work. It is no surprise, then, that repenting takes hard work. The discipline of Lent includes this kind of hard-work repentance which leads to the new life Easter promises.