A Lenten Reflection from Cardinal Tobin

What does Lent mean today? Is it just about giving up something you love, such as sweets or social media, or taking up something extra, like helping out more at home or a food pantry?

Pope Francis reminds us that Lent is far more than mere abstinence. It’s an invitation to embark on a journey of personal and communal renewal, guiding us toward the profound mystery of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. This sacred season beckons us into a synodal experience, calling the entire Church to prayerful contemplation and discernment of God’s will.

Our Catholic faith provides us with this unique penitential season to prepare us for the joy of Easter.

On Ash Wednesday, as we receive ashes, the Church echoes the words of St. Paul found in Corinthians: “Now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Ash Wednesday is significant because it begins our Lenten journey with a hint of where we are going and what we need to walk there. Faith is not instant tapioca; it needs time to mature and deepen. That is why we have 40 days to listen each day to the Word of God, to try to reconnect ourselves with God through the sacrament of reconciliation and daily prayer, to reconnect with our brothers and sisters, especially those who don’t look or act like us – recognizing that we’re called to love them as well; and finally, to reconnect with ourselves, to glimpse what God sees us and not simply what stares back at us in the mirror.

A deeper relationship with God isn’t a distant promise; it’s a present possibility. Our love for God and God’s People deepens each day as we journey together towards the celebration of the mystery of our Redeemer’s suffering, death, and resurrection.

In reclaiming our synodal identity as a Church, we recognize ourselves as a community journeying together in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit. Through the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we expand our communion with God and commit ourselves anew to living not for ourselves but for others.

Synodality isn’t merely a Lenten virtue but a fundamental way of being Church as well as a pathway leading us to the joy of Easter. Pope Francis likes to say that no one is saved alone. Salvation is not simply an individual pursuit; it’s a communal journey. We walk side by side, listening and learning from one another, sharing each other’s burdens and rejoicing in the hope of what lies ahead.

Let us embrace this Lent as a time to recognize and affirm our synodal identity as people guided by the Holy Spirit. Let us earnestly seek the gifts of the Spirit and strengthen ourselves for the journey towards Easter joy.

“Now is the day of salvation.” May our daily observance of Lent sustain us to walk the road ahead as a united and sanctified people of God.

I wish everyone in the Archdiocese of Newark and beyond “happy travels.” Let’s walk together.