March 1 is the First Sunday of Lent (Liturgical Year B, Cycle I). Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman Curia begin their spiritual exercises at 6 p.m. in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel of the Apostolic Palace. The annual retreat lasts until March 7.


Papal Advice

“He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and afterwards he was hungry.”

That’s the title of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2009 Lenten Message.

The Holy Father traces, in his thorough way, the history of fasting — all the way back to the fasting from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His conclusion: “The true fast is thus directed to eating the ‘true food,’ which is to do the Father’s will.”

Says Benedict, fasting is “a ‘therapy’ to heal all that prevents them from conformity to the will of God.”

“At the same time, fasting is an aid to open our eyes to the situation in which so many of our brothers and sisters live,” he says, and calls us to almsgiving.


Family

NCRegister.com is the Register’s online presence. Click “Resources” at the top to find the full Lenten Guide.

What to give up?

From our Lenten Guide:


Fasting

• Fast with one full meal, no snacks, one day a week.

• Skip meat an extra day (or two) a week.

• Give up alcoholic beverages.

• Give up coffee (or reduce to one cup a day).

• Give up all desserts.

• Give up all unnecessary shopping.

• Fast from music in the car.


Prayer

• Begin (or begin again) the daily Rosary.

• Meditate for 10 minutes a day. (Daily meditations can be found at Catholic.net.)

n Choose one extra devotion per week during Lent: Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic adoration or a weekday Mass.


Almsgiving/Charity

• Visit a nursing home with your children.

• Forgive someone and patch things up in a visit, or, if necessary, by phone or letter.

• Give up gossip, judging or profanity.

• Say a kind word to everyone you meet.

• Pay a significant compliment to each of your children every day.

• Visit an elderly friend or relative.

• Save up a significant amount of money for a deserving charity or apostolate.


For Young People

• Do chores without complaining.

• Restrict your TV, Internet or music time.

• Restrict your phone time.

• Send a letter or picture to a grandmother, aunt or godparent.

• Make a new friend outside your “crowd.”

• Be a friend to a shy person.

• Give up that bad place, person or thing.

• Choose a favorite toy, book or piece of clothing and put it away until Easter.


Readings

Genesis 9:8-15; Psalms 25:4-9; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15

EPriest.com offers free homily packs for priests.


Our Take

Today’s Gospel has none of the drama and interest of the other First Sunday in Lent readings. Instead, it is stripped down to the bare essentials.

1. The Spirit drove Christ into the desert. He didn’t go himself — he was prompted. The Church performs that function for us.

2. He fasted and was tempted by Satan among wild beasts while angels ministered to him. This is the world we live in: We are in a wild kind of place, but with a supernatural help.

3. After the 40 days, John was arrested and Jesus began his ministry. We should live our 40 days in such a way that they don’t exhaust us but prepare us to do more when they are done.