As the Church moves ever closer to the start of the season of Lent, today she pauses on the threshold of the great fast, to provide an opportunity for recollection and final preparation for the coming penance, and a chance for each of us to ensure that our hearts are truly ready to enter into the forty days and forty nights that help to purify us for the celebration of the Paschal feast.
In a most practical way, these Sundays of Pre-Lent, marking as they do seventy, sixty, and fifty days before Easter, act (to use an image of Blessed Pope Paul VI) as the bells of a church tower, calling us to the sacred mysteries some thirty, fifteen, and five minutes before the Mass. Today, the same urgency and anticipation that we experience (please God) each time we come to worship the Lord in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is applied to our spiritual preparation for Lent. We have had three weeks to shift from the comfort of our normal pattern of life—our lukewarmness and our hardness of heart—and to be poised, as an athlete at the starting line, to run the race that is set before us (cf. Heb. 12:1).