The Vatican today released Pope Benedict XVI's Message for Lent 2009. The Vatican Press Service's Daily Bulletin also posted statements from Josette Sheeran (Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Program) and Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes (president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum") at the Press Conference for the release of the Holy Father's Message for Lent. Vatican Information Service has an article quoting portions of both of those statements.
Lent recalls Jesus' 40-day fast in the desert, mentioned in Matthew 4:1-2.
The Holy Father's Message encourages a rediscovery of the practice of fasting, especially during Lent. Here are a few excerpts from the Message:
"Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God. . . .
"By freely embracing an act of self-denial for the sake of another, we make a statement that our brother or sister in need is not a stranger. It is precisely to keep alive this welcoming and attentive attitude towards our brothers and sisters that I encourage the parishes and every other community to intensify in Lent the custom of private and communal fasts, joined to the reading of the Word of God, prayer and almsgiving. From the beginning, this has been the hallmark of the Christian community, in which special collections were taken up (cf. 2 Cor 8-9; Rm 15, 25-27), the faithful being invited to give to the poor what had been set aside from their fast (Didascalia Ap., V, 20,18). This practice needs to be rediscovered and encouraged again in our day, especially during the liturgical season of Lent. . . .
"May every family and Christian community use well this time of Lent, therefore, in order to cast aside all that distracts the spirit and grow in whatever nourishes the soul, moving it to love of God and neighbor. I am thinking especially of a greater commitment to prayer, lectio divina, recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and active participation in the Eucharist, especially the Holy Sunday Mass. With this interior disposition, let us enter the penitential spirit of Lent."