So what's this all about, anyway? In preparing for Lent, which began shortly after Christmas, there are countless resources and ideas to enrich the season. With my new responsibilities as Director of Religious Education, we were looking over activities and ideas for the young people. Needless to say, combining the adult ideas with the youth ideas can be quite overwhelming. There are unique emphases from both perspectives. There are many ways to engage a number of our human senses. There are countless approaches to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
In short, with all the materials available, there must be a deeper reason for the season. After all, we journey through these 40 days which lead up to Easter. No other season in the liturgical year has as many resources to enhance what we do. So, as we come to this first Sunday of Lent, its worthwhile taking a few moments to consider the core of Lent.
Ultimately, we desire to prepare well to receive the graces while celebrating the Lord's Resurrection at Easter time. There is a reason Holy Week holds that title. Beginning on Palm Sunday, we immerse ourselves into the holiest week of our Christian calendar. Then, we begin the Holy Triduum on Holy Thursday night, transitioning to the observance of Good Friday and then awaiting the memorializing of the empty tomb on Holy Saturday evening. Our local Triduum will be hosted at the Church of Saint Boniface this year; I strongly encourage you to participate in as much of Holy Week and the Triduum as humanly possible. More and more people have experienced deepening conversion by experiencing the Church's liturgy in their entirety during the days of Holy Week and the Holy Triduum.
So that is where we are going. What do we do until we get there? A major part of our preparation is joining ourselves spiritually with the journey Jesus experienced in the desert for 40 days. He withdrew there for some moments of prayer to unify Himself with the heart of God, the Father. Further, his sacrifices were countless during those 40 days, but He had the assurance that God was giving Him strength as He faced many trials and temptations. Within his sacrifices and withdrawal, He only had God to rely upon, and God became an even greater strength for Him. That deep relationship with God is also ours according to how we approach our personal 40 days of Lent.
Our consideration during Lent continues to be a reflection about how much we rely upon God rather than our own strength and will. Our reliance upon God is sometimes reflected in the personal sacrifices we make during these 40 days. In our prayer, are we really praying in a way which unites us closer to the heart of the Father? Or, are we choosing to read through materials just so we can feel good about making it through a Lenten resource? In our fasting, are we avoiding taking substances into our bodies because they really cause us to rely upon God, including fasting from electronic devices of many kinds? Or, are we casually approaching our fasting in a way that will help us shed a few pounds before we shed layers of clothes during the upcoming days of Spring? In our almsgiving, are we making prayerful consideration about people less fortunate than we are and making financial sacrifices which reflect our painful generosity to assist them? Or, are we just offering some pocket change, if anything, during these 40 days in hopes that our small offerings make us feel just a little better as if we satisfied some lightobligation?
I conclude with some words from the ORDO, the reference book we use as a guide for liturgies throughout each calendar year. These words are from Mark Searle, "The Spirit of Lent." "The messages of scripture throughout Lent are about being called to a life of Gospel conversion." Lent is a time of "beginning anew, of fasting, prayer and almsgiving; of conversion, of mutual forgiveness; of hardness of heart; of love of enemies; of absolute claims of justice and love over ritual and cult; of the call to holiness." Lent brings compunction – "its etymology related to the verb 'to puncture' and suggest the deflation of our inflated egos, a challenge to any self-deceit about the quality of our lives as disciples of Jesus. By hitting us again and again with demands which we not only fail to obey, but which we come to recognize as being quite beyond us, the Gospel passages are meant to trouble us, to confront our illusions about ourselves. Confronted with our sickness and powerlessness, we pray for oursalvation." Remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return!BACK TO LIST