The season of Lent is a journey of 40 days. It has a beginning, Ash Wednesday and an ending, Easter. Jesus had His own journey of 40 days which prepared Him well for His ministry and ultimately for His Passion, Death and Resurrection. May the Lenten journey of 2017 prepare us for life in Christ.
Pope Francis writes in his Message for Lent 2017 “May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion.” To achieve this goal we need to bring on the journey a resolve to pray more; a commitment to really deny ourselves and a desire to better practice charity. The Holy Father reminds us that “Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the church: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.”
More prayer convinces us that God is close and that we are loved by Him. Self-denial reminds us that we have a destiny beyond this life and that we need to depend more on God and less on self. Charity makes us see beyond ourselves to others, especially the poor, the needy and the suffering and to see them as our sisters and brothers.
The Holy Father’s Lenten Message focuses on the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). I suggest that you read this Scripture each week during the Lenten journey and allow the Word of God like a two-edged sword to penetrate you. It teaches about opening our eyes to see those in need around us; it counsels us to use all that is available to heed God’s word and grow in God’s love.
Lent is an Anglo Saxon root word that means spring. As the season of spring is about the budding forth of new life so too in Lent new life can bud forth from us. A particular way to welcome this new life is for each of us to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Those who regularly confess their sins know the power the Sacrament of Penance has to ease the weight of our sins on anxious minds and eternal souls. For those who fear the intimacy of the confessional, think of it as a safe place to unburden yourself and to receive counsel from someone whose only goal is to help you find true happiness in this life until you can enter the Kingdom of God.
New growth is also encouraged through the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that characterize the Lenten season. All of us can do more prayer. Invest extra time. Get up earlier. Sit quietly with the Lord. Get to Mass during the week, participate in Eucharistic adoration or the Stations of the Cross. The same goes for fasting. We have plenty. Even too much. To deprive ourselves can lead to greater dependence on God. Perhaps you can consider attending one of the simple Lenten meals offered in our parishes. Charity forces us to not ignore those who have less. With them Christ Himself identified. May our practice of charity help us to see Him in the poor, suffering, and needy who benefit from our charity.
Lent is a call to be better Christians for ourselves, our families and our communities. May this journey of Lent 2017 be successful for each of us. May we be renewed and grow in Christ as we travel these 40 days.