With the season of Lent only hours away, many of us cannot help but think, here we go again. Forty days without coffee or chocolate. Forty days of no social media. Forty days of interruption to our normal lives. Forty days of being reminded that we are sinners and that we need to repent. Sadly, if we enter this season with this attitude, it will indeed become burdensome.
Perhaps this year we can commit to entering and traveling through Lent with a new attitude. This year we should enter Lent intentionally grasping at every opportunity this season has to offer. Maybe this year, instead of just doing what we have always done, we can be more deliberate in the sacrifices that we make and the disciplines we appropriate.
As a reminder: Lent is a season of fasting and feasting. We fast from those things that interfere, or worse yet, destroy our relationship with God. We fast from those ideas, people, things, habits, that tend to get in the way of our pursuit of holiness. Like any good nutritionist would tell us, we feast on those things that restore health to our souls, that bring healing to our lives, that help us to be reconciled to neighbor and God. We feast on those things that help us to restore the extraordinariness that was ours at creation.
So, you might be asking yourself, just what are these opportunities that this season offers us? Lent is a journey through the desert. In the calm and quiet of the desert, we can take the opportunity to get a handle on the chaos that is our lives. We can use this season of preparation to remove the debris of the storms of our lives and to uncover the fertile soil that is our faith. The sacrament of reconciliation, letting go of grudges, seeking forgiveness of others, being forgiving, are all ways in which we can reach good soil.
We can add to the soil of our faith that which makes it fertile and fruitful. The fertilizers of prayer, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and daily Mass enrich our faith. Deliberate acts of charity, feeding the hungry, comforting the anxious, visiting the lonely, boost our faith and reveal the love of Jesus that we, his followers, are commissioned to reveal.
I hope you noticed the garden analogy in the previous paragraphs. If that doesn’t work, think of the season of Lent as a blank canvas and the colors of the palette, the opportunities to create a masterpiece. This season, a new year of sorts, challenges us to look over our lives and honestly and humbly acknowledge that perhaps we have not done all we can to be holy. It is an opportunity to ask for an abundance of God’s grace, to become more dependent on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to follow more closely the teaching of Jesus. If this is the new attitude with which we enter Lent, the boredom of “been there, done that” may be replaced with joy and hope. Joy that we are drawing closer to Jesus and hope that we will share abundantly in the victory of Easter.
Finally, this year, I would like to encourage families to “do” Lent together. Begin by discussing what opportunities Lent is offering to your family. More time together, a time of prayer each day, meals together, attending Mass as a family. Perhaps as a family there can be a fasting from television and a feasting on reading or game time. Everything I read tells me that families that pray together, have meals together, go to church together are happier and more prone to stay together. These forty days may very well be just what our families need.
By: Father Wilfred Labbe, pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Limerick and St. Thérèse of Lisieux Parish in Sanford.