Lent Is An Opportunity

The unseasonably wonderful weather we’ve been having these last few weeks makes me hopeful that spring is on its way. It also makes it easy for me to believe that it’s already very near to Lent, and therefore, closer to Easter. In just a few days, Lent will begin. It’s a season that I have looked forward to every year, since returning to the Church in 2004. I look forward to the massive overindulgence of Fat Tuesday, the solemn ritual of Ash Wednesday, the comforting simplicity that comes from giving up and giving in to God’s presence in our lives.

Beyond my fondness for the outward signs of the season, however, lies something deeper. I am reminded that I need to put in the work to be a disciple of Jesus. I am a sinner. I always have been. I likely always will be. Despite knowing this is true, it is easy to forget two very important things. First of all, from time to time, I need to be reminded of my own limitations and shortcomings, and secondly, I am not the only one who needs this reminder. There is no place in our calendar where it’s more apparent that God’s love for us is without end and without reservation than Lent and Easter. God, in infinite wisdom, knows that we all fall away from the love of Christ in the moments of our daily lives. God, in infinite love, offers us time and opportunity to live as we are created to be, again and again and again. We are given a great number of ways to purify ourselves of them in beautiful and special ways.

Our liturgies, parish bulletin, Facebook page and website are bursting with these opportunities. And at the end of it all, the gift of Holy Week and Resurrection are waiting for us. The purpose of Lent is not punishment. Its purpose is to prepare us for Easter. We are made more ready for Resurrection. This time is about more than “giving something up.” Abstaining from something, say ice cream, without recognizing the reason for doing so is as hollow as a bargain chocolate bunny. We should ask ourselves, “Why have I given up ice cream?” Is it because we turn to it in times of stress instead of turning to God? Do we wish for a deeper solidarity with the poor of God’s children? We may decide that giving up ice cream is not enough. How much of ourselves would we relinquish if we really believed that reducing our own consumption would leave more for the rest of the world?

Lent is also an invitation from God to spend more time in His presence. It’s an opportunity to open our hearts more fully to what it is He calls us to be and to do in His name. Our loved ones receive tremendous attention from us on their special days. Lent is the season to pay special attention to God. Our lives become so overloaded with tasks. We become obsessively task oriented. One of the gifts of Lent is that we have a wonderful excuse for making time for Jesus. Most of the year, it is incredibly difficult to carve out real time to set aside all our worldly comforts, joys and responsibilities. During Lent, there’s a sense that that’s exactly what we should do, so we can, with relatively little guilt. This is why every year during Lent, I spend a weekend on silent retreat, and I don’t feel like I’ve shorted my work, my family or my friends. Periods of silent reflection, prayer, both alone and in community, and going to confession all allow me to sink more fully into Jesus Christ. What was surprising to me was the humility I walked away with. God lovingly reminds me that the world functions without me. The parish was just fine when I returned on Monday morning, my children were well taken care of and happy, my husband did not tear his hair out in my absence. God is often subtle, but always clever.

Whether you can attend a retreat or not, it’s vital that we hold the retreat experience in our lives. We can make a very conscious effort to create small holy moments in our daily lives. This is something each of us can, and should, do regardless of what our obligations may be. Can you extend your own daily prayer time by including daily reflection specific to Lent? Will you try to learn more about your faith? This year, we are giving away copies of “The Seven Secrets of Confession,” by Vinny Flynn. I encourage you to take one, to read it and discover hidden truths about the great spiritual beauty, power and depth of Confession.

As Pope Francis tells us, Confession is much more than “going to the dry cleaner.” It’s “an encounter with Jesus, who waits for us as we are.” Perhaps you will meditate on the mysteries of the rosary or attend weekday Mass. You might try to spend some time at Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Will you consider seeking out spiritual and theological development opportunities? Could you choose to grow in apostolic mission by volunteering in various ways to change the lives of those less fortunate than you? Can you forgive someone, or something, who has failed you in some way?

I won’t be giving up ice cream, but I will try to reduce my excess consumption of the world’s resources, including food. I will give more of my time to God. Christ will receive more of my attention. And I’ll try very, very hard to remember that the world will continue remarkably well with or without me. At least for the next 40 days. May God bless your Lent with prayerful experiences, deeper relationship with Christ and renewed humility.

Lisa Amos

Pastoral Associate

 

 

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