Opening Ourselves to God’s Grace During Lent

Another season of Lent has begun, and we are beginning our preparations for Easter. I used to think of Lent as a dreary, barren time of the year (and the weather outside doesn’t always seem to help), because we are asked to follow so many rules and to give something up or take on extra. In other words, life gets more difficult.

 In today’s second reading, St. Paul reminds us to “bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” (2 Tim 1:8) Our sufferings, those self-imposed and those not, are not meant to be carried alone. God is here for us and wants to actively help us by giving us his grace.

 Unfortunately, if we don’t want God’s grace, he is not going to force it on us. We have to be open to receive it. We may even need to seek it out, but we are lucky – his graces can come in many, many different forms.

Even the “rules” of Lent are a great way to open ourselves up to God’s grace. When we fast on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday, or when we abstain from eating meat on Fridays, we should be using that twinge of hunger or desire for a burger to turn us to prayer. We can thank God for all of the food we do have available to us, and pray for (or give time or money to) those who do not have the same choices. We can also use it to remind ourselves that we are weak and in need of strength; we are dependent on God.

Another, and probably the most obvious, way to receive God’s grace is to use the sacraments as often as possible. You can receive the Eucharist all week at the 9 am Mass in our Historic Church. If you’re willing to visit other parishes, there are Masses at all times of the day. The time to sit and reflect on God’s word and receive His body and blood is invaluable. Reconciliation is also a beautiful way to actively grow your spiritual life; it forces us to seek humility and the grace received from this sacrament helps us make better choices in the future.

 The spiritual help we can receive from others can be discounted, but God can easily work through friends, family, and even people we don’t know. You can find many chances for growth right in this bulletin, for ministries both in and outside our parish. You can also find many of them online. There are two in particular that I use which can be sent directly to your email so you never miss them (and you can read them on your own time – something very important to this busy mom). Lent Reflections, with Fr. Robert Barron, sends you a short reflection each day of Lent, and I can tell you that they really make you think. You can sign up by going to www.LentReflections.com. If you would rather pray than read, you could sign up at PrayMoreNovenas.com. They typically pray about one novena each month, and during the novena you receive one email each day with the prayers. It is beautiful to know that you are praying with over 80,000 people across the world!

 Most of these ways to receive God’s grace incorporate prayer in some way. Daily prayer, even for five or ten minutes a day, can be life-changing. It can force you to think about what you’re thankful for, where you depend on God the most, and what ways you can grow closer to him. Again, it doesn’t have to be an hour every day; just making a consistent time of day to talk to God (even if it’s just, “I don’t know what to say today!”) is a big step to opening your life to receive his graces and carry your burdens “with the strength that comes from God.”

 If we take these opportunities to open ourselves up to God’s grace, our hardships become easier to bear. Where I used to see rules, I now see opportunities the Church has given me to grow in my faith. Lent is really a time of preparation to meet Jesus when he rises at Easter; we are turning from a cold, dark, lifeless winter to a warmer, life-giving spring. Our trials might appear to make life more difficult, but they are all to remind us of our ultimate goal: to become a saint and join God in Heaven one day. With God’s grace, we can get there.

 May your Lent be fruitful and bring you closer to Christ!

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