This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and so we embark once again on the season of Lent. It is a journey that is meant to be filled with renewal for us in the spiritual life. We are called to take on sacrifices by either abstaining from good but unnecessary things or by adding something which will stretch us to grow in the spiritual life.
A dangerous temptation can be to dismiss this important practice. Don't fall prey to that temptation or treat it as another New Year's resolution. Use this season of Lent as an opportunity to draw closer to the Lord through the sacrifices you make. You won't regret that you did, you will only regret it if you arrive at Easter and you haven't.
I have said this before and I am mindful of it again. A lenten sacrifice is not giving up the sins we commit, those are things we are called to do every day whether we are in or out of the season of Lent. Lent is about giving up something that is a good, but not necessary, or doing something extra that is good for the sake of another or our own spiritual well being (which is also for the sake of another). If we desire to strengthen our will to do good and to avoid evil, it takes discipline. Strengthening our will is exactly like strengthening our bodies. We exercise our bodies in order to strengthen them, we must exercise our will in order to strengthen it as well. The spiritual exercises of Lent ultimately do strengthen us to turn away from sin by helping us to be attached to the one Good that really matters, God! It helps us to become detached from the things of the world also.
After all, ultimately we are preparing our souls for eternity in heaven with the Lord. There will be no need to know what happened on the latest episode of whatever TV series, no reward for beating the high score on the recent game on our cell phone, no reward for being the person who knows the most about our 'pop culture', or whatever other worldly things we can get sucked into. The most important thing when we pass from this world to the next will be our relationship to the Lord and those He placed in our path to help using the gifts He gave us and that we cultivated with the help of His grace.
Here are a few ideas to get your mind working about what you could do this Lent:
Jump in to help, be a positive force in the things happening in our schools. Listen to heavenly music, leave out the television, the radio, or the ear phones from your ears. Commit to some time in silent prayer each day during Lent. Give up watching the news, it is depressing and only angers people anyway. Fill your life with holy things that strengthen you in the spiritual combat we engage in daily whether we recognize it or not. Pray the rosary if you are not already. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet in this Year of Mercy. Go to daily Mass even if you are a parishioner at Holy Rosary and daily Mass is at Visitation, or vice versa. Read only holy books, perhaps with a focus on Scripture reading or the lives of the saints. (Sometimes I see people mistaking holy reading for whatever new popular book has come out that seems 'spiritual'). Come to the Stations of the Cross on Friday's during Lent. (There is also a soup night every Friday at Visitation). In addition to all the normal confession times during the week, I will be hearing confessions every Friday either at Holy Rosary or Visitation during Lent with the exception of February 26. Stop eating fast food and donate the money you save to the poor. Keep your rice bowl in a prominent place and give all of your change for the season to the poor. Get involved by volunteering with the St. Vincent de Paul.
There are a thousand different things you can do to grow this Lent. I hope you will be thoughtful and intentional about the things you will do and how you will stretch yourself to grow spiritually during this great season. See you Ash Wednesday to begin it all!