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Just Beginning Lent

We began our yearly celebration of the season of Lent this week on February 22nd. 

During Lent, we abstain from meat on Fridays and Ash Wednesday.  We give up something for Lent.  We fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  It is forty days long remembering the forty days Jesus spent in the desert after his Baptism being tempted by Satan.

Our celebration of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday.  The ashes serve as a sign of repentance.  In the Old Testament and Jesus’ time, ashes came from the burnt sacrifices offered for sins.  So ashes became a sign of repentance.  Today, our ashes come from burning palms but remain as a sign of our repentance.

These are our Lenten practices but if Lent is to truly help us, then we must think about why we do these things.  We might even ask why we even have a season of Lent.

Lent actually has its origin in what we call RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) for those who seek to join the Catholic Church.  It was an “extended retreat” for their final preparations.  In RCIA, this final period of preparation has become known as the Period of Purification of Enlightenment.

The Church realized that it would be good for all people to spend some time before Easter thinking about what we need to do to open our hearts to a deeper relationship with Jesus.  From here, Lent was born. 

To deepen our relationship with Jesus, we seek forgiveness for our sins.  We admit our sins by accepting the ashes and most especially by going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  We fast and abstain from meat to remind us that our priorities lay not in earthly things but on God.

To make for Jesus in our hearts, we are called to spend some time in Lent thinking about what we can get rid of in our lives.  As Jesus puts it, ‘we must deny ourselves, take up our Cross, and follow him.’  To deny ourselves is to send aside earthly pleasures in favor of God and the needs of all his people.  In taking up our Cross we acknowledge that we continue to face sufferings and difficulties but that, as we do, Jesus walks with us.

What might you change in your life to make room for Jesus?


Fr. Jeff

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