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Getting Ready for Lent

It’s almost here.  Lent begins with our celebration of Ash Wednesday on February 13th this year and will go to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday (March 28th).

When you hear the word “Lent” what do you think of?  Ashes, abstaining from meat, giving up something, or fish?  This can be the “routine” things of Lent but how much do we really think about what we do for Lent.  Why do we even have a season of Lent?

If you are familiar with RCIA, then you probably know that the participants are sent before the bishop at the beginning of Lent for the Rite of Election.  This rite marks the beginning of their final preparation to be baptized or received into the Catholic Church at Easter.  It becomes time for them to make their final decision to become Catholic.  In the early church, this was a period of “retreat” for the RCIA participants to deepen their conversion to the faith.

As the early church saw them spend this time in “retreat”, it came to realize that we are all in need of ongoing conversion.  None of us are perfect.  Lent then developed as a special time to focus on our sins and the need for ongoing conversion.  As first the length of Lent varied but settled on forty days.  Forty is a frequent number in scripture.  There are the forty days of rain in the Great Flood (Genesis 7:12).  Moses spent forty days on the mountain with the Lord in Exodus 24:18.  Jesus himself was tempted in the desert for 40 days (Luke 4:1-13).

Remembering these events, we spend these forty days of Lent seeking to come closer to God.  Ashes are a sign of our repentance (Judith 4:9-15, Matthew 11:21).  Originally the ashes came from the burnt sacrifices made for the forgiveness of sins.  We receive the ashes on our forehead as a sign of our repentance, seeking to bring an end to our sins.  We give up something for Lent to show that God is more important to us than what we give up.  We might even think of given up something that isn’t good for us with the hope of giving it up for ever.  That’s real conversion.

We can also do something extra.  In terms of sacrifice, it would be a sacrifice of time, making the time for something important.  Examples of this would be coming to daily Mass every day during Lent.  If that isn’t possible, could you go to daily Mass one day a week?   Or maybe we pray Stations of the Cross every Friday during Lent recalling what Jesus went through for us.

It could be spending ten minutes a day reading from the Bible or taking a walk and thinking about God during the walk.  Another opportunity would be to spend time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. 

We talk about the things we do during Lent.  These are all external things but as externals they are meant to be signs of what’s going on in our hearts.  Lent isn’t just about doing these things.  Remember the word conversion.  Lent is about making positive changes in our lives.  Yes, Lent is a penitential time to think about our sins but not in misery.  Sorrow for our sins, yes.  But not misery.  We think about our sins to know what we need to change and then seek God’s help to make the needed changes.

I need to decide what I am going to do for Lent.  Among these I will refrain from snacking (with a lot of help from God) not just to give up snacks.  No, I really need to stop snacking.  My doctor keeps telling me to lose weight but I snack too much.  I will pray the Stations of the Cross to remember what Jesus enduring during his Passion because of my sins.  The Stations remind me of my own need for conversion.  These are two things I try to do every Lent but I will also think about something different.

What will you do this Lent to help bring you closer to God?


Fr. Jeff


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