Anyone remember the days prior to Lent when there was family discussion about what everyone would give up for the six weeks prior to Easter? In my family it went something like this, at the evening meal Dad would announce that beginning on Ash Wednesday all the children would give up candy for Lent AND the whole family will pray the rosary every day on our knees in the living room after the supper dishes were completed. There were rules about the rosary too, like no one could be in touching distance to another, and kneeling meant kneeling up, not leaning back on your legs. We took turns leading the rosary, with Mom or Dad reciting the mysteries. At the time I cannot say I really enjoy it, except when I was able to lead, but today it is a memory that warms my heart, and I am forever grateful for my parent’s commitment to honoring Lent. For a little girl, it literally made Easter all the sweeter, for the candy we had collected and placed in our dresser drawer could now be consumed!
I came to know Lent in a deeper and more profound way as I grew in faith and understanding of Jesus and his Church. Today I understand that Lent beckons all those who are baptized in Christ to draw closer to him by deliberately taking time to examine how we are or are not living as Jesus taught. How wise of the Church to include this six-week preparation before we once again rejoice in the Resurrection of Jesus and the gift of eternal life.
Lent offers a time to grow in faith, to focus on how we live and love as Christians. Giving up something during Lent (fasting) was intended as a penitential act that would remind us to remove the things in our lives that may keep us from growing in faith. We sacrificed in some small way in comparison to our Lord’s sacrifice, that we might be reminded of our need to live authentically as Christians.
Further, the Church calls us to prayer that we spend more time with Jesus and to almsgiving in order that we might give careful thought to how we help care for the poor among us.
Prayer – Fasting – Almsgiving - all of these are activities, not just static ideals. We are called to action and we grow in faith while at the same time “preaching” the Good News of Jesus Christ to others through those actions.
How will you spend the next six weeks? How might focusing on living as Jesus taught bring you closer to him?
What acts of kindness might you engage in as you prepare to celebrate Easter? And how will you help your children and grandchildren to engage in Lenten practices? Gift us Lord with the courage to be honest with ourselves, the wisdom to understand your call to action, and the grace necessary for an enriching and meaningful Lent. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.