Happy Lent!? It’s hard to believe that Lent is upon us already, but it’s good to get going with it, in my opinion. As you read the words of Msgr Thomas Wells below, you might think that he wouldn’t say the same. But, he did see this as a holy season even if he didn’t particularly enjoy it. I don’t know how many of us will enjoy this Lent, but I hope that we will experience it as a gift. My prayer is that it will be a season of grace and freedom for all of us.
May you know the freedom of Christ this Lent,
I know some people who look forward to the coming of Lent with a sense of anticipation – even of joy. They look forward to the Church’s invitation to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to give them a spiritual shot in the arm. Not me! I see that Lent begins in ten days, on Ash Wednesday, and I groan within. Not for me the call to penance and self-denial. However, whether received with joy or dread, this great season of grace is upon us. In the days before Vatican II, there were three weeks of preparations for Lent, where Catholics were encouraged to decide how they were going to observe the season. The Church, wisely, wanted to encourage people to take advantage of these six weeks in the desert with the Lord.
…Following Jesus is hard! Picking up a cross and carrying it toward a share in crucifixion goes against the grain. Even the Lord Himself dropped his Cross three times. The crosses we choose for ourselves during Lent should remind us of how weak is our commitment; they should attempt to attack with some vigor areas of weakness in our lives. The person who sees a possible addiction to work that affects family relationships should attack that addiction; the person who is tight with money, using any excuse to avoid giving it away, should dramatically commit to fighting that self-sufficiency that we think money can guarantee. The person who has heard friends and family make the comment, “You’ve always got to be right,” should begin the painful process of examining pride and a competitive spirit and recognize that it is tough to need God if I am always right.
Finally, we must resolve to take seriously the call to prayer. For many of us, the things of God are not first in our lives. I knew God was important to my parents because they taught me to pray and because they often talked about the things of God. If only an Our Father and a Hail Mary at the time of grace, we must begin to pray as families. Individually, many of us can participate in the only perfect prayer, the Mass. We can take the first ten minutes of our daily commute to say the Rosary. We can open the Bible and meet Jesus in the Gospels. And, most especially, in this season of repentance, we must plan to take advantage of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and go to confession.