Now that the Lenten Season is begun, are you out of the starting gate?
Yesterday believers gathered around the globe for Ash Wednesday services. Ash Wednesday is one of those poignant moments when we allow God to ‘take off the gloves’ and remind us, indeed reveal to us, our sins.
It is helpful at the beginning of this penitential season to humbly, soberly allow ourselves to be consciously clear about our sin. As the First Letter of St. John instructs us: “If we say “We are without sin,” we decieve ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) This is the season to pray as St. Catherine of Siena: “I am nothing. God is everything!”
Now is the time to be asking the grace to acknowledge our sin, as well as the grace of true contrition. Ask God in these early days of Lent to help us see the consequence of sin in our lives. Once we recognize how sin diminishes our own self worth, damages our relationship with God and leads to broken relationships with one another, then we are in a proper place to begin a season well motivated towards conversion.
Yesterday’s Gospel from Matthew (6:1-6; 16-18) reminds us that the three pillars of the season are prayer, fasting and alms-giving. Prayer is a time to renew our relationship with God. Prayer leads us to deeper and deeper intimacy with the God whose love for us is far greater and more intense than we will ever know in this life.
Pope Francis is calling us to create a “culture of encounter.” Why not this year for Lent, instead of ‘giving up’ something, instead, focus on building up relationships of love. Recall that Jesus summarized the commandments by giving us a New Commandment; “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Perhaps this Lent our focus is to be a more loving individual. In other words, put love into concrete action(s), big and small. For example, spouses, spend more quality time with one another. Parents, spend more time with your children. Children, spend more time with your family. Believers, spend more time with the Family of God at Church (on Sunday.) No doubt, such choices do require sacrifices, because, to do one thing means choosing not to do other things.
My Lenten resolution this year is to be genuinely more ‘present’ to others by performing many concrete acts of love. What is yours?