With the Church’s observance of Ash Wednesday, 22 February 2012, Lent begins. This holy season is a time to rediscover the Lord and live like Him more consciously. In these forty days, marked by traditional penitential practices, we are challenged to turn away from sin. We are called to commit ourselves anew to live the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Turning from sin and toward the Lord is the best preparation for Easter’s joy.
For Catholics, the spiritual renewal we undertake in Lent has numerous forms. Acts of charity and alms-giving help us to become more mindful of providing for the poor all through the year. The reception of the Sacrament of Penance offers us the Lord’s forgiveness, which is always available to us through God’s grace. Reading Sacred Scripture opens us to hear the Word of God more deeply. Praying the Stations of the Cross reminds us of Christ’s supreme sacrifice for us and of the importance of sacrificing for others ourselves. Time-honored practices of fasting and abstinence bring us closer to the Lord who Himself often fasted and prayed.
When many of us were children, we might remember our giving up candy for Lent. And, it seemed like a real sacrifice. As we grew up, it was often more difficult to decide what special thing to do, to make Lent a special season – to get our attention and to prepare ourselves for deeper sacrifices.
What would help me grow in freedom? That’s the question to ask. For some of us, it could be, committing ourselves to give up judging others, every single day of Lent. For others, it could be giving up a bad habit we’ve developed. For many of us, the choice may not be to give something up, but to add something to our daily living during Lent. We may commit ourselves to extra prayer time. We may decide to do some service for the poor. We may choose to increase our alms-giving-perhaps related to something we choose not to do- not going out to eat and giving that money to a charity that feeds the hungry.
Whether it is fasting, abstaining or other acts of penance, the whole desire we should have is to use these means to help us grow closer to our Lord and prepare ourselves to celebrate the paschal mystery with hearts and minds renewed.