Lent derives from the Old English word Lencten, which means the season of spring. In the Northern hemisphere Lent is that time of year when snows melt, days lengthen and new foliage begins to bloom. Nature is alive again! The winter sleep is ended. Just as nature awakens to growth and new life, each Lent issues a renewed invitation to us believers to awaken to the Paschal Mystery which brings hope to the world. The Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection for us will bring springtime to our weary spirits.
Making Lent Real
The Lenten practices of finding our own wilderness, of prayer, almsgiving and fasting foster one purpose: that we might open ourselves to God, and to pray that whatever within us is false may be removed. Instead may a self-donating love flourish in our hearts.
In prayer we learn how God sees us – as nothing less than divinely loved daughters and sons. We are invited in Lent to give God quality time, to see ourselves as God sees us. Someone recently said to me: ‘Thanks for your phone call; but you seem to call me nowadays only when you’re travelling! Can’t you give me time when you’re not doing anything else?’ That stopped me in my tracks! It’s certainly good to chat with God when I’m up and about, but it is good too to give God quality time. We don’t regret the time we dedicate to meeting the best of all our friends.
I will commit more time daily to Sacred Space. I will follow the Online Lenten Retreat which offers six sessions of prayer based on the theme: ‘He showed the depth of his love’ (John 13:1). I will take time to read about prayer (e.g. Finbarr Lynch’s When You Pray). I will introduce the Examen of Consciousness into my daily schedule.
Lent highlights how demanding it was for Jesus to save us. He gave everything! It is then a time to review my relations with others. I am made to love! Can I reach out in love to someone more needy than myself? Am I known as a caring and sharing person? Do I, like Jesus, ‘go about doing good’ (Acts 10:38). Would anyone guess I am his follower?
I will donate money to support good causes like Sacred Space. I will link in with at least one group or organisation which is struggling to build a better world. The Internet offers such: Avaaz.org for example is a global web movement which protests against injustices. One more voice – mine - makes a difference!
We can find it hard to see meaning in fasting. Yet a bit of fasting can shift how I see things, what I value, who I love. This muffin, chocolate, or beer can highlight my motivation for ‘denying’ myself. Everything in our lives can be linked with God, and a bit of fasting focuses our minds on God: A Christian can say to God, ‘I’m doing this for you – because I love you!’ Fasting can help to shape me up spiritually, and strengthen my will-power. It brings its own joy, but I only know that by doing it.
Lent is a time for fasting, but also for feasting! So feast on the joy of being in control of your life when you say ‘No!’ to some of the things you can manage without. It is a joy to feel physically or spiritually fit, though it takes discipline. Link ‘fasting from’ with ‘giving to’ – what I save I can give to God’s needy friends.