Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lent one week on

Lent is truly underway. It dawns on me more and more that I need this time every year to re-focus, to re-calibrate, to re-charge, to repent. For me, Lent is really about taking a good, hard look at my life and seeing what needs to change. I can remember that for quite a few years I really did not know what to do for Lent. Consequently, I just did the Ash Wednesday/Good Friday fasting and abstained on Fridays, which was fine. After that, I went through a phase during which what I was going to do for Lent would have made the Desert Fathers shrink back. Of course, I was not successful and wound up discouraged. Finally, I decided to just focus on praying, fasting, and alms-giving. As a result, I do not forgo or undertake anything during Lent that I do not want to give up or keep doing for good.

For a couple of years I thought that's what everyone should do. I do not think that anymore because to hold that opinion denies the good to be derived from penitence and mortification. In other words, there is positive value in giving up something that we like, denying ourselves, for the purpose drawing nearer to God. I suppose if I have new theory of Lent it is that praying, fasting, and alms-giving necessarily go together. I found the Holy Father's Message for Lent this year highly instructive. I particularly like the quote he uses from Saint Peter Chrysologus: "Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself."

I had the privilege of teaching our 2nd grade catechism class last Sunday. These are the children in our parish preparing for Confirmation and First Communion. In light of the Gospel reading last Sunday, I wrote the question in big letters on the board as they walked in: Who is the good news? They all knew that it is Jesus Christ. Once class started, I asked, Why is Jesus Christ the good news? Several of them answered, "Because He died for our sins." This led to a wonderful lesson on confession, during which we talked about contrition and practiced the Act of Contrition.

I pray that rest of Lent is for all of individually and collectively a time during which we draw closer to God and to each other, during which we give ever more faithful witness to the Gospel. in all the circumstances in which we find ourselves, good, bad, or indifferent.

Touch our hearts to seek your friendship more and more,
- and to make amends for our sins against your wisdom and goodness (Petition from Morning Prayer for Thursday, First Week of Lent).

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