As we go through the season of Lent, we really want to be all in. Just as late winter brings about the desire for cleaning and purging our homes in anticipation for Spring, our hearts naturally yearn for restoration… we know something good is coming, but this ‘good’ requires something of us.
So, here we are! A few days into Lent. Let us join in, shall we?
A good Lent takes effort. A good Lent requires purpose. A good Lent has to be intentional, or it quickly becomes a mishmash of what feels like obligations, rules, prayer cards, symbols and rituals that can easily lose meaning if we’re not careful.
Here are a few tips that I hope will help me live an intentional Lent this year:
Remember What It’s All About
Lent is the season of approximately 40 days set aside by the Church so that the faithful could prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. During this holy season, inextricably connected to the Paschal Mystery, the Catechumens prepare for Christian initiation. Current Church members prepare for Easter by the recalling of one’s Baptism and by works of penance, which is prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent is NOT about busying oneself with so many activities, prayers, and sacrifices that we often forget its true purpose. Lent has a real and tangible goal, It can be seen as the “great crescendo” of Easter! That is what we are moving toward and this simple statement should keep our minds focused.
Lent is not about YOU but more about CHRIST and YOUR NEIGHBORS
You might be wondering what I mean by this. It is a great thing to sacrifice because it helps in our spirituality. Quite often, we attempt to offer up numerous things for Lent but most times we make it seem like a competition or a “do or die affair” or a “self-righteous” activity. Or even sometimes, we see it as, “The more I offer up, the better my Lent would be!” Hmm… well, in reality, trying to keep up with all those self-imposed rules you might just end up frustrating yourself because these ‘sacrifices’ you make with the wrong intentions make you focus way too much on yourself and not nearly enough on Jesus and those around you. In a way, you might have allowed your offerings to become a competition and within yourself, you might be thinking; “could I REALLY pull this off for 6 weeks!?” or “I wonder what others are giving up…”
We need to make our Lent about Christ, not about us. Our sacrifices, prayers, and participation should be acts of love and efforts that turn us away from ourselves and point our minds, hearts, and bodies toward our Savior. Anything less than that needs to be prayerfully evaluated.
Choose a few good things
When we choose something to offer up for Lent, we need to choose wisely. Add in something that would help the growth of your faith like; praying the Rosary, reading the Gospel with family, read a spiritual book. In the same way, try to find something that you could do for others such as; almsgiving, volunteering at the parish, donating blood to the sick (if you are very fit to), collecting clothes for a maternity home or pregnancy center. Keep things simple, don’t let them become overwhelming.
Don’t get distracted by the peripherals
Lent is a moment for quiet moments. Sometimes, we have an endless plethora of ideas! We could never run out of new activities. Do not get me wrong these are wonderful resources and having plans is good. On the contrary, keeping space and time in our day-to-day schedule for quiet, for time with our friends and loved ones, for prayer and rest are real moments of communion. I think those are the times where Lent lives strongest in our souls and where the Holy Spirit can act. So let’s try to keep things simple, so we can stay focused on Jesus Christ.
Cling to the Church
We should realize that the Church really offers us all we need to celebrate the season of Lent! Full participation in parish activities leads us to a rich and holy Lent. You can make an effort to go for penance, daily Mass (or even just once a week), go for Stations of the cross and take your family and friends along, give them a Stations booklet. Let them kneel and stand and genuflect, or invite them to simply sit by and watch. They will soak in the beautiful words, the events of the crucifixion, the reverence of everyone in the church, kneeling, standing, praying, singing together.
This is the mission of walking with Jesus during his last days. The mission of standing beside him during his suffering and death.