Raise your hand if you think that Lent is easy? Now raise your hand if you feel that Lent can be, well, a challenge. (My hand is up.) This is a six week season of grace. A time to take upon ourselves a different direction from what we may normally do. I heard once that it takes about six weeks to change a habit and if that is true then by Easter we may finally begin to change.
Change in to what? Change my heart and mind, my spirit, my perspective, my lifestyle, my unhealthy or unproductive habits that keep me from becoming an image of Jesus Christ to others. That's a tall order, no? The Church reminds us in the Gospel for Ash Wednesday, which provides an image for the entire time of this walk in the desert, that three disciplines are guaranteed to begin or effect this change: Fasting, Prayer, and Giving of Charity to others.
Even the restaurant and fast food community has caught on to Lent. Have noticed all the "fish sandwiches" and "fish tacos" that are being advertised on billboards this time of year? Yet, if you love sea food, as I do, is that really much of a sacrifice? Our abstinence from meat does not mean that we must eat fish, or at least not a delicious crab stuffed baked salmon every Friday of Lent.
As we live in a "I want it right now because I can have it right now" society, going without is not the most attractive discipline. But, as we refrain from meat on the Friday's of Lent, everything else is up to us. We can do almost nothing, just coast along and simply go through the motions as we attend the spiritual opportunities for this season OR we can do something. We can take it seriously and spend more time in prayer, fast from food and/or the habits that I know are bad or unhealthy and I can put my faith into action by reaching out in some helpful, supportive way to those with less.
Prayer is powerful because it helps to focus our attention on the source of life itself. It connects us to the God who brought us into this world, who loves us extravagantly, who offered his life on Calvary and then rose to bring us into eternity.
This Jesus remains with us in our celebrations of Word and Sacrament, that food for our journey through life and through this Lent.
So, it's up to each one of us to decide but let's unite in our efforts. No need to broadcast to the world what you have decided to do. Our Gospel below provides the proper attitude from the very mouth of Jesus himself.
Let's give ourselves a good, productive, and holy six weeks to become the new creation that God has called us to be and that our baptism began in us. Pray for His Grace in this holy season and pray for those preparing for the Easter sacraments as well: our candidates and catechumens.