Feb 9, 2016

Lent - What about . . . ?

With the annual Lenten season of repentance and renewal nearly upon us, have you decided yet what your penance will be?  If you love seafood for example, eating fish on Fridays is no penance.  I love seafood, so as tempting as it might be to visit the closest seafood restaurant, it would hardly be a sacrifice and miss the point all together.  

How about a bowl of tomato soup with bread?  After all, the Church does not require us to eat fish on Fridays.  It simply asks us to abstain from meat during the Fridays of Lent; including Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We identify with the poor particularly on Friday, the day of Jesus' death on the Cross, and eat a simple meal.  We do without in a shared and common penance throughout the Church. We rid ourselves of the unnecessary baggage that has blinded us from the true journey we should be walking.   

I know one priest who once told me that his Ash Wednesday penance was to do his taxes that day.  So, every year he would wait until the first day of Lent to put his tax information together.  I laughed but thought, not a bad penance. I think I'll wait till tomorrow, especially if you find out you owe. 

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, how about practicing the Corporal Works of Mercy:  feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the imprisoned: (Mt 25: 31-46). Doing good for others is not only the spirit of the Gospel, in imitation of Jesus, but also a call to each Christian. This year I'm going to have a "It's not all about me" Lent. 

How about more time in prayer?  No one ever died of praying too much or attending Church more often: daily Mass, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, spiritual reading.  There is still no disease identified as "terminal Church."  

How about extending forgiveness and mercy to another?  List the name(s) of people you truly feel estranged from - angry or resentful towards - forgive them, pray for them, or otherwise wish a blessing, not a curse, upon them. 

How about naming one sinful behavior that you may find yourself caught in and deciding once and for all to get a handle on ridding that sinful habit from my life: gossip, pornography, dishonesty, unfaithfulness, laziness, disconnect from my marriage of my vocation, ignorance of Church teaching, prejudice, out of control gambling, drinking, etc. 

We can all identify with any or all of the above and likely find other productive and cleansing ways to ready ourselves for this graced time of a 40 day journey towards to glory of Easter.  

It is a very special time for those among us waiting to be baptized, confirmed and receive the Holy Eucharist as new Christians/Catholics in our family of faith.  They are our brothers and sisters who we will receive new life in Christ and we share their joy and inspiration. Let's keep them in prayer before us all.  

May God lead us to see our darkness and grow more fully into the light of his mercy and new life.  

More will come . . .