It is hard to believe that we just finished celebrating Christmas and we are on the brink of Lent. For most of us this no doubt surfaces a lot of negativity. This is not a happy time. We associate Lent with doing penance, fasting, giving up little treasures like not eating candy, not dancing and countless other penances. The intent of all this is good but I’m not sure it adequately embraces the true purpose of Lent.
Lent has its beginnings in the early Church, as part of the immediate preparation for catechumens (people preparing for baptism), they would spend time on retreat. This included some concentrated time to reflect, pray and discern. This would normally have involved the catechumens and their sponsors, but as time went on, the entire community would join in the retreat to prepare themselves for Easter and to renew their baptismal commitment. This is the true meaning and purpose of Lent.
Going on retreat is not a negative thing. We retreat in the sense that we withdraw from much of our daily routine to afford time to reflect. Often the retreat time is in silence; this frees us from the distraction of idle chatter that can take us away from our relationship with the Lord. Relationships require work. We need to take significant time to be together. This is certainly true for married couples; you need to take time off just to be together.
Lent then is not about giving things up to appease God. We do not have an angry God. We believe that Jesus suffered, died and resurrected for us. The Sacrifice has already been made. All that is expected of us is to accept the gift. So how have I accepted the gift of salvation? This is the question we need to ponder.
Lent is this opportunity for us recognize those areas of our life that need improving. When I discover that I could take better care of my body that, for example, I need to lose weight, then perhaps I should do some fasting, to discipline myself into eating properly. For some it might entail eating more or eating properly. Discipline is important to live life. We need to do the right thing and this takes time and patience.
Lent should be an enjoyable time. Working on our relationships ought not to be onerous. Spending time with the one we love and who loves us ought to be joyful. This is true with our relationship with Jesus and it is equally true in our relationships with one another and particularly with our spouse
This lent let us do good things that will help us to grow. We give up those things that prevent our growth. We can give up our excuses for not communicating. Perhaps we can resolve to sit down and share meals as a family. I hope Easter at Canadian Martyrs will be a celebration of love and thanksgiving. May it be so!