Tomorrow morning will I will take my family to Mass to celebrate the beginning of my favorite time of the Liturgical year: Lent. I am not sure what makes this time of year so special to me, but it is. It has many meanings for me, most importantly every year I celebrate Lent I remember that it was about this time in 2oo6 that I was getting ready to be fully received into the Catholic Church. If you allow yourself the full experience, every sense that you have will be able to be used to reach out to our Lord: the smell of the incense, the taste of the Eucharist, the feeling of the Priest smudging the ashes on your forehead. God created us as beings with sensory perception and he can use all these senses if we allow, to bring us closer to Him.
So what is Lent all about? Lent is the 4o days (give or take) before Easter and it is a time for us as Christians for penance and reflection. I never new growing up what Lent was and what a huge significance it can have on our spiritual lives. The time that we observe Lent is based upon the 40 years that the Children of Israel wandered in the desert and also the 40 days that Christ spent in the wilderness. This is a time that the Church in Her infinite wisdom has set aside for us to spend examining ourselves and our lives. No matter who we are there are things that we have in us or in our lives that separate us from Christ and becoming more like him. They may be things that take time away from Him, or they could be sins and transgressions that we secretly hold on to that no one else is aware of. Whatever they are, we realize that it was to rid us of these transgressions and weights that Christ died. That is why you always hear about people "giving something up" for Lent. Honestly, I don't really thing Christ cares if you give up chocolate, sweets, or coffee for Lent. What is more important would be that you give up the gossiping tongue that you might have about your neighbors or co-workers. Or the anger that you might display to your kids or spouse. Perhaps you are dealing with addictions that are robbing you of money and draining your spirit of life and separating you from the perfect grace of God. It might not even be that drastic. You might just spend too much time in front of the computer or TV. Use this time during the next 40 days to find away to either remove something from your life that is keeping you from Him or add something that would draw you to Him. If you are REALLY daring....try some of each!
During my years as an evangelical I always celebrated Easter, and it was always a day of celebration. We celebrated Christ's victory over death and the promises that it held for us, but very rarely did we spend time focusing on the Passion of Christ. As important as the Resurrection is to our faith as Christians, it would mean nothing without His Passion, for in the Passion victory was won over the evil one. It was the scourging with whips, the carrying of the cross, the fact that the Lamb was nailed to the Cross, and that his Sacred Heart was pierced that enables us to come back to God. Without the Passion, the Resurrection would be empty. So in this Lenten season, we as Catholics also focus on the Sacrifice our Lord made for us; this sacrifice that frees from transgressions and sins and enables us to be made one with the Father.
In Lent, we also remember our humanity. As the Priest makes a cross on my forehead tomorrow with the ashes, he will say: "O man remember that you are from dust, and to dust you shall return". There is a reminder each year of our humanity and that we don't live forever. Each day is important to us and each day should be pointed toward what our Lord would have us to do in service to our fellow humanity. Not that we shouldn't have fun or enjoy our lives, but that we realize that we don't belong to ourselves anymore. People make criticisms of Catholics and Christians that we can't or don't think for ourselves, and that we have to have someone tell us what to believe. What I say is that if Christ has given all for me, down to the last drop of His precious Blood, then I owe Him my life, every part of it. There should be no corner that is off limits to what He wants of me. So are there things I don't do; yes there are. Do other people understand; no they don't...and some of them can't or don't want to. My only concern is that I follow Him where He leads, and I continually remember how he lead me Home...to His Church.