Lenten Sacrifice And The Awareness Of God
The season of Lent is upon us once again, and most Catholics will assume their traditional Lenten posture. That means pizza, or better yet, seafood on Friday, and no potato chips, or chewing gum, or alcohol, or whatever, from the day ashes are given until the vigil of Easter dawns, when we will gorge ourselves again as we greet the risen Lord. We have all had this kind of LentĖthe kind in which we just go through the motions, and hope that something happens, or at least it ends soonĖand itís no surprise that it bears so little fruit in our lives, especially since it has such weak roots.
There is, however, a greater mystery to the season of Lent than we might like to admit, probably because if we acknowledge its power and take it seriously, it would demand quite a bit of our attention. Deep within its celebrations and structures, Lent is designed for one purpose alone: to lead us to recognize the presence of God in that which is right before our eyes. Everything that we do during Lent is to make us aware of the Lord, and less focused on ourselves. In its perfection, Lent is a season for reflection upon and delight in the goodness of our God.
In this holy season, we commemorate the forty days of fasting and prayer that Jesus experienced in the desert before he began his public ministry. Those days of temptations and self-denial reveal to us the resolve and the conviction of the Lord who leads us through the desert of our own adversity. Even though tempted to betray his mission and his heavenly Fatherís plan by succumbing to the devilís requests, Christ was always aware of his Fatherís sustaining presence. And it was precisely this awareness that consoled and strengthened him throughout his trials.
As we approach Lent, we must try to see that we are asked to bear incredible burdens and temptations in our lives, yet often without any real awareness of the presence of God. What we try to do in Lent is change our behavior and our vision, so that we can recognize the presence of the Lord. This isnít by any means easy to accomplish. Most of us find it hard enough to accomplish our Lenten promises without attaching this spiritual dimension to their completion. But it is in understanding and giving meaning to our sacrifices that they become for us a source of strength and an exercise of devotion. Here are some examples of what I mean by recognizing the Lord in Lenten observance.
Lent isnít about senseless sacrifices; itís about meaningful ones. Itís not a season for offering endless prayers, itís a time for offering honest ones. Itís a season to come back to the Lord who calls us to return to him, and to avail ourselves of that great bounty which God has spread before us. Whether it be through fasting, prayer, almsgiving, penance, self-denial or whatever Ė give up what you will, but try to see the Lord in the sacrifices you make. However you get from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday is up to you. But above all, make this Lent a time when you learn to recognize Jesus Christ and the thanksgiving that we owe him for everything that we tend to think of as our own.
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