by Rev. Mark Connolly

Ash Wednesday formally starts the season of Lent. It is the most solemn season in the liturgy of the Church. It is a reminder to all of us what our values and our priorities should be concerning our relationship with God.

Just go back a few years in your own training about Lent. Lent was always associated, when you were children, with giving up candy, movies and some other act that we call self-denial. Lent has always been associated with fasting. But for whatever reason, we have lost the real sense of purpose as to what the meaning of Lent should mean to each one of us. Yes, it is a time of prayer, a time of meditation, but it is a special time to deepen our spirituality concerning our work on earth and the God we one day hope to see.

If you go back and study the life of Christ, you can find three stages in the life of Christ where he reminds us why all of us are on this earth. Christ as teenager taught us to be about the business of our Father in heaven. Christ as an adult taught us we must always try to do the things that please our Father in heaven, and Christ before he died, reminds us we should be ready to commend our soul back to our Father in heaven.

Christ as a teenager. After he had been separated from his parents, when they confronted him trying to find out where he was, he simply answered, "but mother, did you not know that I must be about the business of my Father in heaven?"

Christ after he had performed miracles, when many of the people who were beneficiaries of these miracles, walked away from him, Christ answered by say, "I must always do the things that please my Father." And Christ a few moments before he died summed up the whole mission of work when he said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit." We have three obvious examples from the life of Christ reminding us what our purpose on this earth is all about, reminds us that this earth is just a temporary workplace, a testing ground to see the talents God has given us to always do the things that please our Father in heaven.

Yes, we can get caught up in fasting which is quite important. We can always get caught up in Lenten readings, which are also quite important. Yes, we can be doing works that are charitable and kind for our neighbors, all of which are definitely important. But none of us, whether we are teenagers or adults or on the verge of facing God, at this moment can forget the lessons that Christ taught us that we re here on earth to do the work of God, to do his business.

And so, this season of Lent has to be spiritualized, has to find us using every talent to give honor and glory to God; has to find us reflecting on what our relationship with God and our neighbor are at this present moment.

In the language of Cardinal Newman, we are put on this earth to perform a mission. We are a link in a chain, a bond that connects our spiritual power with the power of God. Breaking it all down, each one of us, in his or her own way, must do what St. Paul reminds us of. Whether you eat or drink or sleep, do it for the honor and glory of God. This season of Lent remind s us of the Good Fridays and the Easter Sundays that each one, while on earth, will go through.

Lent is a season to deepen our awareness of what those events are all about. By knowing that our time on this earth is limited, by concentrating as Christ did on doing the business of God while on this earth, we will not only prepare properly for this coming Lent, but we will prepare properly for the life that will one day be rewarded because of the business of God we did on earth.

The Messiah and his forerunner
Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79)
Blessed by the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

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