Spirituality for Today – March 2014 – Volume 18, Issue 8

Lenten Practices

Rev. Mark Connolly

A plate with a fish dinner

I would like to share a few thoughts with you to help all of us to become more spiritual and more sacred this season of Lent. There is no question about the importance of fasting. There is no question about the importance of the practice of self-denial. All of these practices are intended to remind us of the realities of what Lent is all about. It is a season to remind us what God's son, in the person of Jesus Christ, did for us. It is a season to reflect on how he made this season so sacred. If, during this time, we fail to recall that this is the season the Church has set aside to reflect on the agony, the scourging, the crowning, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Christ, then we have missed the importance of the season of Lent.

During Lent we reflect, we identify, we imitate what Christ did for us. We reflect on his sacred sufferings, we identify his sufferings with us, and we imitate the way that he taught us to carry a cross.

Lent is a time to reflect. Lent reminds us, through reflection, that we might not have everything we want in life, but most of us have the things we need. When you think of all the good things that God has given us, when you think we were allowed to be living in a country that we know has many faults, but still is one of the greatest countries in the world, then reflections along this line remind us of the generosity of God to us. We don't have the famine of the people of Bangladesh, we don't have the poverty of India, we don't have the turmoil of the middle East – we have freedoms that most countries and most people never know about. Lent is a time to have us reflect on how grateful to God we should be for allowing us to be Catholics. Yes, we have a Church that has a great many imperfections. But this same Church has brought forth people, like yourself, who have served God, who have worshiped God, who have made this country a better place because of their Catholic teachings. Sometimes we have to reflect on the fact that the reason our country is as good as it is, is because of the teachings of Christ that so many people have implemented in their lives and brought into the lives of others.

Lent is a time to identify our life right now with the life of Christ. When Christ went through his agony, scourging, suffering and resurrection, it was not only to redeem and save us from our sins and allow us the opportunity to gain everlasting happiness in Heaven. It was for many other reasons. It was to teach us about suffering. If suffering did not pass by Christ, it certainly is not going to pass by us. If you go back into your early catechism teachings, you will find that the history of the Church is filled with men and women like yourself who for reasons that are never totally answered had to suffer. If our Blessed Mother had to suffer by watching her son die on the cross, if St. Joseph had to take his family away for fear of being killed, if all the apostles and early followers and disciples of Christ suffered, then we have to conclude that if suffering did not pass by Christ and all his loved ones, that suffering is not going to pass by us. In order to understand, or should I say accept, why we have the cross we have now, we have to recognize that every follower of Christ is going to have some cross, some suffering and that one day each of us who has carried the cross of the moment and can identify our life with the life of Christ will have the reward that God has prepared for all who suffered and served him on this earth.

Lent is a time of imitation of the life of Christ. We practice self-denial, we practice self-sacrifice in a special way because this is the season singled out in the life of Christ that reminds us that the more we imitate Christ during this season, the more Christ-like we are within ourselves and in our relationships with each other. It would be wonderful if we had a cure for cancer or AIDS. It would be wonderful if we had an answer to the problems brought by the drug culture, but many of those answers are not going to be given during our lifetime.

Regardless of what cures come forth, regardless of whether the budget is balanced in our lifetime or not, we have to be spiritual and sacred people. Lent reminds us of the importance of reflecting on the life of Christ, identifying with the life of Christ, of imitating the life of Christ.

Lent means many things to many people. But if it is going to be made different, it has to be made spiritual, it has to be something sacred. Lent is not just a season set aside to prepare us for this life. It is a season that is set aside to help us prepare for life with Christ after this life is over.