Lent is fast approaching and Catholics across the world will soon gather in solidarity on Ash Wednesday to embark on the forty day journey into the proverbial wilderness of self-denial.
Denying ourselves something we enjoy during Lent is a simple and clear way to remember all that Christ has sacrificed on our behalf. Yet, Lent is often remembered as an “ordeal.” We fall into the trap of characterizing Lent as a miserable and grumpy time. Why?
FOCUS ON LOVE
When we are dreading an event we are already predisposing ourselves to not get as much out of it. (And yes, we are all longing for that certain thing we have sacrificed!). We focus on our need and desire, rather than our sacrifice of love and thankfulness.
When we are not looking forward to something, we tend to put it off. But we don't have to feel this way about getting ready for Lent. We can change our attitude. These days before Lent are a time to start anticipating with positivity what is about to happen.
If we want this year’s Lent to be life changing, we have to start preparing now. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, not the first day to start thinking about your Lenten practices for this year.
The devil and his minions have already begun preparing their attack to dislodge your Lenten sacrifice. What are you doing to prepare yourself and gather reinforcements against him?
Anything worth doing is worth doing right, and you don’t want to miss any of the blessings this season holds.
What can we gain from Lent?
- Spiritual growth
- Greater openness to the Word of God
- Closer relationship with our Savior
- Developing a stronger will through self-denial
- Offering up worthy sacrifices in union with Christ
- Greater zeal for the faith
Do we desire this change? We can obtain these rewards, but just like any reward it has to be earned. How much we want to grow is dependent on how much we are willing to give. We are compensated for our time in Lent with an outpouring of grace. Whatever we give to Him, He will give us back so much more because God cannot be outdone in generosity.
THE LENTEN PENANCE
How many times will you be asked the age-old question: what you are giving up for Lent?
But focusing on what you are giving up is not the only way to get the most out of Lent.
This is the Lenten guideline I have always followed: cut something out and add something in.
In the past I have added daily prayer in the morning or evening, dedicated 10 minutes to reading a Lenten devotional book, kept a weekly Holy Hour in Eucharistic Adoration, and prayed the Stations of the Cross. You will be amazed at how much doing a little something extra will transform your Lenten experience. These simple practices do not require a large sacrifice of time, they only require forty days of dedication.
If you’re still unsure of what to give up or add, ask someone who knows you well. I assure you they will have lots of ideas. Those who surround us may have a better understanding of our failings. If they suggest something that you really don't want to do, or your response to them is, "I could never do that!" then you have stumbled upon your Lenten sacrifice. God may be working through those around you, so listen.
And remember, be supportive of what others are giving up for Lent, and don't do this:
Lent is only 40 days, and our sacrifice is a language of love for Christ and our fellow man.
It does not take a lot of time to prepare for the beginning of Lent. It just takes eagerness and focus. God can do so much with that.
How are you preparing for Lent? If you have ideas, please share with our readers by commenting below!
This article has been updated and was originally published in February 2014. © The Catholic Company. All rights reserved.