Thursday, 1 March 2012

How to make the most of Lent

How to make the most of Lent.

Lent is God’s gift, God’s springtime. It is a time of the year given specially for us, that we may grow in faith, and learn to make the most of God’s precious gift of Life. Beginning with Sunday worship, there are countless ways to get in touch with the Church’s spirit of Lent. There are plenty of opportunities to engage in prayer, fasting, and charity.

Remember your own Baptism. If you have memories of your Baptism, share them with your family. If you or other family members have baptized children, ask: How did you feel as you brought your child to the Font? Think about what it means to be part of the Body of Christ through these sacred moments.

Create a prayer space in your home. A small table with a purple cloth and a cross or candle on it is all you need, perhaps an Icon or a religious picture. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t go to your prayer space to pray every day. Set it up in a place where you will see it as you come and go; let it be a quick reminder to raise a prayer of thanks and praise to God.

Clean out, give away. Make traditional spring-cleaning symbolic of the interior cleaning and clearing of clutter that Lent calls all of us to undertake. As part of your cleaning, there might be opportunities to make a small gift of something, to give something away.

Set out on a journey. As the Hebrews journeyed for 40 years in the desert to the Promised Land, we too journey to Easter through the 40 days of Lent — and not always in a straight line. Real spiritual growth often takes a more meandering path. Reflect on this aspect of the season, take a fresh look as you travel, don’t simply take the familiar scenes, or people, for granted.

Practice and seek forgiveness. Forgive someone for a wrong or hurt, and ask for the forgiveness of someone you’ve hurt — or at least take a first step. Talk to your priest or trusted friend or adviser and move toward reconciliation. Also take time to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, (Confession). Even if you aren’t ready to celebrate the Sacrament, prepare carefully for that moment at the beginning of the Sunday Eucharist, when, together, we make a Confession, and hear the promise of God’s forgiveness.

Share in God’s generosity. Jesus’ death and Resurrection is the ultimate gift to us. Remember all the gifts God has given you, and imitate God’s generosity by increasing your offering to your Parish and to outside charities, and keep it up throughout the coming year. See these offerings as sharing in the love and generosity of God, a love and generosity that are stronger than sin and death.

Simplify. Try to keep things simple as a family. So many of us are spending so much of our lives in a relentless pursuit of more stuff. Try to rediscover the simple joys of being together. Don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t always go well. If we were perfect, what need would we have of a Saviour? “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,” the Church sings at Easter, “that won for us so great a Redeemer!”

Give a little more time to Worship. Get to Church earlier, and don’t use the time before Worship to have a gossip with your neighbour, but use it to talk with the Lord. Go to an extra weekday Mass; making that Mass for your own special Intention, e.g. praying particularly for someone who is sick, for the restoration of a relationship, or whatever concerns you have. We can never fully plumb or exhaust the mystery of God’s presence in the Eucharist. We all would benefit from some extra time spent at church in God’s presence, adoring and contemplating the gift of God’s own self to us.

Pray: Offer a brief prayer of praise in the morning and in the evening. Remember the example of Mary, the Mother of God, whom the Church holds up to us as the perfect model of discipleship. Ask her to help you always to say “yes” to God’s will, as she did.

Celebrate spring. We often think of Lent as a season of harshness and privation. But Lent is also a springtime season that celebrates new life soon to be born.

Above all else – remember! Don’t assume that Lent is for others, and that you should just go on as you are – Lent is for you!

Fr David