We are now ten days into Lent, at the second Sunday of Lent already. How is it going?
There are different approaches to the season of Lent. One is the stoic response, just suck it up and tough it through, promising yourself that the rewards will be all the greater at Easter. Another approach is to ignore Lent; just carry on as usual with no or just minimal changes to your routine, and then be surprised when it is suddenly all over. Still another way to deal with Lent is to embrace it enthusiastically as a way to grow in holiness or to practice self-discipline (or at least to shed a few pounds). A rather novel approach to Lent was practiced by my dad as I was growing up. Just before Lent he would make a trip to the public market in downtown St. Louis to stock up on all sorts of olives, cheeses, smoked fish, oysters and all kinds of other non-meat goodies we never had the rest of the year. Lent for him meant permission to buy all this stuff we usually did not have. I grew to look forward to Lent in order to enjoy these (for us) exotic delicacies. It was a rather novel approach and I don’t necessarily recommend it.
In any case this Lent is still young. It is early in the game. If you have not yet given any consideration to how you will observe this holy season then I urge you to do so now. It is not too late to enter fully and deeply into the spirit of this holy time. It is an opportunity to focus on the more transcendent parts of reality, on the deeper things of life. In the frantic pace we keep today this discipline is needed more than ever.
Instead of giving up candy or liquor or soda, try instead giving up some of the constant busyness and hectic activity with which we fill up so much of our life. Try fasting from some of the noise in your life. Practice giving up some of the busyness in your schedule. Maybe try to find some quiet in your life, some time for reflection and meditation, even just listening to the Lord. Perhaps instead of time in front of the TV or playing games on the computer, tune in to the Lenten podcasts produced by your parish, available 24/7 at www.staustin.org for free!
You might just practice a few minutes of sitting quietly, stilling the inner restlessness, listening to your own heart, and listening for the Lord. Praying slowly and imaginatively over a piece of Scripture is a good way to do this. Take a scene from the Gospels, maybe the Gospel for that Sunday, and imagine the scene. Who is there? What sounds and smells do you perceive? Where is Jesus? What is He doing? How does He sound? Does He look happy, sad, angry, bored? What does He say? What are the Apostles doing? What about the bystanders, the Pharisees, the Romans? Where are you? Let your imagination play with the scene and see what happens. And then listen.
The season of Lent is a gift to us, but like any gift we have to take the time and make the effort to appreciate it. I wish you a FANTASTIC Lent!