Though you may have just put away the Christmas decorations and recovered from the holiday season, Lent is already here! This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
This is an opportunity, i.e.: a blessing, to stop and realign our priorities: to give greater time and emphasis to the spiritual side of our life. It is so easy in this modern world to be caught up in hectic schedules, endless activities, a plethora of meetings, so many things you should do, that the spiritual side of our lives―all that deals with meaning and purpose and value and especially our relationship with God―gets easily overwhelmed, overlooked, and under-appreciated. It is just a part of human nature that we need Lent as a reminder to re-adjust our priorities and give God a bigger part of our attention and effort. So give some thought this week as to how you want to observe Lent this year. Don’t just let it happen. Make a conscious choice to engage Lent in a positive way.
There are many aids available to you at St. Austin Parish. Check out our bulletin and our web site for classes, discussions, Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession), prayer times and weekday Masses. Or you can do spiritually beneficial practices on your own. More than “giving something up,” Lent is a time for doing something positive to grow as a spiritual person. The traditional practices for Lent are Prayer, Fasting, and Alms Giving. Prayer can be done at anytime, anywhere. There is really no good excuse not to pray. But when you pray don’t start by asking for something. It is best to start by first of all saying “thank you.”
Fasting is expected of all adults on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and highly encouraged on the Fridays of Lent as well. Fasting should not only be from food, though that is the traditional basis of fasting, but also fasting from using bad words, from anger, from gossip and snide remarks, from resentments and impatience.
Alms Giving means charity. The food you save from fasting is meant to go to the poor. Generosity of money, of material goods, of time and even of interest in and compassion for other people is all good, and part of alms giving. We gain and grow as disciples by giving things (and ultimately ourselves) away. Paradoxical but true.
I pray you have a good Lent. When Easter arrives may you be so close to the Lord that you will be overflowing with Resurrection joy!