I was, until I asked a friend of mine what she thought about lent and she said it was her favourite time in the liturgical calendar. I was taken aback when I saw how in love she was and how selfish I was being.
Do you know what it takes to know and to experience the greatest love of all? If you’re dreading lent you either don’t know or you’ve forgotten, because Lent is literally the experiencing of true love in its fullness.
Lent is the
opportunity to know and experience a love so great that its occurrence was intended for every human soul that has ever lived and will ever live. Hidden under the guise of ugliness, injustice, sorrow and incomprehensible suffering lay the greatest gift to man – God himself.
So, how can you dread such a gift? Maybe because it doesn’t come easy, and we know we have to put effort into it – but if it didn’t take any effort, it wouldn’t be worthwhile.
Remember Your Conversion
A great starting point to observing lent well is to remember your conversion. Everyone has had one, or if you haven’t had one yet, pray for it! In fact we should be praying for daily conversions - but think of a time where you were really convicted and set on fire for God.
When I returned to the Faith, lent set my heart on fire with love. I started out with a really good confession and allowed the graces to pour in. I like to look back on that time and read the things I’ve written to help me recall what being on fire for God is like, to help me rekindle that flame once again.
Lent is for Everyone
Even those who don’t know about it, it’s for them too! If you want to observe lent really well, and to make the ‘sacrifice’ easier, think of people in your life who either don’t know about Christ, or who have left the Faith and do it on their behalf.
Lent is for everyone, the poor, the broken, the addicted, the lost, the hungry, the confused - because it was intended
for everyone. Think of and pray for you friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. You can even make a list of names to help you remember concretely whom you are praying for.
Observing lent with greater purpose will help turn the season from one of darkness to joyful self-giving – uniting yourself even closer to Christ – because that’s how Christ got through it. He had all of us in mind.
You Don’t Have to Give Anything Up
When people think of lent, they often think of what they need to ‘give up’. Well, you don't necessarily have
to give anything up - you can ‘add on’.
You can add something on to your daily routine that will remind you of Jesus throughout your day. Perhaps something you’d like to eventually become a habit.
For example, making a morning offer, going to daily mass, saying the rosary with your family, setting aside a specific time of day for mental prayer, reading the Gospel of the day, going to confession and or spiritual direction regularly, etc. Or, If you already do all those things, how about resolving to do them better or more frequently? We can always do more.
Don't just give up something up or add something on, and then binge or drop it the minute our Lord resurrects, making the offering completely pointless. Make each sacrifice consciously and lovingly with faith that our Lord delights in your efforts. In doing so you unite yourself even closer to the conscious and loving sacrifice he made for us, every step of the way.
There are even daily meditations booklets/programs such as this one
that can be helpful during these 40 days.
The element of ‘sacrifice’ is essential, because it’s an opportunity to empty ourselves from the things that may have been deterring us from Christ and to be refilled with Christ himself - which is the whole point of lent.
Empty Yourself to be Filled
Pray about it, ask Him what’s keeping you from Him these days. Whatever it is, make it good, do it for God and for others, and you'll see how lent will lead you to happiness, because it will bring you closer to the likeness of Christ.
Don’t be afraid to “starve” yourself a little from what you’re used to or what you desire, because whatever we give up, or add on to our daily routine will never be as big a sacrifice as the one Jesus made for us.
Observing lent isn’t an inconvenience it is a worthwhile practice of self-mastery that we all need to acquire. Emptying yourself will give you clarity, and an opportunity to know and discover what will really make you happy.
As you get into it, you’ll start to find Jesus Christ in places you may have forgotten Him, or places you never knew He reigned – but has been there all along.
This lent, I pray we experience the source of true Love, grow in knowledge and likeness of Christ, and that we may have daily conversions by persistently uniting ourselves to Him for our sake and for the sake others.
Written by Trisha Villarante
CNS photo/Carl o Allegri, Reuters