The word “Lent” derives from the English word ‘long’ and has some connection with the lengthening of the days in the spring of the northern hemisphere. It is used to describe the six weeks between Ash Wednesday and the eve of Easter: a time commemorating Christ’s forty days in the desert. Lent is a kind of “roadmap” to Easter.
Our Catholic tradition is very strong about how we should spend Lent: the classical Lenten structures are Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. We hear this, of course, every year; this year I want to give these traditional pillars of Lent a make-over by making three suggestions which may help our journey to Easter.
LENTEN LESSON. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). If we are to have the mind of Christ, if we are to seek first the Kingdom, we must immerse ourselves in the Gospels. So let’s make the four gospels our Lenten Lesson this year. This will inevitably address the first pillar of Lent: Prayer. It is impossible to soak ourselves in the Gospels without being led into prayer.
LENTEN PERSON. Choose one person (by name) with whom you have difficulty in relating. Avoid saying anything harmful, derogatory or unkind to or about that person; treat that person with the highest respect you can muster. Pray for that person each single day of Lent. This approach to your “Lenten Person” will more than satisfy the imperative to fast: fasting from gossip, fasting from unkindness, fasting from nastiness.
LENTEN LOVE. Our roadmap to Easter must find expression in love. Lenten Love is not a cosy feeling of well-being to humanity or to “the poor” in general, but it is a practical giving which, as Pope Francis puts it, “hurts”! Perhaps, to be down to earth, we should make sure that at least 6 times (once each week of Lent) we actually give something to someone in need. With such a resolution, we can see if we are on the right road or if we have lost our way to the Great Easter.
Happy (and holy) Lent,
Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.