It is a time of reflection and prayer. Lent prepares the Christian for the yearly commemoration of Christ’s Death and Resurrection. It is usually marked with the sealing of ashes in the sign of the cross on the forehead of a person. At time the person receives ashes, the person is told that from “Ashes you came to ashes you return.” Mardi Gras is the celebration that precedes Ash Wednesday and is usually culminated with Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday as it is referred to in New Orleans. It is the day before Ash Wednesday. Lent begins next week for Eastern rite Christians and Ash Wednesday for Latin Rite Christians. There is self sacrifice and the giving up of something that you enjoy and love. It is also marked by dietary demands as well. Fasting on Fridays and alms-giving are hallmarks of the season as well.
Unfortunately, many Christians face lent with a sense of dread. It shouldn’t be looked at as a time of depression and deprivation. It should be time in which you reflect on how you can better your choices and strengthen your prayer life. Christ’s forty-day retreat in the desert and his success in resisting the devil’s temptation to wealth, power, and glory should inspire you to do better. You can do it in small ways.
Lent is a time of fasting. It sounds like such a sacrifice. It is, but it doesn’t have to be painful. We fast every day. Yes, every day! A fast is a time in which we step back for a moment to give thanks. Don’t you fast for a moment every day just before you eat long enough to say Grace? That’s a fast. Sometimes the fast can come from giving up an hour of your own time to spend it in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament for meditation. Sometimes we fast from conversation in prayer in order to hear God speaking rather than ourselves. There are many things from which one can fast.
Rather than looking back on all those years and trying to measure our conversion and change, just look back one year. Are you different? Is there something distinctly different in how you present God and His miracles to others? Don’t worry if it didn’t happen. You have a whole new opportunity. That’s another gift from God… another grace. Next year at this time you’ll be able to make that distinction… and be just that much closer to God.