Approaching Lent Thoughtfully
We are blessed every year to observe the season of Lent, which begins this year on March 1. During this time, we take a step back to renew our relationship with God as we prepare to celebrate the greatest mystery of our faith, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The main ways we do this are through increased prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But how can we prayerfully approach the season without making our Lenten practices a competition or a New Year’s-style resolution? How do we live what Jesus taught us: “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6)?
A good place to start is to understand what Lent is not. Lent is not, for example, an opportunity to outdo your Catholic friends. We do not get extra points for fasting every day if we do so only to tell others that we have been fasting. Any practice we adopt must be done prayerfully, and with the purpose of strengthening our relationship with God. Fasting matters much more when we understand the reasons for doing it, rather than simply taking an “Extreme Lent” approach and pushing our bodies to the limit.
Nor is Lent a time solely for self-improvement. If you give up chocolate for Lent and lose weight as a result, then you will certainly see self-improvement. But if your reason for the sacrifice is to lose weight, and not to grow closer to God, you will have to rethink your priorities. Most of the time, we do experience self-improvement thanks to our Lenten practices, whether those improvements are physical, emotional, or spiritual. However, if self-improvement is our motivating factor, we are missing a beautiful opportunity to grow closer to Christ; we run the risk of becoming self-centered instead of Christ-centered.
Keep in mind, also, that when you give something up for Lent, that thing is not inherently bad. We can choose to sacrifice worldly comforts for the purpose of simplifying our lives and putting God before everything else. If you choose to give up something that is actually sinful for Lent, then that practice should continue past Easter and not be limited to a single season.
This Lent, as you prepare to renew your Baptismal promises, choose your Lenten practices thoughtfully. Take your preparation to prayer so that you can understand which practices will truly strengthen your relationship with God. What you choose to do is individual. Take advantage of the great gift of your unique faith journey in the context of the universal Church.
We will keep you in our prayers this Lent, and we hope you will keep us in yours. Please join us for prayer and special programming during this season, detailed on our schedule.