Ash Wednesday, 1 March, begins the Season of Lent—a Catholic liturgical season which this year runs from the first of March and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday, 13 April. Liturgically, there are no flowers in Lent save for Laetare (Latin for “rejoice”)Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, and the liturgical color of the season is violet, and musically speaking our tone is more somber, again except for Laetare Sunday.
Lent asks us to participate in-and-through almsgiving, prayer and fasting, which contain both
practical and spiritual meanings to these penitential themes: almsgiving reminds us that there is great unity in the Catholic faith that is meant to highlight our new family, brothers and sisters in Christ and adopted daughters and sons of God. In this new family we cannot ignore the right
relationships we are now called by God to have both with our Father and all our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to have a concern for their lives, not just our own or our blood families—just as Jesus did when He walked the face of the earth. Rather than be a regal Christ seated on a throne, Jesus rolled up His sleeves and cared for the sick by healing them, He cared for the hungry by feeding them, and He cared for the ignorant and sorrowful by teaching them Truth and comforting them in their needs; fasting unites us with those who go without.
In this land of plenty we might become so insulated by our blessings from those who are homeless or hungry that we can’t even image what it would be like to not have enough food to eat or a warm bed in which to sleep. It can almost seem unreal as we become out-of-touch. It happens to the
best of us. The minor hunger pains of missing a meal or eating something simple, or a seemingly unfulfilling meal in some small ways connects us to those who go through this every day. While our small act of “doing without” isn’t going to dramatically change the life of someone in need, it
will make our hearts more open to helping others. And when that occurs then maybe we can become an agent of change in our own local community; and, Prayer brings us closer to God. This is where right relationships begin. In prayer we have an opportunity to open our hearts and
minds to the Will of the Father. God is immutable and All-knowing. So in prayer, we do not lobby God to change His Will; and in prayer we do not educate God or “update” Him to the new ways of the modern world, but rather in prayer we converse with God and He speaks to us in the silence of our hearts, as He in turn brings us closer to seeing the world from His perspective, a holy and loving perspective that then transforms us to respond to the world as God desires us to do.
In the Catholic Mass, when the priest washes his hands at the end of the preparation of the gifts, he does so as a sign of his interior desire to be purified in order to worthily celebrate the Consecration during the Mass. Lent should be viewed in the same manner, look at it as the “washing of our hands (hearts)” as we seek to purify ourselves for the celebration of the Great Easter Vigil and the coming Resurrection of the Lord. Lent and its almsgiving, prayer and fasting might appear to be a simple
or antiquated ritual that has little or no impact on our lives, but when one takes the time and effort to see what these actions might accomplish, we then come to see that faith asks us to believe in what we do not see and to trust in what we do not know. These simple rituals of not eating meat or giving up chocolates or taking my Dunkin cash and doing something beneficial with it-- or by just spending time with the God who created me and who desires so much for me to know Him—then maybe what I do not know and cannot readily see might become more present to me—not in the midst of lightning bolt or a booming voice from the heavens, but rather in the silence of a moment of
meditation or in the caring act given for someone less fortunate than I.
Let’s give Lent another try. Perhaps in the giving up of something, we might pick something up; and just maybe if “I decrease, He might increase in me.” It’s called the Resurrection and Life Everlasting.