Oh Lent, that wonderful time of the year. If you’ve heard of Lent, but aren’t quite sure what it is, Lent is a very ancient Christian custom. It is a penitential season, meaning we do penance, meaning we make sacrifices, to loosen our slavery to the flesh and the world and rely more deeply on God. It is a season of sanctification, a time of year that we double down on our cooperation with God’s grace to become the men and women we were intended to be from the beginning.
Lent is not a time of year when we Catholics try to work our way to heaven, when we make sacrifice because we believe that we can earn our way to heaven. These are things Catholics do not believe, and the Church explicitly rejects.
Lent is the time of year when we kind of realize that we’ve been drifting. It is when we are reminded that we are in a relationship with Christ. Though Christ initiated the relationship outside of anything we could do, relationships always imply a multiplicity of persons, and so we must participate in the relationship actively, not simply be passive observers. So we take this time to renew our acceptance of Christ’s call to take up our crosses and follow him. Guided by him, we see the planks in our eyes and through prayer, fasting, and giving of alms, we seek to remove those things that make us less like Christ so that we can be transformed by his saving power into the light of the world, and the salt of the earth.
Lent begins on Wednesday
, Ash Wednesday. We will be reminded on that day of where we come from and where we are going. We will be smacked in the face with humility and a little bit of ash. And for 40 days we will, albeit on a much small scale, imitate our Lord in the desert. And then we will enter into Easter and celebrate the Resurrection of Christ and anticipate in excitement, our own resurrections.
With only a few days left, now is a good time to consider what sort of sacrifices or other penances you might participate in, other than the ones mandated by Holy Mother Church (fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and abstaining from meat Ash Wednesday and all the Fridays of Lent). Share in the comments what you are planning to do so that those of us who aren’t sure yet can be inspired!