Where is your Lenten journey leading you?
I am often asked a number of questions about Lent… though 90% of those questions tend to be about fasting and abstinence: when we can and cannot eat meat, what constitutes a “meat” (generally friends from law school), what time is the parish fish fry, etc. A question I don’t hear as often is WHY do we set aside these 40 days of discipline, detachment, and deprivation. What’s the point?
I think this question is key as we begin our Lenten journeys today. Before starting any journey we have to know where we’re headed, right? We can’t set our GPS without a destination in mind. Before we decide to skip the chocolate or Diet Cokes are we asking ourselves why this sacred time is set aside in our Church calendar? Do we know the goal? I think St. Paul sets the goal out for us perfectly in Galatians 2:20:
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Wow! St. Paul sets a high bar for us. As we look ahead to the Passion of our Lord at the end of Lent, do we have as our goal that it no longer be we who live, but Christ within us? If that is the case then what are we doing this Lent to strive for this? How do we get there? Prepare to be disappointed: I don’t have an answer for you. Unfortunately, no blog, Lenten mission, or homily will have the perfect answer for you and your Lenten journey, because the journey is YOURS! Here’s what I can offer to you… if you haven’t found time to do so amid the celebrations of the Mardi Gras season, take some time today (15-20 minutes of silence) and examine your life:
- Where are you now in your spiritual journey?
- What are the things keeping you from taking that next step towards God?
- Where can you do better?
- What are you doing well?
- Write these things down, and from your reflection develop a Lenten plan that will work for YOU.
Your Lenten plan might be as simple as starting each day with the simple prayer: “Lord, I can’t do anything today without you.” It may be to add the discipline of 20 minutes of silence every day, or the addition of a weekly rosary, holy hour, or bible study. Whatever it is, know that your plan should be there to help YOU take that next step toward Galatians 2:20. And don’t forget, your plan can evolve as you do. If that 20 minutes of silence is becoming easy, step it up to 30 minutes after a week or so. If your desire for Diet Coke disappears after two weeks, give up french fries as well. Challenge yourself!
I recently had lunch with one of my former youth group members who is in college now (I feel so old!). She shared with me an awesome Lenten idea that has worked for her. For Lent she began a gratitude journal. Every day during Lent she would write down five things for which she was grateful. There was one rule: no repetition! As the days of Lent passed, it became more difficult to expand that list, but when she was done she had a journal with 200+ things she was grateful for! She told me that she has returned to this list time and again as a great reminder of all of her blessings.
The season of Lent gives us such an awesome opportunity to reflect and prepare ourselves for the Paschal Mystery! Know that you and your journey will be in our prayers. Check back here Mondays this Lent for a series of reflections on the season!!