We have begun the season of Lent
When I was in the seminary many moons ago there was a professor who was a chain smoker. Faithfully each Lent he would give up smoking for Lent and keep to his resolution to the bitter end. Life became a misery in class, for without a cigarette he had a very short temper and made life a misery for students, and he would blow his top and take out his frustration at a quivering student. There would be a collective sigh of relief at Easter. Something is wrong with this picture, I think you’ll agree. He missed the point of Lent.
Don’t be like the married couple I heard about recently! A woman said to her husband about his resolutions for Lent: 'I don’t mind you giving up food, but could you please give up complaining about it'?!
Jesus three trials or temptations in the wilderness remind us of the 40 days of Lent as well as the fact that we too are lost and in the way of trial and tribulation in this life as Jesus’ followers.
I wonder what is the temptation you have to deal with most – is it pride, vanity, angry outbursts, impurity, lack of forgiveness, uncharitable talk, malicious gossip? Lent is a time for us to ask ourselves: Have you ever thought what you are like to live with or to be at the receiving end of what you say and do?
Lent is about a new springtime in our lives. Amid the changing weather outside, there is change and growth intended in our lives too. Testing makes us grow.
Temptation tells us something about ourselves – about our proneness to weakness, to sin, sometimes repeatedly. Lent makes us face up to some home truths about ourselves, particularly in the nature of or the extent of our ability to make resolutions and keep them.
Fasting and abstinence are good practice – in the right spirit - and are tried and tested methods that bear fruit. We are all obliged to perform some act of penance for our sins. but Motivation is key.
I find it personally helpful in Lent to pray and offer up sacrifices for a friend of mine in New York who deals with troubled drug addicts and recovering and relapsing alcoholics with all sorts of weird and wonderful domestic arrangements and difficulties. These are young women in severe financial straits and in a cycle of poverty and addiction. I pray for their wellbeing and conversion. I have a list of their Christian names and I pray for them daily in Lent.
Find a cause, a purpose, a person to pray for. Find a prayer partner. Someone who with you with mutually pray for one another and even make some kind of sacrifice
Lent stretches us – but hopefully stretches our love beyond the boundaries of our selfish ways to the world of others, until we come to Good Friday to meditate before the One who in love stretched out His arms for us on the cross and died to save us all.
Surrendering our likes, our tastes, fasting from food is not an end in itself. We must all learn to surrender to God completely eventually. Kimberly Hahn, the wife of the famous convert Scott Hahn, was slowly edging towards full communion with the Catholic Church. She found numerous intellectual obstacles to becoming Catholic, even though she could see the sense of many of the Church’s teachings. She decided one year to undertake a Lenten resolution and asked God what she would give up. She felt the Lord reply to her in her mind: ’Kimberly, why don’t you just give up?!’ She did and became a Catholic .
Maybe that is the message we most need to adopt today.
Give yourself up to what God wants.
Give yourself up to what God wants.