Up Front and Personal

Lent Offers Unique Opportunity to Change

By Carol Powell

Another Lent has almost begun. How is this year different from any other? Is there a way to make this Lent more meaningful than any other we’ve experienced?

Lent is about renewal, change, conversion, turning more toward God. In fact, it began as a conversion experience for catechumens who were preparing to become part of the Church.

They went through a rigorous preparation for 40 days before the Easter celebration. Now those of us who are fully initiated join with these expectant new members to examine and purify our hearts before the Paschal mysteries are celebrated.

In the old days, those over 21 were asked to fast during Lent. Now we have only two days of fast, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Many people feel that we have become soft in our Lenten preparations because the rules have been relaxed. We now are more personally responsible to enter into the spirit of Lent, the spirit of what the fast is all about. Fasting is a way of acknowledging that God is most important in our lives. It is also a practice that enables us to avoid undue attachments to anyone or anything so that God can be the center of our lives. The act of fasting, deliberately giving up something that we enjoy but is not forbidden, is a helpful discipline in enabling us to avoid things or situations which are sinful.

Most people think of abstaining from certain or all foods when they think of fasting. But there are other forms of fasting, which might be more helpful to many people. How about fasting from negative thinking or fasting from criticism? Some people need to fast from always having the last word or trying to be the center of attention. Others need to fast from TV or computer games. Still others would benefit from fasting from too much shopping or sleeping or talking too much. Anything that blocks our relationship with God or with others in any way is a good candidate for a fast.

For many frantic workaholics, it might even be beneficial to fast on some work during Lent in favor of enjoying some needed leisure. Lent is not about making ourselves suffer. It’s about restoring a sense of balance to our lives.

Let’s not forget the positive things we can do during Lent. Spending more time in communication with God, daily Mass, being extra kind and helpful in our dealings with others, making an effort to reach out to difficult people at home and in the workplace. Lent can be a time to renew positive old acquaintances that we might have been careless about and let fall by the wayside. There are lonely people in hospitals and nursing homes who can be cheered by a visit or a note of comfort. Letters to our armed forces overseas, especially to those who might otherwise not receive such correspondence can be a lovely way to let them know that they are in our thoughts and prayers.

Lent is a time of renewal and conversion, of turning around our lives totally in the direction of God and the things of God. It’s a time to renew our awareness that God is already in every situation of our lives. Sometimes God is very apparent, other times much more hidden. Our job, especially in this Lenten season, is to search beyond the superficial, to dig deeper, to look with the eyes of faith.

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