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The Work of Lent

Patricia McCarthy, CND

When space ships began viewing our planet earth from space, a change happened within those who were the space travelers and star gazers. They said at first that they tried to find their own countries and continents. Then as they gazed at earth, they just basked in the beauty of the one planet, the one home of all peoples. I wonder if that is how God views us. I wonder if we, as God does, can ever move to the day when all of us will see each other as brother and sister pilgrims on this planet.

Such philosophical musings seem a good place to roam as the season of Lent begins. The ashes have been blessed and our foreheads crossed with them. We have been signed one more time as people on the move to change, people ready and willing to accept the reality of our own mistakes, people conscious of the graciousness of a God who laid down his life for us two thousand years ago.

After the Super Bowl, Super Tuesday and Mardi Gras, and before March Madness, it is time for a season of reflection, calm and serious decision-making. Let the closing months of winter cause us to hunker down for thought and perhaps a prayer or two for the courage to go against the societal grain and live and act as Christians.

Lent is a necessary season for the soul and body. All of us need down time, to let the inner ramblings sort themselves out and settle in our beings. Our psyches need the time and opportunity to let our stirrings toward God and each other arise slowly. Most of life is reactive and much is impulsive. Lent is too long for the quick response sort of reaction. That might last a week or two; but for the long haul of six weeks, it takes some serious work.

What is the work of Lent? Is it merely the giving up of candy or alcohol, dessert or cigarettes? Perhaps it is those things, which can serve well as reminders of someone who gave up his life. Is it about extra money for the poor or extra time for prayer? It is all of these practices and more. Lent is the time to primarily thank God for the person of Jesus Christ, for his life, death and resurrection. It is the time for allowing changes within ourselves, changes toward God and away from selfish desires and wants. It is the time to allow Jesus Christ’s way of unconditional love to be given priority.

Ironically change is the current buzzword for the political agenda of candidates running for the office of the president of the United States. Lenten change is hardly a political agenda; Lenten change is not self-orchestrated or self-aggrandizing. Lenten change is surrender to God’s will and God’s ways. It is the time to allow God to change us, to let God broaden our horizons, to let God shed light on our dark spots, so we may live more fully as children of the light. Lenten change is personal and communal. We live in a violent world: In the wars in Afghanistan, Mexico, Yemen and Syria, more than 115,000 people died just last year. In addition to those four countries, there are 17 countries engaged in minor wars (defined by deaths between 1000 and 10,000) and another 41 countries involved in conflicts ( deaths between 100 and 1000). We live in a country that spends more on its military than on its children, a country that is continually engaged in wars to protect its own interests.

It’s not just another Lent; it is God’s gift to us to repent and believe the good news that Jesus Christ loves us and all people. We live on God’s beautiful earth; it belongs to God and can be shared by all God’s people. Imagine that! Imagine it, fast and pray for it and believe in it for these forty days.

Article first published by the Rhode Island Catholic


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