Today’s post will be kind of short; I am posting in between classes.
So another Ash Wednesday has come and gone, initiating Lent, the liturgical season of penitence, prayer and fasting. Now I have to admit that I felt pretty low yesterday after I failed to post anything on either Ash Wednesday or Lent in general. However, this morning I realized that Divine Providence may have delayed my post. It offered me a sense of humility – another deadline to be accomplished not on my timetable but on the Lord’s. It is also a reminder of the true spirit of Lent, total surrender to the will of God.
Lent is one of the most anticipated seasons of the liturgical calendar. Everyone looks forward to Lent. Some look at it – with a sense of dread and moodiness – as that awful set of 40 days in which we have to give up candy, meat, cookies and pop. Others – with a sense of longing and serenity – look at Lent as a journey through the spiritual desert with Our Lord. Either way, there is this great “build-up” of preparation and excitement leading up to Ash Wednesday. We carefully contemplate how we will apply the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving to our lives. Shrove Tuesday comes and we happily eat our Pączkis. Ash Wednesday arrives and we fast and have our heads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross. Thursday follows Ash Wednesday, the momentum dies and the daily grind of Lent begins. Whether or not we have moved from contemplation to action, it is time to embark on a sojourn. Forget the plans for a leisure cruise, we have arrived at the “Spiritual Sahara.” We see Our Lord extending his hand and then it hits us. We will be spending the next 40 days with Our Lord in the desert. Without pleasures or distractions to entertain us, we will fast, pray and cleanse ourselves so that when we look deep into our souls, we see the reflection of Our Lord smiling back.
Lent – this contemplative journey through the desert – could not have come at a more opportune time. While I was on my way to an orchestra session yesterday, I tuned into Relevant Radio to hear Sheila Liaugminas and her guest Fr. Andrew Liaugminas discuss the turmoil in which our world is immersed. We each carry this hole in ourselves, this emptiness. When we choose not to fill this void with God, but rather with sin and other worldly “pleasures,” we find ourselves despondent, depressed and despairing. When these “triple Ds” are left to fester, they brew a sense of rebellion that protests the very nature and purpose for which we were created. Such a spiritual “leprosy” rips at the Fabric of Justice and, God is its only cure. Sadly, all too often we choose sin over God and the rip grows deeper. Violence and protests explode in response to these tears in the Fabric of Justice. Social restlessness is not the result of some mere political or economic event, rather the root cause of our present tumultuous global situation is sin. With the arrival of Lent, we are offered the opportunity to look deep into ourselves and uncover to the Lord those areas of our lives which are in need of healing. For if we are to change world, we must first change ourselves.
So with Ash Wednesday behind us and 39 days more ahead of us in the desert with the Lord, let us strive to enter the true spirit of Lent – a spirit of humility and surrender. “For as the Psalmist says: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not spurn.” (Psalm 51: 19b)
Let us pray:
protect us in our struggle against evil. As we begin the discipline of Lent, make this day holy by our self-denial.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
– The Breviary, Morning and Evening prayer for Ash Wednesday.
P.S. If you have not yet read Pope Benedict XVI’s message for Lent of 2012, you can read it here. The Pontiff’s message really hit home for me and I believe you will find it just as beneficial for your Lenten sojourn.