My Lenten Confession:
For many years, I treated Lent as if it was Catholic New Year’s. When considering what sacrifices I was going to make, my thoughts would invariably lead to some sort of self-improvement goal like eating healthier, giving up sweets, exercising more, or removing some vice. While these things are not bad in and of themselves, if I’m completely honest, my focus was more on myself and what I would do for Lent than on Christ and what He might want me to do. My end results shouldn’t be about how I want to be 10 lbs lighter so I can fit better into my clothes.
We live in a culture that is driven and self-focused. The “me” culture is constantly reinforced through media, the conveniences we enjoy, entertainment, social media, and so much more, and can easily creep into how we view life. This year for Lent, consider taking the “me” out of Lent and focusing on Christ and serving others. When we focus on ourselves, we can easily be discouraged about our progress, for it is not by our own willpower that we are successful but through Christ. We learn in Philippians 4:13, “I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.” usccb.org Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” usccb.org Our Catholic Faith is about going outside of ourselves and seeking Christ through giving up our lives for the sake of Christ.
The secret to a great Lent is not about how strong our personal willpower is but about seeking God’s will and relying on His graces. Jesus role models this total dependency while He is in the Garden of Gethsemane during His Agony. “He advanced a little and fell prostrate in prayer, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will’” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus showed us how to unite our will to God’s will even when it is dark and challenging. We can learn from Him, “not my will but yours”. This powerful prayer can be transformative for us during this Lent.
The Formula for Success
The Church offers a traditional formula for a successful Lent, calling us to Prayer, Fasting and Alms Giving. This formula serves as a road map for navigating this Liturgical Season and growing spiritually. All we must do is put our focus on Christ and allow Him to lead us down our Lenten road. Here are some helpful suggestions to redirect your focus toward Christ.
Come back to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days.
The Holy Mass is our greatest gift as Catholics. The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life. (CCC, 1324). Lent is a powerful opportunity to come back to practicing your faith! If someone has offended you or bored you to death with their music or a bad homily, please, please get past these human errors and focus on why we are there, to receive Jesus and get the graces we need to live out our faith. This is your official invitation back to the Faith.
Mass attendance is still down since before the pandemic. Our Lent could also include inviting others back to Mass.
Is there a Reconciliation service you can put on your calendar now and make it your goal to attend during Lent? Last week we had 56 priests attend the Columbus Catholic Women’s Conference to hear confessions for over 3,000 women. We had women coming back to this amazing Sacrament after five, ten, twenty, and even thirty years! This powerful Sacrament is not only a gift but an opportunity for healing and strength!
Recommit to a daily prayer routine.
Ready, set, go. Make it your goal to set your clock and make an appointment with the Lord for at least 10 minutes to start! That time will hopefully grow as your faith-life blossoms. I recommend doing it before your day gets full and your mind becomes cluttered!
Do you know that God loves you? He desires to have a relationship with you and allow His love to touch your heart. He wants that love to flow through you and impact the hearts of your family members, your friends, your community! Christ is the answer to the problems of the world. Just look around; we need Jesus! Enthrone your home to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; visit www.WelcomeHisHeart.com to learn more.
Fasting from food…
The intention behind the behavior is essential for growth. Learning to fast as Jesus taught us leads to a new level of prayer. However, there is a big difference between fasting to get skinny which will not merit much grace, and doing it out of love of God. Saying no to extra food and drink is a powerful way to focus on Christ.
From the USCCB.org website:
“Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. Besides, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence. For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards. “
Fasting from media: Remember to put your screens down
Lent is a great time to evaluate how much time you spend on screens and if your screens are coming between you and your relationship with God and others. Consider deleting all game apps on your phone during Lent and recommit to allowing it to be a tool of success and not a source of entertainment. Take some time and evaluate how you are engaging with your phone. Do you use it too often? Are you choosing edifying content? Consider downloading apps that can help you grow closer to Christ.
“Americans spend more time than ever watching videos, browsing social media, and swiping their lives away on their tablets and smartphones. According to a new study by market research group Nielsen, American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to, or simply interacting with media. That’s up from nine hours and 32 minutes just four years ago.”- Marketwatch.com.
Lent is not only about prayer but action. We are called to put our faith into action for the service of others.
Give to others or organizations that make a difference!
Through simplifying our life and making sacrifices, we can reach out our arms to give to others in need. Consider not drinking drive-through coffee and using that money to support those in need! Forgoing just four or five of those at some high-end shops will garner enough money to provide a meal at school for a child in a developing country for an entire year. Seriously, almsgiving is a gift to help us see the blessings around us!
Do acts of service.
Could you bring a family dinner, drop off groceries for a family in need, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or mentor a couple struggling with their marriage?
Could you share a gift or talent with a local ministry? Where is Christ calling you to serve? Here is a link to how to live out the Works of Mercy on the Go for parents. Each day our Lord places people in our lives to love and serve. May we focus on others and provide not only an example of what it means to be a Catholic but seek to be an instrument in bringing them closer to Christ. This strategy is best understood when we read Scripture and study the teachings of Christ.
Lent isn’t Catholic New Year’s, but rather an opportunity to seek Christ with our whole hearts and access graces we have never sought before. It is an opportunity to engage our heart in all that we do so that each deed we perform or sacrifice we offer up are rooted in the intention of loving Christ. We do not earn God’s love; rather, our job is to open up our hearts, receive this love, and pass it on to others.
May we seek to grow in our love for Christ during the Lenten Season and recognize that Christ wants us to seek Him out. Mother Church is offering her guidance by setting aside forty days where we can turn to fasting, prayer, and giving to others for us to come to know Him in a deeper way. May we not fall into the trap of focusing on ourselves and becoming discouraged by our weakness but rather seek out new graces to know, love, and serve the Lord and turn our attention outward toward others! If we take the focus off what we are doing and turn it toward what He is accomplishing through us and for us we will begin to truly understand and fully rejoice in His resurrection on Easter morning!
Listen live to this episode each month on Spirit Catholic Mornings on Spirit Radio! This segment will run on February 21, 2023