When you ask most Catholics about Lent, they’ll probably tell you that we’re not supposed to eat meat on Fridays or that we’re supposed to give up foods and drinks that we love. You might even heart that we’re not supposed to say the “A” word at Mass (you know, the one that rhymes with “shmalleluia”). Obviously, though, if that’s all there was to Lent, the Church wouldn’t go to so much trouble encouraging us to make bigger changes in our lives.
Lent is more than just a season before Easter during which we give things up. Lent is a forty-day journey for our mind, body, and soul. On that journey we take time to think about how we’ve turned away from God. We think of our sins and of how we’ve hurt others. And we repent. But the healing and receiving God’s unstoppable mercy. We’re not alone on that Lenten journey, God is with us every step of the way.
Turning and returning
Repenting is an action. It’s deciding to go 180 degrees in the other direction. It’s like a spiritual U-turn. One of the prayers you might hear on Ash Wednesday as the ashes are placed on your forehead is “Turn away from sin, and return to the gospel” (see Mark 1:15).
The first action of repentance, the “turning away from sin,” is a ninety-degree movement to the right. We’re no longer trapped by sin. But turning ninety degrees only leaves us better off, not free. It’s the next ninety degrees- when we “return to the gospel”- that we go for the win. It’s in this movement that we forsake the lies and the false securities of sin and find the healing love of God-the Father welcoming back his prodigal child, the Savior who wants to unbind us and set us free. It’s in that return to the gospel that we find the heart of Lent and God’s magnificent love that lights up our whole existence.
Of course, during Lent we are challenged to make sacrifices in our lives.
So what are you waiting for?
This Lent, prepare to receive the freedom and the new life Jesus died to give you.
Say a prayer, now, asking the Holy Spirit for the grace you need to make the most out of this season of Lent, giving the Spirit permission to lead you even more deeply into the heart of God and the life of Christ’s Church on earth. God bless you on this journey.
Strohm, Deacon Keith. Getting More Out of Lent. Word Among Us Incorporated, 2019.