NOT JUST ANOTHER LENT!
This week's reflection is written by
Very Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS
During the forty days of Lent we journey with Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem and his saving death on the Cross for each of us. During this holy season, let us heed the advice of St. Francis de Sales never to see this as just another Lent. If we do approach this Lent as just another Lent, we run the risk of not approaching it with the spiritual energy, seriousness and attention that it deserves.
We begin this Season as we always do with the symbol of ashes placed in the form of a cross on our forehead. Scripture scholars have studied the use of ashes throughout the Old Testament and have discovered that they indicate three distinct spiritual attitudes: mortality, repentance, and intercessory prayer.
MORTALITY: Immediately after the Fall, God reminds our first parents that they were created from the earth and “unto dust” they shall return. Lent is a good time to remember that all life leads to death. For the Christian the thought of death is not a morbid thing at all. Rather, the knowledge that one day we shall all return to dust prompts us to make the very best use of every day and of the present moment of every day by living well the double commandment of love, the spirit of the beatitudes and the practices of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Lent reminds us that a concrete love of God and neighbor is life’s highest spiritual priority. Each of us ought therefore to ask how we can better love God and neighbor –not in the abstract but in the concrete and nitty-gritty of our daily lives with family, friends, colleagues, enemies and strangers—and especially with the marginalized and less fortunate.
REPENTANCE: Do any of us need to be reminded that we are sinners? We confess that fact in the penitential rite at the beginning of every Mass and frequently in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Lent is the liturgical season when we take especially seriously the need to undergo whatever conversion of life or of thought or of action necessary to become the person and the Christian that God calls us to be. For many, repentance may not include so much a conversion from sin but a conversion to do the good that we have neglected to do or to forgive the hurt that we have thus far been unwilling or unable to forgive, and so on. Therefore, during these forty days frequently take the state of your heart to God in quiet prayer. Let God heal whatever needs to be healed or forgiven and prompt in you whatever concrete good that you need to do.
INTERCESSORY PRAYER: When her people were threatened with extinction, Queen Esther covered herself in ashes and prayed fervently to God for their deliverance, and her intercessory prayers on their behalf were heard. Pray during this Season for yourselves, for your family and friends and for our very troubled Church and hurting world. Pray as that great woman did –with persistence and confidence and in the spirit of love and humility.
Prayer, fasting, almsgiving: these Lenten practices take on a deeper meaning when they are coupled with an appreciation of our mortality, our need for conversion and repentance, and our duty to pray for ourselves, for others, and for our Church and world!