Lent is all about charity, perseverance, repentance and prayer.
Lent is a time of increased prayer, penance and sacrifice. It is a forty day period in which we reflect on our relationship with Jesus Christ and embark on an effort to rededicate ourselves to following him more closely and work at eradicating sin from our lives. Some people ask, how do you count the 40 days since it is a six-week period that leads us into Holy Week as we prepare for the Easter Season. The forty days are counted by taking 6 days of the week, we exclude Sundays and adding 4 days for the remainder of the first week when Lent begins. (Ash Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday).
Lent is primarily the penitential season in the Church’s Liturgical Year. During Lent we are called to focus on our sinfulness and to seek reconciliation with Almighty God. The word Lent comes from an old English word which means springtime. Springtime is a time to do some house cleaning, a house cleaning of the soul that is. A time to ask ourselves what needs cleaned up in my life as a Christian. A time to ask ourselves – do I need to get rid of some practices and things that I do in my life that are hindering my relationship with God. Maybe things get in the way of going to Mass. Maybe work, recreation or other things have taken priority in life instead of spending more time with God. Maybe through gossip and judgmental comments others are hurt, while still others fail to forgive people who hurt or injury them. Whatever those practices or things are, Lent is a time for us to ask ourselves, am I really living life the way God wants me to live it and if I am not, then I need to repent, show sorrow for my sins and make the needed changes.
People say, I understand the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent to grow closer to God, but why are ashes placed on our forehead on Ash Wednesday in the shape of the cross? The ashes are meant to remind us of our mortality (that our bodies will die) and our need for repentance because by our sin we have offended God. It is a sign of our willingness to change, an act to demonstrate our desire to live life according to the will of God. God is slow to anger and rich in kindness. God loves us and forgives us when we sin and do wrong. That is if we are truly sorry from the heart. The sign of the cross with the ashes remind us that we have forgiveness and the hope of eternal life through the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us what we must do to seek the Father’s forgiveness – we must pray, fast and give alms. These acts help us change from the inside out, from our heart first then to our heads where we think and carryout acts of love and compassion. During Lent we are especially encouraged to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and perform acts of penance to show our sorrow for the things that we have done or do that offend God.
As we begin this season of Lent, let me remind you of the Church’s rules of abstinence and fasting during these 40 days. For those of you who are 14 years old and older, you are to abstain from eating meat on Ash Wednesday and every Friday during Lent. Those of you who are 18 to 59 years of age, you are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. That means, on those two days you are to only eat one full meal and two smaller portions of meals that do not equal another full meal. Everyone during this Lenten Season is to take on a remorseful attitude and enact habits of prayer, sacrifice and fasting to show our loyalty and love to God.