Lent is less than a week away. It starts with Ash Wednesday, which this year is on March 9. Have you decided on what you are doing in order to prepare for Easter?
Lent is supposed to be a time of conversion, a time of turning back to the Lord. This requires a bit of reflection. What is it that draws you away from the Lord. Are there habits in your life that interfere with your relationship with Christ? Are there sins that seem to have a hold on you. Plan you Lenten practices accordingly. So does this mean you shouldn’t give up chocolate?
Giving up chocolate or other sweet isn’t a bad idea, especially if it would a penance for you. But Lent isn’t about following a diet, it’s about intensifying your relationship with Christ. The Church teaches us that we can do this in a special with through prayer, fasting and alms-giving. Let’s look at those three areas.
What is your normal prayer life like? Do you pray? If the only time you pray during the week is the time you spend at Mass, perhaps you should add a bit more prayer into your routine. After all, how can you have a relationship with anyone if you never hold any conversations with them. (and yes, that mean you need to also take time to LISTEN!) Set aside a time every day to pray, and find a place that is quiet and peaceful. Perhaps you can pray in your room, or perhaps you want to go to chapel. We have the benefit of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the Clairvaux Center, just one floor up from the Newman Center. If you already pray regularly, there are many opportunities to get together with others to pray. In our area there is daily Mass at the parish, Rosary every day except Thursday at 12:30pm, Lectio Divina every Thursday at 12:15pm. We will have Stations of the Cross on Fridays.
Yes, you can give up chocolate, but are there other things that distract you from your relationship with Christ? Perhaps you are like me, and spend too much time in front of screens: TV, computers, games and other gadgets. Are you compulsively checking email or Facebook or twitter? These are great tools, but they are meant to serve us, not the other other way around. Perhaps you can fast by limiting your time with electronic media. Or you can fast in other ways that are penitential for you. Perhaps you go the entire 40 days of lent without speeding, or limiting caffeine to one cup of coffee in the morning, or cutting out all alcohol (especially if you are not yet “legal”!) It is supposed to be a penitential act, so find one thing that might be a challenge and “offer it up”.
There are many ways to give of yourself to those in need. There are opportunities to help out at our local St. Vincent the Paul Society which helps our hungry neighbors. You can give your time to help with many of our parish outreach programs. Or if you are fasting by giving up a food item, perhaps you can donate the money you would have spent and put it in the “Ricebowls” which will be available again this Lent and so help feed the poor around the world. Or perhaps you simply invite a student who always seems to be alone to a dinner or game night at the Newman Center.
Whatever it is that you plan for Lent, keep it simple and don’t try to do everything at once. But pick one or two things and stick with them. And if it gets hard or you want to quit, think of what Jesus did for you and offer your struggles to him. If you need some resources for Lent, stop by the Newman Center office. One thing I plan to do for Lent is to update this blog every day. It may just be a picture, or a quote, or a short reflection, or a link to Lenten resources, but I will take the time and make the effort to post something every day.
Have a blessed Lent.