It is Ash Wednesday once again with Lent beginning- so what does this mean to anyone? For some people it is, no doubt, just another day; no big deal as life goes on. For others Ash Wednesday may revive past memories of what was ‘given up’ during this season. For most Lent is a time of preparation before Easter but why?
It may seem odd to us but the word ‘Lent’ is actually derived from an old Anglo-Saxon word for ‘spring’ (lencten). What could possibly be the connection between spring and preparation for Easter? There is a very clear connection if we think about it for a minute. Thoughts of ‘spring’ usually conjure up images of blooming flowers, warming days and increasing sunlight as winter’s cold and harshness gradually disappears. But spring is not instantaneous; it is a process of snow melting, temperatures rising and a little more light each day. This is exactly what should happen during the season of Lent- parts of our life that are cold, in darkness and harsh should be examined and reflected upon to convert us more deeply to the Gospel. To do this we need time for reflection and prayer in order to honestly look at life and individually ask serious questions: where is God in my life? How much do I pray? Am I overwhelmed by something (food, electronic gadgets, alcohol, sugar, cell phones, etc.)? Do I share to relieve the sufferings of the poor?
To guide our reflections the Church recommends prayer, fasting and alms-giving as focal actions during this season. Perhaps this means dedicating more time in prayer with a rosary, or mental prayer or Scripture reading? Perhaps it means ‘fasting’ from cell phones or television or skipping a meal once a week? Perhaps it means donating money to help the poor or volunteering to serve in a local soup kitchen? But ‘giving up’ something for Lent is not about earning salvation (we cannot-salvation is a gift) but a way to discipline our life to be more connected to God, others and self. Lent is thus a time of reflection and action which calls us to remember that our lives are limited but a new beginning and spiritual springtime is always possible. So during this Lent do not be overwhelmed but ask God what you need to be closer to Him, your family, friends, co-workers, and the poor.
Alms giving is encouraged during Lent to remind us that all Christians are part of a global family. Mission Doctors work to relieve suffering and bring Christ to the sick and lonely- please help their ministry through prayer and financial support. God bless you and have a blessed Lent.