Habits formed during Lent help us more fully celebrate EasterBy: Bishop Edward M. Rice
I recently read that if one is serious about improving one’s self or seeks to break a bad habit, that positive change can be realized within a 30-day span. I find that encouraging as we enter into the 40 days of the Lenten Season. The Church, in her wisdom, sees fit to give us an extra 10 days as we strive to grow in virtue and holiness so as to more fully live the glory of the 50 days of the Easter Season. Together, the two seasons of Lent and Easter provide each of us a glimpse into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Paschal Mystery.
The Opening Prayer for Ash Wednesday speaks to us of the “campaign of Christian Service … as we take up battle against spiritual evils” and being “armed with weapons of self-restraint.” In this 40-day campaign against our own spiritual evils our weapons are the traditional works of the Lenten Season: prayer, fasting, and works of charity. In prayer, there are so many opportunities such as participating in daily Mass, praying the Scriptures, the Rosary, Stations of the Cross, or spending time with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The Perpetual Adoration Chapels at Saint Francis Hospital, Cape Girardeau, and Holy Trinity Parish, Springfield, offer unlimited opportunities for quiet prayer. In addition, many of our parishes throughout the diocese offer local opportunities for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. One need not be a member of that parish in order to spend an hour or so there with the Lord.
Let this 40-day period of Lent be a time of Eucharistic Renewal for each of us.
In fasting, the Church invites us to desire Christ above all things. In our consious abstianing from meat on the Fridays of Lent or other treats, we grow in our desire for Him who can truly satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. But there are other things to offer up as well. What would these 40-days be like if we turned off the television and picked a good spiritual book to read? What would it be like if we put down all the electronics and had real conversations with one another? How about fasting from texting or Emails or the phone just during the evening meal? Hey, just a thought, how about sitting down to the evening meal together as a family or with a friend? How about a fast from prejudice or gossip? Gossip is a favorite topic of Pope Francis. He has called it “terrorism” and “murder.”
Let this 40-day period of Lent be a time of fasting from the things that hinder us from being more like Christ.
In almsgiving, our prayer and fasting moves the focus from “self” and to action as we reach out to those in need. This outward concern is essential to our life in the Gospel, as we hear in Chapter 20 of St. Matthew’s Gospel, “I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink.” As a child, I was given a little Lenten box into which to save my change, a practice I continue today during Lent. The idea of almsgiving or charity is much more than giving money. How about reaching out to a neighbor who lives alone? Or making a phone call to reconnect to a family member or friend? When was the last time you sent a card to someone through the mail? Remember the time when people took pen to hand and wrote to others on a piece of paper and then sent the message through the mail? Sounds obsolete, but it can be an act of charity! Let this 40-day period of Lent be a time of charity toward the needy neighbor or emotionally/spiritually hungry family member or friend.
Of course, the Lenten Season is a perfect time for reconciliation. The Sacrament of Penance & Reconciliation, which flows from the Easter promise of peace, is reconciliation with God. When was the last time you celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation? Check with your parish for special Penance Services offered during Lent. There is also the challenge to be reconciled with others. Is there someone with whom you should be reconciled? Let this 40-day period of Lent be a time of reconciliation with God and neighbor.
An especially blessed Lent to all!