Lent is fast approaching, and we are busy thinking about, “What is my best option for Lent?” Fasting? Abstinence? Good works? All, or a little of each?
We realize Lent is a time of reparation and preparation. We are repenting from our sins so we can fully share in the Easter mystery. We start our preparation by realizing that we are dust and unto dust we shall return. We wear the ashes proclaiming our faith to the world, but our good deeds should be done in secret as Matthew’s gospel reminds us: “whatever good deeds we do should be done in secret and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” (Matt. 6:4)
The first Sunday of Lent reminds us that temptation is always around us, though it may seem more prevalent during Lent. We read in the Gospel of Luke that Christ was tempted after spending 40 days of prayer and fasting. Even Christ was not spared temptations. He remained steadfast despite the devil’s promises. Christ used scripture to rebuttal Satan’s invitations to sin: “Not on bread alone shall man live.” (Luke 4:4) “You shall do homage to the Lord your God; Him alone shall you adore.” (Luke 4:8) and again, “It also says, you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Luke 4:12) Christ’s preparation of 40 days serves as an example to us. Prayer and fasting are both important to prepare us to resist temptation. Lent is the season to set apart some extra time for prayer and spiritual reading. How am I preparing to spend extra time with the Lord?
The second Sunday of Lent we read about the transfiguration of the Lord. By Christ’s transfiguration, we realize we too need to be transformed. We cannot be satisfied in loving those who love us, for even tax collectors love those who love them. Christ says, “My command to you is: Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors.” (Matt 5:44) If we are to follow Christ, we, too, must be radical. This Lent I will go outside my comfort zone and reconnect with someone I may not have spoken to in a long time. Could there be hurt feelings that need mending?
The third Sunday of Lent we are called to penance. We read in the Gospel of Luke that bad things can happen to anyone. We may think it is due to their sin or lack of faith, but Christ tells us otherwise and informs us: “you will come to the same end unless you reform.” (Luke 13:5) How do I react when something bad happens to a thief. Is my immediate reaction, “They deserved it?” or do I react with the words, “There, but for the grace of God, am I.”
The fourth Sunday of Lent, Luke’s Gospel speaks to us about the prodigal son. The father throws a big celebration when his wayward son returns and asks forgiveness. God is always ready to welcome us even when we stray. Problems occur when we feel as the older son felt, that we are cheated because we are faithful. We simply must remember: “’My son,’ replied the father, ‘you are with me always, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life, he was lost, and is found.’” (Luke 15:31-32) Have I felt cheated because a sinner was accepted back with open arms? Or was I able to celebrate that individual’s joy as he/she returned to God?