I didn’t get off to a good start this Lent. I didn’t manage to get shriven on Shrove Tuesday as I was lying under layers of blankets experiencing chills. Wednesday, though I felt a little better, I thought I had better not push it. So I missed Mass on Ash Wednesday for the first time since Ash Wednesday became important to me.
It’s been all I can do to try to keep up with my journalism work while feeling like my head is filled with cotton.
So, here I am, on a Saturday morning, feeling a bit like I’ve “blown” Lent.
Well, not really, there’s still time to get into it. I love Lent. I love times of preparation, of drawing aside, of willingly entering the “desert” so as to experience self-mortification (as opposed to the self-mortification that comes when the proverbial two-by-four hits you across the brow because you’ve stubbornly headed in the wrong direction).
One suggestion I have for Lenten reading is Cardinal Sarah’s The Power of Silence. Meanwhile, Fr. Doug Hayman offered this reflection on Lent in the Annunciator, our parish newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:
We often think of Lent as a time when we do something for God, usually by giving up
something we enjoy in order to make a sacrifice which we hope will please the Lord—maybe even score some points for us with Him, and perhaps impress others (maybe even ourselves) with our piety. Sometimes we take on new things, either in addition to or instead of the abstinences, determined that we are doing these good things for God: our sacrifice to Him. Yet it strikes me that, whenever we imagine we’re doing things for God,
we are really doing them first for ourselves. He does not need what we are offering (cf. Psalm 50:11-14 “All the beasts of the forest are mine, and so are the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the birds upon the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are in my sight. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee; / for the whole world is mine, and all that is therein. Thinkest thou that I will eat bulls’ flesh, and drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving, / and pay thy vows unto the Most High.”
I think that we need to keep in mind that, on one hand, Lent is not about us: it is about God; yet, on the other hand, it is for us, because we’re the ones who need this journey in order to receive the full benefits of the Easter Mystery. Whatever we do along the way, ought to make us more available to our Lord, not keep Him at arm’s length. Our fasts so easily leave us focused on ourselves, conscious either of our own discomfort or our pride in what we are accomplishing. If we are doing it for Him, are we not acting on His behalf— as though He were not present; i.e. I act without Him, doing it “by mine self!”, as our daughter used to say in her very young days—but He doesn’t want my offering or sacrifice if my heart and my life do not come with it. He calls me to die to myself and take up my cross, eschewing self-will regarding what’s offered and looking rather at what He would do with and through me in it. If I have died, then I cannot act without Him first raising me to life: Christ living in me and I in Him—not simply me living on His behalf: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved
me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
May I suggest that you make daily Mass, as often as you can manage it, your principal Lenten disciplines? Carry with you two simple prayers, those of Samuel and of Fr. Bob Bedard, respectively: “Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears.” And “Lord, I give You permission to do what You will in my life.” Then listen and attend to the Scriptures, the homily, the prayers of the liturgy, the still, small Voice within, and other people and
images which meet you; and where you discern something, however small, that you ought to do, act upon it in the Lord—i.e. ask Him directly to guide, accompany and bless. (If you cannot be at Mass, read Scriptures for the day, for Mass or the Daily Offices;
https://ordinariate.net/documents/2018/1/180105_Ordo.pdf and make a Spiritual Communion; see below) As well, you might join us at the Annunciation on Fridays at
7:00 p.m. to pray through the Stations of the Cross; or use the form in this Annunciator for your own devotions, pausing to imagine each scene and to listen.
“Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.” “Lord, I grant Thee permission to do what Thou willest in my life.” May yours be a truly fruitful Lent, blossoming into full Easter joy and life in the Spirit.