God gives in abundance, always, in all times and in all places! His goodness manifests itself most abundantly in His Mystical Body, the Church and concretely in the Church Liturgical Year.
The two strong times of the year are Advent, which culminates in Christmas, and Lent which culminates in Holy Week and in the Risen Lord Jesus. To experience the fullness of the Paschal Mystery—the passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus—we must live with generous heart and openness of spirit the season of Lent. Lent is both a gift and a Season of abundant graces.
Why not decide right now to live this Lent with total generosity of heart, mind, soul, body, and emotions? Let us live out these forty days of graces and blessings as if it were to be the last Lent in our lives! Our life is short and time flies by and the clock never ticks backwards.
We will offer ten simple Lenten practices so that indeed this Lent will be the best Lent in our lives. “If today you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your hearts…”
1. Prayer. Instead of being Martha this Lent why not try to imitate Mary of Bethany. What did Mary do, as Martha nervously and frenetically rushed to and fro? Mary simply sat at the feet of Jesus, looked at Jesus intently, listened attentively to His words, carried on a friendly and loving conversation, and simply loved Jesus. In Lent why not make the proposal- in imitation of Mary of Bethany—to pray a little bit more and better! Prayer delights the Heart of Jesus!
2. Reconciliation and Peace. If it is such that there is some person in your life that you have bitterness towards, resentment, maybe even hatred, then Lent is a most propitious time to reconcile. Build a bridge and knock down the barrier! In marriage homilies I often say to those about to be married that the three most important shorts phrases that couples should learn are: “I love you!” “I am sorry!” and “I forgive you!” Lent is time to throw out the old and rotting yeast and to be renewed in our social relationships!
3. Penance. Jesus said unequivocally: “Unless you do penance you will perish.” Give up something you like for love of God and for the salvation of souls. By saying “No” to self, we say “yes” to the invasion of God in our hearts! Beg the Holy Spirit for light to give up what is most pleasing to God!
4. The Bible,The Word of God. In the holy seasons of Advent and Lent the Church warmly exhorts us to have a real hunger for the Word of God. Jesus in response to the first temptation of the devil responded: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” May this Lenten season be motivated by a daily meditation of the Word of God! Use a prayer method suggested by Pope Benedict XVI called Lectio Divina: read, meditate, contemplate, pray, and action—put into practice the good insights you have received. This will result in a transformation of life; as St. Paul asserted: “It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.”
5. Almsgiving. Lent is a time to give, especially to the poor, sick, marginalized and the rejected of society. Remember Pope Francis’ many gestures of loving the poor, kissing the repulsive and rejected of the world. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do to me.”
6. The Three T’s. Following up on almsgiving why not examine your life in these three areas and see where and how you can give, as Blessed Mother Teresa said: “Give until it hurts!” Time! Give of your time to others. Start at home because charity begins at home. Talents! We all have talents. Lent is time to conquer our laziness and work diligently to cultivate our God-given talents. “Better to wear out then rust out!” Treasures! If you have an excess of food, clothing, money and material possessions, give and give. You are giving to Jesus in the poor!
7. Joy. Be joyful! Try to implement this acronym: J. O. Y. J—stands for Jesus! O—stands for others; Y—stands for you! If we put Jesus first, then others second and finally ourselves as last then we will experience the joy of the Holy Spirit and it will overflow on the others we meet!
8. Daily Mass and Communion. By far the best way we could possibly live out the Holy Season of Lent is by drawing close to Jesus as possible. In Holy Mass and Holy Communion, not only do we draw close to Jesus, but we actually receive Him into the very depths of our being, our inner sanctuary which is our soul. However, go to Mass and Holy Communion with intentions, especially to repair for sin and prevent sin. Why did Jesus suffer so much in His bitter Passion? St. Ignatius of Loyola gives us the two fundamental reasons: 1) To show us the malice and evil of the reality of sin; 2) to show us the depths of His love for all of humanity and for each one of us individually. Offer your Mass and Holy Communion in reparation for your past sins as well as in reparation for the sins of your family. Morally speaking also our Holy Mass and Communion could and should be offered in reparation for the sins of abortion—shedding the blood of the most innocent and vulnerable and then in reparation for the widespread practice of homosexuality which tears apart the basic building block of society—the family!
9. Conquer Your Own Devil. All of us have our own kryptonite— our weak point where we easily fall. But also we all have our own devil that attacks us— often going for our weak point. Check out where the devil attacks most. You might just go through the Capital sins and see where the devil has an opening. Gluttony? Lust? Greed? Sloth/Laziness? Anger? Envy? Pride? In Lent we are soldiers enlisted in the arm of Christ the King. Time to fight against our personal devil with the strength of Jesus the King. We are weak, but God is strong. Nothing is impossible for God!
10. Mary and Lent. Try to live a strongly Marian Lent. Pray the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary as well as the Rosary dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows. View the movie of Mel Gibson, “The Passion of the Christ” where Mary’s role is significant. Make the Way of the Cross, walking with Our Lady of Sorrows. Strive in Lent to live these holy days through the eyes of Mary and with the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In conclusion, my friends, if we can choose to live out these proposals with generosity of spirit, this will be the most holy of all our Lents. We will be able to live out the fullness of the Paschal Mystery—to suffer and die with Jesus so that we will rise with Him in the glory of the Resurrection!
image: Gary Bridgman/Wikimedia Commons