By Jim Murray
So what is Lent all about anyway?
I’d like to think of this holy season of Lent as a retreat for us, the Church, an opportunity to change ourdaily routine and patterns spending some time as we go in prayer in order to renew and strengthen our relationship with God. We are given forty days, to set aside much of “life-as-usual” in order to keep Lent. We fast and pray and give to those in need. We discipline ourselves, we struggle, and we battle with the manysided but very real forces of evil present in our society and in our own personal lives.
Lent is about transition and movement. It is not about doom and gloom. Lent is not a season of death. However, it is true, that we cannot separate the death of Jesus from the Resurrection. They are intimately connected in the Paschal Mystery. Lent is a season of new life and springtime. The scriptures of “Cycle C” are reflected in the preparation of our Lenten liturgy. Throughout the season we hear stories of transformation. God reaches into our lives and makes them new again. The activity of creation is never ending. God’s presence transforms those who wish to seek it. Lent shows us a God who is active in history and present in the lives of all people. During Lent we are reminded of the great people who came as prophets and leaders to reveal the truth about life for us. Abraham, Isaiah, Moses and Jesus each recognize, accept, and follow the will of God in their lives. Jesus shows us that in obedience, even to death, there is life.
By following Jesus we are changed! Lent is a time for changing, God’s way demands change. The Greeks call it, metanoia. Which is a complete and radical change in the individual. It demands we let go of where we are and what we are in order to be filled with a new, more abundant life.
Lent is a time for reflecting. We take time to evaluate our lives. We look at our shortcomings in the light of scripture to see what and where we need to change. Lent is a time to call on God to be with us and help us to make the changes we need to make on our journey of life.
Lent is a time of challenge and hope. The scriptures we hear require a response from us. We are challenged by the examples of others. We find hope in the promise and delivery of a new life for those who believe in God’s presence. We look to our OCI (Order of Christian Initiation) catechumen and candidates as our examples that remind us that during this Lent we are all on a journey together. It is comforting to know that we are not alone on our pilgrimage of conversion; others will join us and lead us.
Lent is a time of Tough Love that Jesus has for us. In the readings from the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, readings that we normally don't hear because Lent has in most cases, has already begun. The readings talk about our concern about removing the splinter in the eye of our sister or brother. But what Jesus calls us to do is remove the “wooden beam,” from our own eye first! Then there’s the story of Gehenna, and cutting off body parts if they sin, how’s that for tough love?
One of the distinctive characteristics about human life is that it is relational. In baptism, we are brought into a new relationship with God and with one another, as beloved children and heirs of the kingdom. As heirs, we take time to journey with the Lord who longs to draw us more closely through this journey with our most precious examples-our catechumen. As we move on this journey, we are reminded to travel lightly. We carry with us as we go the healing and transforming power of the cross. The ashes remind us too, that in death we must let go of everything, Initiation and Penance lead us forward to the Paschal celebrations during Eastertime. For all of us, Lent means living up to our baptism.
Finally, Lent is a time for turning our minds and hearts to God who alone can lead us from death to new life. We do so first of all in thanksgiving for all that God has given us. We do this best, in the celebration of the Eucharist. We do so in praise for God’s unconditional, eternal love. We do so with a plea that God will free us from whatever keeps us from responding wholeheartedly. Experience your Lent!
Reflections Questions for Lent Cycle C
It can, at times, be difficult to deepen an important relationship if we do not give it sufficient time to reflect on its importance in our lives. Listed below are some reflection questions you can ponder over during the weeks of Lent. Always pray the scriptures of this season listed in the bulletin. It would be helpful to read the scriptures for the weekend before you answer the questions. My hope is that together as we walk this journey of Lent, we will foster a right relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. You may wish to cut this article out and place it near your bed or on the refrigerator, or some place where you will see it, like the bathroom mirror!
Ash Wednesday - March 6, 2019
How would you live this Lent if you knew it were your last?
What in your life causes division in your heart and your relationships?
What actions can you take this Lent to pledge your whole heart to God?
First Sunday of Lent - March 10, 2019
What helps you to remain steadfast in times of temptation?
During this Lenten season of fasting, how can you feast on the Word and presence of God?
How can you make this season more retreat-like in the way you live it individually?
Second Sunday of Lent - March 17, 2091 St. Patrick’s day
Where is God asking you to wait and be patient at this time in your life?
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” How do you listen to Jesus in daily life?
In your life, which places of darkness are longing for the light of Christ? How might you lift these places up to the light?
Third Sunday of Lent - March 24, 2019
“Here I am.” How have you experienced God’s call in your own life? What has been your response?
How does your family and/or community pass on their faith to younger generations?
What situations in your life are met with grumbling? How might you greet them in a different way?
We hear about the barren fig tree. Where in your life, family, or parish is there a lack of fruit being borne? How might you cultivate the ground to encourage fruitfulness?
Fourth Sunday of Lent - March 31, 2019 Laetare Sunday
Where do you feel shame or guilt over past transgressions?
Which figure in the parable of the Prodigal Son do you identify with the most at this point in your faith journey: the prodigal, the older son, or forgiving father? Why?
At this half-way point in our Lenten journey, how have you been living the spiritual practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving? Is there anything you would like to do differently for the second half of Lent?
Fifth Sunday of Lent - April 7, 2019
Where do you see God’s action bringing about something new?
How has your practice of fasting been this Lent? How has it enriched or affected your relationship with God and others?
How do you extend forgiveness to those who have committed a public sin?
How have you experienced giving and receiving mercy in your own life of faith?
Palm Sunday - April 14, 2019
Who are the weary in your parish or community? What words do they need to hear from us?
What spiritual practice helps you to empty yourself so as to make room for Jesus?
How do you experience Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist?
How will you set aside your regular routine these next eight days to enter into Holy Week?