“Know this, my brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing”(James 1:19-25).
Consider the early Christians and what their journey to the Catholic Faith was based! Much like the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) of today, the early Church saw conversion as a process. The origin of Lent can be seen through the lens of history.
There were two basic parts that the follower traveled on this path of Salvation. There was the season of purification and the season of enlightenment.
The early followers pursuit to grow close to Jesus and were taught to question "What still is in my life that needs to be purified? The second question concerns the steps that are needed to conform my life to make me be the person Jesus wants me to be. The call to be a Saint.
Today, many think of things they might give up for Lent, chocolate, alcohol, smoking, maybe certain foods. Maybe some will give up the internet or television or even texting. These things in and of themselves might be a good expression, but will they aid in your purification process, your opportunity for personal enlightenment?
Reaching back to the origins of Lent and the original purpose, three things should be a major part of that purification/enlightenment process:
1. Prayer, to offer special personal time for prayer. The Rosary, Divine Mercy, The Stations of the Cross would be good, perhaps bible readings and reflection.
2. Fasting, fasting can be more than the sacrifice of foods, fasting can also be the sacrifice of putting aside Twitter, Facebook, and Netflex as examples.
3. Almsgiving, How can God use me to bless others, not just financially, but giving time, volunteer for good causes, to Bless somebody else. Don't give from your leftovers, but from your surplus.
In providing the ultimate gift to the Lord, the Lord gives back to you beyond measure. A willing heart is what it takes. The ultimate goal is to reach Heaven following the Lord's word.
The Word of God has been implanted into the world through the Catholic Church, because the life source comes from the flow of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). Jesus is the source of all the sacred traditions and scriptures that have been handed down for 2,000 years. It is through this word that we are called to act in service of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Here are some personal reflections to consider as we prepare for Lent:
1. Make the commitment to read the daily scripture readings before Mass. Make an effort to go to daily Mass if possible. Familiarizing yourself with the Scripture before Mass will help you experience them in a more deeper way.
2. Make the commitment for deeper prayer. The Rosary, the Divine Mercy, the Stations of the Cross, good Catholic devotions. Families that pray together, stay together. Good daily Lenten devotions make great family/personal devotion.
3. Make the commitment to sign up for an hour of Eucharistic Adoration. Make a total Consecration to Our lady using the 33 days to Morning Glory makes a great opportunity for spiritual growth.
4. Make the commitment to journal what you have learned each day, a great cause for reflection.
5. Make the commitment to be more charitable, to help out in the family chores, to offer special sacrifices such as fasting.
6. Make the commitment to read writings of the Saints and other good Catholic sources such as Deepertruth, Catholics Come Home, Catholic Answers, St. Paul Street Evangelization to name just a few.
7. Make the commitment to utilize Catholic items, crucifixes and other blessed holy objects. Place these in each room.
8. Make the commitment to go to Confession, especially if your concerned about Mortal Sin. Make the good examination of conscience using the 10 Commandments.
9. Read the entire Gospel of Mark in one sitting. As the shortest Gospel, it is the most concise story of Jesus’ life, and the cross, a central Lenten symbol, plays an even more prominent role than in the other Gospels.
10. Attend the Stations of the Cross when offered at the Parish.
11. Abstain from meat and if you can, support the Knights of Columbus on Friday nights when they offer their Parish fish fries.
12. Find some quiet time when you can reflect, turn the TV off when not watching it.
13. Find habits that has held you back with your relationship with the Lord, be more conscience about sin.
14. Volunteer helping feed the hungry when ever possible. Maybe a local soup kitchen or visiting the elderly or the sick.
15. Be more sensitive about gossiping, avoid making cruel comments about others.
16. If possible, find opportunities for almsgiving, support worthy causes that support the dignity of the human person.
17. The CRS Rice Bowl offers a realistic means that you can use to help the poor.
18. Pray for those who are homeless, the destitute, those who have no one praying for them.
19. Get to know neighbors, people within your community, maybe Mass. Introduce yourself to other members of the Parish.
20. Read the Works of Mercy as Jesus describes them in Matthew 25:31-46. Then put this teaching into practice and choose an act of service you can perform throughout Lent.
These are some ideas that have worked for me, here at Deepertruth we want to encourage you to really strive to make a difference for yourself this Lent. The rewards are beyond all measure!