Here we are at the start of Lent, the beginning of 40 days leading up to the holiest days and the greatest feast day in the Church. Every year it always seems to sneak up on me as I find myself still putting away the Christmas wreath and the last bit of garland. Although, I usually look forward to Lent and the changes I hope to see come about during the journey. Lent is kind of like the grandiose version of New Year’s resolutions, except the focus is God, becoming holy and growing in the spiritual life. Come Easter I want to see radical conversion in my life and I want it to be apparent to my husband and children as well.
It’s easy to create a laundry list of things we want to work on during Lent, starting out great at the beginning with much fervor and fortitude. Entering Lent determined that this will be the best one ever. This is the Lent where I will see big changes in my life, the Lent where I will be made into a saint in 40 days. We want the insta-version of holiness, the quick conversion and the fast growth in our spiritual life.
After one week into the 40 days, we may find it difficult to stay committed to it all and are left feeling overwhelmed and perhaps like throwing in the towel altogether. The Church gives us the three pillars of Lent. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are a framework and guide for us to follow as we discern what areas in our life need to be pruned, so we can bear more fruit.
At the beginning of Lent, we should find time for prayer, examination and reflection. What areas in my life need change? What areas need more of Christ and less of me? What specific situations throughout the day do I see the need to be sanctified? How can I be Christ’s image to others?
On Ash Wednesday we hear from the book of Joel during the First Reading. “Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.” Jl 2:12-13.
Ultimately, Lent is about returning our hearts, our whole being to the God who created us. Rending our hearts to the Savior who became broken for our sake. Lent is a time to allow ourselves to be slowly chiseled and made into something new. Like clay in the hands of the potter, we are being molded, formed and shaped during these 40 days.
While we may at times struggle during Lent with our sacrifices or wonder if we will ever reach sanctity, it is our hearts he wants. If we remain focused on Christ, our eyes drawn towards him, we will begin to bear the image of him who we gaze upon. If we keep our focus on the cross, dying to ourselves we will experience the greatest joy come Easter.
This content was originally published here.