It’s too easy to feel sorry for ourselves during the pandemic. Those are the words of Father Don Wester, our Sunday Scriptures columnist, who reflected on Lent in the edition this week.
While we’ve made sacrifices in the past 11 months — including restrictions on public activities, and even forgoing the sacraments for some time — we can still live deeply what God asks us to do during Lent, Father Wester wrote.
It’s an important reminder as we enter the desert for these 40 days, reflecting on the Paschal Mystery — the suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord. This journey incorporates prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
This year, endurance and resilience also deserve reflection. We find these in the example of St. Paul, who struggled to overcome obstacles in preaching the Gospel of Christ to others in the first century. He noted that it was the grace of God that enabled him to do so: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Just as an athlete trains and competes for a prize, we, too, are called — even in the midst of a pandemic — to train ourselves to keep focused on an other-worldly prize: eternal life in God’s Kingdom.
“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize?” St. Paul wrote in a letter to the Corinthians. “Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
It also is important to look for the joyful signs of this otherwise penitential season. One of those ways is to seek out through Christ’s own suffering for the joyful signs and the bigger picture of what God has planned for us.
We can achieve personal spiritual growth through acts of penance and the joy that comes with thinking of and doing for others; uniting ourselves with Christ’s sufferings; and living out the Gospel message in our thoughts, words and actions.
We can start by shifting our lens of the Good News on the small things in life. Lent is a time for reflection, which helps us grow. It’s a time for reconciliation, and forgiveness comes with an overwhelming feeling of joy. It’s a time of reaching out to others who might have different views than us, and finding commonalities.
This is the year to hit the reset button — to refocus and brush aside what may be preventing us from following Jesus. Our Lord is waiting for us every day to accept His invitation to know and love Him. All spiritual growth is rooted in prayer and the sacraments and drawing closer to Him.