For many Catholics, Lent in the year of Our Lord 2021 will feel different.
How is it that we are able to prepare ourselves for Lent — a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, uniting ourselves to the life, death, and resurrection of Christ — when it seems as though the last Lent never really ended?
In Lent, we call to mind the 40 days Christ spent in the desert before He embarked on His public ministry. Other biblical references that point to the significance of 40 days, including the 40 years Moses and the Israelites wandered in the desert and the 40 hours Christ spent in the tomb.
“At once the Spirit drove Him out into the desert, and He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to Him” (Mark 1:12-13).
With the restrictions of a pandemic, we’ve been forced into a desert of sorts. So how do we make the most of it?
• Take solace in prayer.
Something as simple as the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, ha
ve mercy on me, a sinner.”) will suffice. Or consider a strategy to incorporate prayer (the Rosary, Lectio Divina, etc.) into your daily life.
• Shift the focus from
self-denying to endurance
St. Paul wrote about the struggles that he overcame in preaching the Gospel of Christ to others, noting 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).
“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? 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). Paul noted that Christians should be as focused and dedicated as athletes in the Olympic games. But our motivation in serving Christ is much higher; we don’t compete for a sporting competition’s prize, but for one that is eternal.
• Clean your heart and mind.
Eastern Christians commonly observe at the beginning of Lent the practice of Clean Monday, and Clean Week, in which they leaving behind sinful attitudes and non-fasting foods. Other traditions include going to confession during this week and giving the house a thorough cleaning.
Clean Monday is a public holiday in countries such as Greece and Cyprus, and includes outdoor excursions, eating foods approved for fasting (no meat, eggs or dairy products). Some Eastern Christians also traditionally fly kites as a symbol of reaching the Divine, as well as reaching toward higher aspirations for self and humanity.
• Use Lent as an opportunity to discern our gifts and whether we’re using them as God intended for us.
Take some time this Lent to prayerfully discern what your talents are. If you don’t know what they are, ask God in prayer to reveal them to you. He has given each of us gifts and talents to use to that we may love Him well and share His love with others.