Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of our Lenten journey. We enter a period of reflection, prayer, penance and atonement. Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are all traditional Lenten practices. Many people, even non-Catholics, choose to “give up” something for Lent. We should remember that Lent is also an opportunity to receive the gift of a deeper relationship with God.
Please take a few moments to read the following Lenten reflection which illustrates the never-ending spiritual journey we are all on.
John Jevnikar (Chair, Board of Trustees) and Linda Staudt (Director of Education)
If you do much driving or mountain climbing or hiking, you probably have had the experience of getting good and lost. There is no directional orientation anymore, roads and paths look vaguely familiar such that you cannot tell whether you have just been this way or not. I usually travel with plenty of maps to help me get my bearings.
The same phenomenon seems to be true in our spiritual lives. We start out full of conviction and a strong sense of where we are going. But there come those many distractions: We start to compete with someone else and after a while, come to think that to be the very purpose of the journey. Someone offends us along the way and our thoughts turn so easily to vengeance and evening the score: Our own success can steal our commitment bit by bit until we find we are working only for the money or for the reputation for success we many have built up with some others. In short, we have lost our way, and we are in need of a reorientation.
Lent is meant to be just such a reorientation. It’s a “back to basics” renewal of our commitment to the Christian way of life. Where real prayer – and especially prayer such as the rosary with others – has been crowded out by other considerations, in Lent prayer gets the main emphasis. Where fasting may have come to be considered a thing of the past, we are reminded that bodily hunger can sometimes make us so much more keenly aware of our spiritual hunger. Where our world may have become too narrow and our concerns too self-centered, our almsgiving in Lent can widen our horizons to include the most needy.
All of Lent is a time for renewed awareness of the God who never abandons us, who forgives us our sins, who loves us so much that He sends His only Son to bring us salvation.
In this respect, one could speak of the Lenten experience as taking the time to check out the spiritual map to see just how far we have wandered from our original goals. We stop to remember that we seek to be more like the One who redeems us; more loving and compassionate, more giving and forgiving.
The map of Lent reminds us to be open to all especially the abused and neglected; to be aware of the needs of those around us and accept responsibility for reaching out to assist them; to let go of whatever baggage we carry around as a result of our being wronged by somebody along the way.
Many encounters on the spiritual journey hypnotize us into forgetting just where we are going. We have set out upon the Christian pilgrimage to learn to be more like the Christ. Thank God that Lent comes annually, to turn us around and set us back on the course. Without it, we’d still be lost. May we all enjoy a fruitful Lenten reorientation.
-Rev. John Phalen, CSC