Can you believe it….. it’s here? It was just Christmas, and now it’s LENT. As always, “the spirit’s willing, but the flesh is weak”. A few years ago, we were discussing Lent with some of our grandchildren…a fair amount of philosophizing, some quotes from saints , when Judy asked Ben about Lent and he said somewhat solemnly, “I hate Lent”. Wow, there it is …. out on the table. He spoke what many were thinking.
Well, while the flesh may hate Lent, our spirit really loves lent. Our pastor mentioned today that the church in her wisdom provides a 40 day retreat for us every year….it’s called Lent. After I get over the initial shock of Ash Wednesday, I really due treasure Lent. I’ve often thought that Easter morning is a day that I’m at my spiritual peak…having completed the 40 day retreat…probably a good time to be called home to heaven.
“Prayer, fasting, and alms giving” are often mentioned as the “Three Pillars of Lent”. Jesus touches on them in the gospel of Matthew ”… when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you….. and when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you…. when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.(Mt. 6:1-18)
Jesus is making it clear that we should not make a “big production” of our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving….. “hey, look at me, Mr. Holy”. I was planning to share my Lenten plans with you on this BLOG, but after reading Matthew 6, I’m not sure I should be mentioning them to the 3 million people who read my BLOG everyday….. hmmmm, where’s St. Thomas Aquinas when I need him.
Nevertheless, I will say that I need Lent and its recommended practices. I need to do some fasting and denying of the flesh….I do need to sharpen my prayer… and, I do need to ask the Lord to give me promptings as to almsgiving.
I do have some plans that fit into the framework of the “Three Pillars”, but I need the grace of God to get the ball rolling. While it’s easy to be excited about Lent on “Fat Tuesday” while stuffing down another donut or gobbling down another “White Castle Burger” with my grandson Nick from Michigan, it’s another thing on the evening of Ash Wednesday when the 40 days are staring me in the face.
Yet, in the final analysis Lent is not about my grand scheme of denials. The effect of Lent should be that I love God and my neighbor more on Easter morning than I did on Ash Wednesday. In that regard, when someone asks me on Easter morning “how was your Lent?”…. I probably should tell them to ask Judy. That could be dangerous, but……
Lord please help us all to have a great Lent.