“Unless a grain of wheat
Falls into the ground
It still remains but a grain of wheat
But if it falls and dies
Then it bears much fruit…”
Easter is so important that it is called the “Feast of all feasts”. However, this joyous season can only be meaningful to us if we prepare ourselves. The Lenten season helps us to do so. Just as Jesus bore His cross and made a sacrifice for us before His resurrection, we, too, must embark on a journey towards Easter, one filled with prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Three important aspects of Lent are “reflection”, “repentance” and “reconciliation”. We are called to repent of our sins and to become better persons than we are now. However, we cannot truly repent unless we first take time to reflect upon our wrongdoings. Spiritual reflection, a form of thoughtful examination of our lives, gives us a keener sense of awareness of our faults. It allows us to enter more deeply into our hearts and ask ourselves questions like these-:
- Do I gossip? Even if what I say is true, is it kind or even necessary?
- Am I judgmental? Am I too quick to cast the first stone?
- Do I complain too much? Do I focus on what I don’t have?
- Am I a cheerful giver of my time and resources?
- Am I too materialistic? Do I have wasteful habits?
- Do I spend enough time with my family?
- Am I making time for God? Am I ensuring that children under my care do so?
- Am I reflecting God to others?
There are many other questions we can ask ourselves when engaging in reflection. It is important that we be honest with ourselves, even if we are uncomfortable with the answers that stare back at us.
Reflection is essential when we pray. Pausing and making sure that our words are heartfelt ensures that our prayers are meaningful. Reading the Bible helps us to develop a closer relationship with God. Reflection is necessary as we read each verse and chapter, in order for us to relate what we read to our own lives. What message is God sending to us? Are we open to receiving this message?
After reflecting, we need to repent. We all have good in us but upon reflection, we certainly would identify wrongdoings that need to be rooted out. Reflection leads to a contrite heart and repentance always leads one to seek forgiveness. With true repentance, we can reconcile with God for God is willing to welcome us back with open arms. “Come back to me, With all your heart, Don’t let fear, Keep us apart…”
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a powerful means of reconciling with God after following the wrong path. We feel light and happy, knowing that God has wiped clean our slate of sin, giving us a chance to become better persons. With repentance comes penance which encourages spiritual growth – a return to God. Penance should not be done for its own sake but must benefit others in some way. Fasting and abstinence encourage spiritual maturity, and help to achieve spiritual purification and self-discipline.
Lent involves sacrifice but we must do so cheerfully – not to show off personal achievement or will power. What bad habits are we willing to give up? What are we willing to replace them with? It is important that we know and take action for if we don’t, another bad habit or the very one we are trying to get rid of, will quickly move in to fill the gap. Gossip can be replaced by an effort to find the good in others and to hold our tongues when necessary. Complaining can be replaced with an appreciation for God’s blessings. Laziness can be replaced with a good work ethic. There is a good replacement for every bad habit we have. The old life must be left behind and completely surrendered.
As we make this holy journey to Easter with others, we must remember that it offers a new beginning and its message is one of joyous hope. If we stumble, we must not despair. Jesus Himself fell three times on His journey to Calvary but continued because He had a mission to accomplish. Reflection, repentance and reconciliation are necessities on this journey, interwoven with prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The ultimate goal of the Lenten season should be to follow Jesus through a life of self-giving, beyond death to the Resurrection.
– Sharon Worrell, Archdiocesan Catechetical Office