Lent is, without a doubt, my favourite liturgical season. I get extremely excited because in a way, it is the most loving season. At no other time in the year is there such a call or general concensus among everyone that we need to become one with God. We need to turn away from sin and fix our eyes upon the Cross.
Because that's where we're headed. Yes, we will rise with Christ, but before we rise with Him, we have to die to ourselves. Otherwise we won't want to choose Him! So the things we sacrifice for Lent should be the things that we have an unhealthy attachment to, things that distract us from spending time aligned with God, and things that make us look to ourselves instead of to others. Being fallen creatures, our desires seek to control us - but we can't let them do that. We need to ask God for the grace to rid ourselves of those impulses.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that it is going to be a walk in the park! I have heard people say, "I was going to give this up, but I could never do that." That is probably the best reason TO give it up. We all need to seriously look at ourselves and say, "What is more important to me right now? This thing here, or God?" And when all of us say "this thing here," that's when we realize that we need to change. And we need to try not to whine either. Lent is supposed to hurt.
Initially. It should hurt initially. I said above that I get extremely excited and happy during the season. And it's true - if we take Lent seriously, we will grow so much in virtue. Because if the reason we get rid of all of the extra clutter that crowds our minds and our hearts is to know God better, then once those things are gone, what are we to do with the extra space? We fill it with God. And that's really why I love it. I have a chance to recreate a severed connection (severed entirely by me, by the way) and just revel in Love. We can all commit ourselves to prayer, which fills us with love, which then allows us to give alms - share what we have with others. It's such a beautiful process, one that allows us to grow in humility, in patience, and in faith.
Imagine if we kept up this process for the whole year. Constantly re-evaluating ourselves, taking the time to make small sacrifices in order that we would become closer and closer to the heart of God - not just for 40 days of the year, but for 365. I can't even begin to think about a version of my life where everything I did was perfectly aligned to Him. But this is the sad reality isn't it? That every year after Lent is over, to a certain extent, we creep back to where we once were. We need to keep trying; to be "perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). If we rely on God and God alone, we'll get there.
I pray that with every Lent, every year, we can all at least take two steps forward after taking one step back. Lent allows us to detach ourselves from things that don't have any lasting value, and instead renew ourselves with Love, so that one day we might all be called Saints.
Catholics of the world, Lent 2011 is upon us. Time to buck up and get holy.