I love the season of Lent! Not that I’m very good at keeping its three tenents of fasting, prayer and almsgiving and not that those three things are meant to be “fun,” but the season of Lent just forces us to sit back and reflect (one of my favorite things to do when I get the chance) and the chances to partake in fasting, prayer and almsgiving become that much more available. So, perhaps, it seems, for at least 40 days, I get to participate more fully in the action of the Church, both local and universal. I feel more connected and the Church seems so much more vibrant.
Blogs become especially rich sources for spiritual development, the USCCB establishes and maintains an entire section of its website dedicated solely to the season, our Holy Father’s weekly addresses are geared specifically to the season, local parishes have mission breakfasts and mission speakers to offer the adults in the parish the rare chance to be more fully educated in the faith, and, of course, the sacrament of penance is offered in much more generous chunks of time and the weekly Friday “Stations” are prayed in nearly every parish. The whole church around the world gets keyed in and unifies its vision, all preparing for one event, THE event: Easter.
And yet, given all this, I believe I am attracted by Lent for still other reasons and the main one is that Lent is filled with struggle, in fact, spiritual battles (as shown in the original Latin of the Collect during the Ash Wednesday Mass)! Perhaps, in a way, I feel like this season is especially geared toward my naturally masculine approach to the faith. I like it when things are difficult, when I have to struggle and fight and hold on with all my might just to make it through because in the end, I will know what I put into it and the satisfaction will be so much more worth it. And what I’ve also found is that, when we constantly struggle to hold onto Christ, His grasp on us becomes that much stronger. When we recognize this season as a particular opportunity to struggle and fight for Christ, we open ourselves to the realization that Christ is constantly struggling and fighting for us. He yearns for us and it is in the season of Lent when I feel a true yearning for Him, a yearning which will be fully satisfied once again on Easter Sunday!
UPDATE: Fr. Martin Fox, a priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, has some notes from his great homily on this topic this past Sunday!
I addressed a point to men, specifically: you have sisters, girlfriends, wives, mothers, daughters. Would any of you turn to them and let them go into battle in your place? Of course you wouldn’t. Yet notice that is exactly what Adam did in the first reading. He stood there while his wife was under assault and said, and did, nothing. How different it might have been had he simply spoken up! Men, you are here; you recognize your spiritual responsibilities and I commend you. But we know that when we gather for Mass or other prayer, a lot of our men are absent; they are letting others go into combat in their place.
So, my prayer for us is that our Lenten journeys be blessed with struggles and temptations so that we might be faced with the daily opportunity to choose Christ and to go into battle with Him!
We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.