May God bless you abundantly this Lent.
This morning, my somewhat precocious six year old granddaughter and I had a conversation over breakfast:
“Grandma,” she said gazing out of the kitchen window in our Florida home.
“Yes, Julia?” said I.
“Pretty soon Easter will be here because it is Spring outside.”
“Yes, you are right. Ash Wednesday is this week and that begins the season of Lent.”
“Oh,” said Julia. “I began Lent already. Remember when you told me not to climb on the chair?
Well, I stopped and I haven’t done it again.”
“Julia, that is wonderful! I am proud of you!” I replied with enthusiasm (always ready to reinforce obedience!). “I have been thinking about how I will spend Lent this year, too.”
“Grandma, I know what you can do!”
“Really, Julia? What is that?” I said hesitantly not sure I wanted to hear the answer.
“You could donate things.”
“That’s true, Julia, I sure could,” I responded already ticking off the items in the garage that I’d just love to get rid of but realizing it would be a pleasure and not a sacrifice.
“You could give away some of my toys,” said Julia deep into the idea by now.
“They’re your toys, Honey. You should give them away.”
“Okay. I’m so good I’ll do that too!” and with that she finished her milk and bounded away.
While this brief little exchange warmed my heart and put a smile on my face, Julia uncovered two great truths. First, the season of Lent is something we should prepare for and plan. Second, the fruit of Lent ought to be a change of heart that is lived 365 days out of the year, every year. (I am really hoping this is the case with Julia’s love of furniture climbing!).
So, how do we make this a good Lent – one that is well-prepared and one that yields lasting fruit in our spiritual life?
Maybe the name of the season itself provides us with help.
L – Look into your heart.
Ask the Holy Spirit to illuminate the aspect of your being that most needs to grow into the image and likeness of God. Is it a virtue you need to acquire? A familiar sin you need to break? A bad habit you have befriended? Lent is not so much about giving up as giving in. Giving in to the grace of conversion always available to us.E – Engage the battle.
The best way to do this is to know you are in a battle – with the devil, with the world, and often with yourself! Wake up in the morning and put on your fighting gear (Ephesians 6: 10-17). Name the vice you want to overcome and the virtue you need to acquire it. Set out to slay this dragon of your soul with the sword of truth and the weaponry of virtuous action.
Check yourself half-way through the day. How are you doing? Readjust your battle gear if needed. Get up if you have fallen. Check yourself at the end of the day? Did you win more than you lost? Yippee, if so! No worries, if not. Set out more determinedly tomorrow. And do not let the evil one sap your strength and your determination!N – No turning back.
In Luke 9:62, Jesus reveals an important reality to a potential disciple: “Whoever puts his hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God.” Once we have resolved to grow in a certain virtue or break with a certain habit, sin, or weakness, don’t give up. Plow this area of your being with fortitude, perseverance, and long suffering. Fight temptation, avoid the near occasion of sin, and move forward with hope and confidence in God.T – Turn to the means of victory Holy Mother Church provides us.
Daily prayer, the sacraments of the Church, more frequent attendance at daily Mass, and holy devotional practices help us develop interior muscle and strength. They feed us, sustain us, purify us, and heal us. The graces they provide fortify our good resolve with supernatural life and move us more swiftly and easily on the path of holiness and truth.Now, back to that garage – maybe it isn’t so much about donating the stuff stored there as it is about overcoming my weakness of procrastination. Hmmmmm….you never know what a six year old perspective of Lent could lead to!