Once again, the season of penitential preparation for the Church’s celebration of the Paschal Mystery is the mystery of the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. Many of us find Lent a difficult season. We regard Lent pretty much the way we regard medicine. We know it will be good for us, but which we naturally dislike because of its bitter taste. Why this reaction? It is because Lent compels us to confront certain challenging, uncomfortable realities.
The ashes we received on the first day of Lent are signs of the first difficult truth that Lent invites us to face – the truth of ourselves as sinners. For forty days, we are invited to journey deeper and deeper into the darkness of our hearts. And we are invited to make this journey because, unless we truly know our sinfulness, we cannot truly acknowledge nor appreciate our need for the Savior.
Our Lenten journey is marked by three pillars – prayer, almsgiving and fasting. The first two, though difficult to live out, are relatively easy to accept: love of God expressed in renewed enthusiasm to prayer; love of neighbor, expressed in almsgiving, or in sharing of time, talent and treasure. The third pillar is the most challenging. Fasting is not simply giving up food. Many of us perhaps are giving up food because we want to have a sexy body. Fasting is sacrifice; it is self-denial; it is dying to our self-centeredness. It is saying “no” to anything that pulls us away from the Lord. “Fasting,” “sacrifice,” “self-denial” are words that the readings and liturgy of Lent will repeat over and over again, but they are words that seem alien, even repulsive in a consumerist and hedonist culture. However, Lent calls us to fast because the truth of the matter is that we will be unable to grow in prayer and sharing unless we first are able to sacrifice or deny ourselves. This is the second hard truth Lent invites us to embrace.
May the days of Lent be blessed days for all of us, days that would bring us to repentance, healing and new life in Christ.
Rev. Anacleto S Asebias, Jr.