Lent: Turning back toward God
by Maggie Geene
used with permission
Each year in the Church we commemorate the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying before He began His public ministry. It was after this time that the Devil tempted Jesus with wealth, power and immortality (Mt 4, Lk 4), but Jesus resisted the devil.
The Catechism states: Jesus' Temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquishes the Tempter for us: "For we have not a high Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning" By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert. (CCC 540)
Tradition has wisely placed this time in the Church right before Good Friday when we commemorate Jesus dying on the cross for our sinfulness. This allows us to think about our relationship with God right before we celebrate the supreme act of love for us that God performed: the death of His Son Jesus Christ on the Cross.
Why does the Church set aside this time for us to look inwardly at our relationship with God? Probably because we wouldn't do it if the church didn't help us. Taking a long hard look at how you live your life is not an easy or fun process. It can be a learning experience, and a free-ing experience if you go about it right. There is a Greek word that is a perfect definition of the Lenten journey, that word is Metanoia. It means turning back. In Lent we turn away from our worldly life, and back toward God.
How do you spend these 40 days which begin on Ash Wednesday and end on Holy Thursday? This is for you to decide. Traditionally, Lent is a time of prayer and fasting. (For a definition of Fasting and Abstinence and some meatless recipes, click here.
Everyone knows that prayer is communication with God. If you don't pray on a regular basis, (at least daily) then this is a good time to start. If you do have a regular prayer routine, this might be a good time to add a new type of prayer to your routine, or to explore new avenues of prayer and reflection. Some things you might want to try are :
meditating on the life of Christ,
chaplets and novenas.
Look through prayer books and find a prayer that speaks to you. Read a psalm a day for all of Lent. Or, just sit quietly and listen with your heart.
What exactly is fasting? This is giving up something in order to gain a control over yourself. Most people are familiar with fasting from food, but fasting can be much more. You may choose to fast from television, or suggestive music, or R rated movies. People fast from smoking or drinking during Lent. You may choose to fast from a bad habits like procrastination, or worry, or junk food.
It is usually a good idea to chose something over which you feel you have very little control. In this way you can become stronger with each day that you can do without it. Each day, as you fast from your chosen thing, remember to offer each instance when you might have done that thing as a prayer to God of your love for Him. Remember, this is a challenge, and you may slip, but if you truly are doing it out of your love for God, then you can pick yourself back up and start again.
So, get moving. Spend these forty days turning back toward God. Open new ways of communicating with Him, and strip away all of those bad habits that keep you from fully experiencing Gods love.