What is Lent?
The characteristics of this period are many. Lent, first and foremost, is a time of Prayer, more intense than in the rest of the liturgical year. Dedicating more time for Prayer is necessary in order to meet Jesus, to know Him better, to fall in love with Him! Spending long moments in silence with Him ensures this.
It is also a time for making practical offerings and sacrifices: fasting and alms giving, but also a time for deepening our Spiritual Life. To enhance this effort Lent offers us a time for drawing closer to the Word of God. Taking more time, offering a better listening capacity to the Jesus who wants to talk to us.
To inspire our efforts, reading a good book on spiritual life, meditating on it, and working on it is very advantageous. But more important than this is that in Lent we pay attention to Jesus the Groom. Jesus explained the meaning of christian fasting by saying that his disciples will fast when He, the Groom, will be absent. This means that the entire effort of Fasting and Lent is motivated by the renewed search for Jesus the Groom as we become aware of His absence from our daily life. It is the Holy Spirit who inflames our desire to find Jesus and be united with Him.
Again, at a more practical level, Lent is a time for good and deeper examination of conscience. A time for going to Confession and returning in a renewed way to God, to Jesus. At best it should involve Spiritual Direction: another person sometimes sees better what we don’t see and at the very least, God confirms his grace through this humble act of consulting a Spiritual Director. Even the more practical means, above-mentioned, can at this time be deepened as new dimensions emerge, namely, fasting with our tongue, fasting with our thoughts.
It is noteworthy to add that if we are planning to fast more than what the Church asks, it is important to consult a Spiritual Director and to obey God through him/her, because the effort of obedience is regarded more favourably by God than the effort of any other sacrifice we might offer Him outside of obedience. A sacrifice offered automatically outside of obedience can, in fact jeopardise our spiritual efforts. Being outside of obedience jeopardises our spiritual effort.
In obedience to the great commandment of Jesus to love God and our Neighbour as ourselves, Lent provides the perfect time for opening our heart to those brothers and sisters we never think of: the sick, the housebound, the prisoner and especially to that special need of our own times: the growing homeless and the refugee. People we never think of. Praying, too, for those who are far from God, will show greater love for those for whom He also gave up his life on the Cross. It can be basically characterised as a time essentially of Mercy, where we ask God to give us a Merciful Heart like His. A Time where we open our hearts to our enemies, we pray for them, we are patient with them and love them, by the Grace of God.
One can attend some good talks.
– Drawing closer to the Word of God: rediscovering or intensifying the practice of Lectio Divina, based on the daily readings will reconnect us directly to Jesus, and will make of us a better conduit for the flow of the Graces of God and His Mercy from us to our neighbour.
– Meditating the Passion of the Lord is probably the most powerful tool for Growth. Linked to it is the devotion called: the Via Crucis. One can, on each Thursday evening, start to read one of the four Passions of the Gospels, from the last supper, in order to follow Jesus. If God touches us with a word or sentence, it is advisable to dwell upon them, and remain with Jesus, in prayer. This is a very powerful means to receive the grace of God and of gaining a deep and moving experience of Jesus. So, from Thursday evening onwards, one follows Jesus with the passage corresponding to the event, from the Last Supper, to the Garden of Gethsemane, including the following day, Friday, the judgement, crucifixion and death, then one remains with Mary, believing and waiting for the Resurrection, early Sunday.
– Drawing closer to Our Lady by taking some time daily to stay with her. Meditating on some texts: St Luke, “True devotion to Our Lady” (De Montfort). Our Lady is very important if we are to seek a deeper spiritual life. Therefore, discovering Her place in our life, or deepening it are very important.