Lent: A Season of Grace
This year Lent began on Ash Wednesday Feb. 14th and continues until the Easter Triduum March 29-April 1st.
Lent originally began as a short retreat for those entering
the church as well as those being baptized/confirmed as Catholics. This retreat
was lengthened to its present 40 days (excluding Sundays) and was broadened to
include all of the Christian faithful. Now millions journey together with those
joining the Church in a Lenten “retreat.” Just as Jesus retreated in the desert
and confronted evil, so must we look at who we are and where we are going.
Retreats are times of conversion. For those joining the
Church in whatever capacity, it may be a time of initial surrender to Jesus
Christ. Perhaps they will taste God for the first time and experience radical
change. For we disciples who have been following Jesus for however long, it can
be a time of rededication and on-going conversion. We can re-surrender
our lives to Jesus and rededicate ourselves to our God-relationship, personal growth
and achieving our potential.
What is a retreat?
Retreats are times to pray and rediscover your prayer life.
Perhaps the number one thing you can do this Lent is to simply be with God.
Read the Bible and other spiritual books. Simply “be” apart from TV, computers
and iphones. Get quiet. Seek God in stillness. Cultivate quiet. Pray from your
heart with words of honesty. We don’t know how to pray as we ought, but as we
trust the Holy Spirit, we will be led and guided into fresh new times of prayer
that issue in gracious moments of intimacy.
Retreats are also times to face our issues. Like Jesus we
must come face to face with evil, pride and sin. When Jesus went into the
desert for 40 days even he was tempted. What is your greatest temptation? Where
do you sin? Don’t live in ambiguity and denial. Focus and look within. Be
rigorously honest with yourself and examine your conscience. Are you addicted?
Is there anything severe and habitual? Are you willing to make a move and allow
God to take over your heart? We begin Lent with the stirring words, “Rend your
hearts, not your garments…” In other words, radical interior conversion leading
to exterior change is what God desires.
Along with turning away from the negative, we must pursue
the positive. The goal of our life is to become “like Jesus.” We must strive to
have our mind renewed and become positive leading to infinite possibilities. One
of Jesus’ favorite sayings was, “All things are possible for God.” We can have
stable emotions and not be erratic. We can become courageous, patient, kind,
merciful and honest. We must see virtue as a highly prized goal and be willing
to recognize our circumstances for what they are and strive to enter the narrow
gate. It is by patient endurance that we will “win” our souls and perseverance
as well as an unshakable faith are rare treasures God desires from us. Growth,
maturity, incremental change and progression is what the journey of Lent is all
In addition, power thinking means you strive to realize your
potential. You are gifted and more than that, God is with/in you. Because you
are so highly favored, the sky isn’t the limit…Reach for the stars! Do the
impossible. Achieve your destiny. Work at becoming all you can be. Dig deep and
realize your dreams. You will never know what is in you if you aren’t willing
to try. Don’t be afraid of launching out into the deep and risking. A ship in a
harbor is “safe” but ships were made for the wide open ocean. Fortune favors
the brave. Don’t be afraid of good old fashioned hard work also. God wants to
use you to touch people. You will discover who you really are as you trust God,
work hard and become. Catherine of Sienna said, “Be who you were meant to be
and you will set the world on fire!” I’m fond of quoting, “Who you are is God’s
gift to you. Who you become is your
gift back to God.”
Emily Dickenson said, “Hope is the thing with feathers.” It
is time to stretch your wings and fly.
Concentrate on these three areas: Your relationship with
God; Your personal development; Realizing your potential. Doing this will make
your Lent significant, revolutionizing and transformative. You will not only be
prepared to celebrate Easter with those joining the Church, you will have
already experienced Easter as you journey!
While Lent is a penitential season of prayer, almsgiving and
fasting meant to help us to grow in generosity and self-control, Lent is mostly
a season of grace. Grace is God’s,
freely given, supernatural help to empower us to do what we could never do on
our own. Because of God’s initiative, we can pray intimately, change profoundly
and develop exponentially. Believe in God’s goodness and there will be no
limits to the forgiveness, transcendence and potential you will realize.
I love retreats because anything can happen. Expect great
things! God is working in your life. Because of this season of grace, you will never be the same…Be assured of
my prayers for you…Fr. Cedric