Arts and Culture
Lent: The Next Forty Days
Don’t let the next forty days pass you by without getting closer to Jesus
The 1st of March this year marks the first day of Lent in the Christian tradition. The next forty days is a very special time for all Christians to practice and live the real meaning of Lent. The Philippines is comprised of more than 80% Catholics and the Lenten season presents a timely opportunity to take stock of our lives, reflect, and repent for our sins. The 40 days of Lent represents the time when Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the desert, fasting and praying in preparation for his Calvary. During this time, Christians try to unite with Jesus through fasting, abstinence, almsgiving—all with the aim of helping us become better Christians. More importantly, it is also time for us to realize how much loved we are by a God who gave us His only Son, Jesus Christ.
“For God so loved the world, He gave us His only Son” –John 3:16.
In a word, Lent is a time to enter more deeply into our relationship with God. For more thoughts on this special time you may read further about what is Lent.
As Fr. James Martin said,“ Lent is uniting ourselves more closely to Jesus — when we pray, we pray not simply to someone who understands us because He is divine and all-knowing, but also because He is human and He went through what we are going through. He had a body. He hungered and thirsted. He knows. This can help us feel closer to God, because God understands us.”
Here are my top three takes on how we can embrace this time of Lent which I believe will make our hearts lighter and bring us closer to Jesus: (1) Take time to reflect and nurture your soul; (2) Take time to give up something, and (3) Take time to give back.
1. Take Time to Reflect and Nurture Your Soul
“God desires a relationship with all of us which is why He sent Jesus, His only son, down to Earth to live with us, who suffered so grievously for us. God so wants each of us to be in a close spiritual relationship with Him. God, you could say, thirsts for it.” – Fr. James Martin.
Fr. James Martin reminds us that Lent is an important time to be reminded of this truth. Let us try to spend even just a few minutes every day to take the time to converse with Jesus, reflect on what He had to tell us and re-align our hearts with Him. When we realize how much we are blessed and loved by Him, then we can commit to give more of ourselves to others as an outpouring of God’s love for us.
I personally recommend bringing a prayer book or an online Lenten guide to keep us centered in prayer. St Teresa of Avila for example never went to prayer without a spiritual book with her as she is aware of all the distractions which could enter her mind.
My personal favorites are the online retreat guides from Fr. John Bartunek, the writer of “The Better Part“. May he guide you and be with you as you nourish your soul this next forty days RC Spirituality. In the website, there are links that bring you retreat guides that you can read and reflect on wherever you are—while on transport, at your home, or my favorite, in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Sign up for free to view, listen or read the Full Retreat Guides. There may be times when we doubt our faith and this retreat guide, Trouble with Trust will help us begin our Lenten journey. If we are having doubts with our faith, I also find this article very motivating: how to love lent when lent terrifies you.
Retreats and/or Recollections can help us prepare even more for Lent and Holy Week. I am pretty sure there are countless activities likes these in your parishes. If you are interested, take the time to ask your parish or prayer group when might be the next one.
2. Take Time to Give Something Up
For as long as I can remember, Lent has always been associated with giving up some temptation or luxury such as eating sweets or meat or over indulging in a favorite activity. Renouncing self-indulgence is a first step towards humility. It is crucial to remind ourselves that we give up something to nourish our souls and being, so that we can become better people. An example may be working towards the things that are hardest for us to do like being more pro-active and positive whenever idleness and negativity overcomes us, or even as simple as smiling more especially when we don’t feel like it. We can also show more gratitude to others or practice changing the subject when idle gossip creeps into our conversations.
It is important to take the time to reflect and go back to our core Christian values that really matter to us to help us develop virtues.
The following articles may be helpful in making us realize the true message of Lent and what we can give up to become truly closer to Jesus. My personal favorite would be: 19-things-give-up-lent-arent-chocolate.
In a jam-packed filled Araneta Center, Inspirational Nick Vujivic without arms or legs shares that “Beautiful things can come from our broken pieces”.
3. Take Time to Give Back and Help Others
They say, “You cannot give what you do not have” but it is also in giving that we become whole. As the Lenten season is here, try to do something different to become closer to Jesus by making yourselves available to others. The Corporal Works of Mercy are found in the teachings of Jesus and give us a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise. They “are charitable actions by which we help our neighbours in their bodily needs” (USCCA). They respond to the basic needs of humanity as we journey together through this life. As Jesus would say “when you do this, you do this to me”. Read more on the the corporal works of mercy.
Here is a short video that will continue to remind us that there is always joy in giving: Alms giving and Joy.
For organizations that can guide us to see Jesus, through other people’s good works, you may start with Taste.Company’s partner organizations. They offer a whole range of volunteer opportunities that give importance to charity and the corporal works of mercy.
“Giving is better than getting, according to the Lord; generosity leads to greater happiness (“blessedness”) than cupidity.
Find the better way through The Widows Might as Fr. Bartunek guides us to the best parts of generosity that we can practice this Lenten season.
Make this Lent memorable and commit yourself again to Jesus and to helping others.
Have a meaningful Holy Week embracing God’s love and sharing it as a missionary. Join the Mission Youth on April 10-16, 2017, the most beautiful and blessed way to spend your Holy week (Photo courtesy of Mission Youth Philippines)
May you take the time to really make the most of these next fourty days to come, because who knows it may be a time to change our lives. As Jesus would say it, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He will constantly embrace our brokenness. I hope these three steps will help you live out and appreciate these special times we have at lent and will bring you close to the one that constantly loves us and seeks out to meet us in our everyday life.