Last week we spoke about these few Sundays leading up to Lent, but what is Lent? Where does the word “Lent” come from? Isn’t that the stuff you clean out of the clothes dryer filter? The word “Lent” that we use for this liturgical season comes from the Old English word for Spring, which is “Lencten”. We use the dark color violet for Lent and we fast, abstain from meat on certain days, try to invigorate our prayer lives and be more generous towards the poor. This is a tall order and I think we often get caught up in the process or the “doing” of these things without thinking too much about the result that they should produce. We should think about our Lenten practices like seeds that we are planting, with prayer and sacraments being the sun and the rain. Lent, Spring, is a time of new growth. That is what we are truly seeking—new growth in our spiritual lives, and really good plants that will produce the fruits of strength, constancy, serenity, and happiness as we grow closer to God. We, as baptized and confirmed Catholics, are called to constant conversion, constant growth in holiness, and the season of Lent with its particular practices are an excellent way to achieve these goals. God gives us special graces during Lent to help us to achieve these goals. He wants us to be truly happy, but that is impossible without Him, and of course very possible with Him.
So we shouldn’t focus on what we give up or what the “restrictions” are, but rather on what we hope to gain by making those sacrifices. We can offer them up for any good intention. So our sacrifices will not only serve to strengthen our will power, help us to grow closer to God, augment the flow of grace in our lives, increase our happiness, but we can offer them for others and turn our sacrifices into spiritual gifts for others. So Lent is a super WIN—WIN. God wins, the Church wins, and we win on the personal level. Obviously the more challenging our sacrifices, the greater the gifts we can give and the more we help the church. We should look forward to Lent, and all the great gifts we can receive and give.