Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent: Cleaning and Participation

The word Lent comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime.  Lent is a time in the church calendar of many Christian churches that is spent fasting and in prayer.  Earliest history shows fasting to take place as far back as 180 AD by the testimony of Irenaeus.  The number of days varied for many years until the Canons of Nicaea in 325 AD mentioned 40 days of fasting.  I compare fasting to spiritual spring cleaning.  Of course, we need to clean every day, but this is when we can do some deep down cleaning. 
Why 40 days, some might ask?  These 40 days represent a time in Jesus’ life.  “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” Matthew 4:1-2.  Today, people are encouraged to do more than just fast during Lent.  They are called to pray and give alms along with fasting.  I tend to like to include reflective study to my Lenten plans as well.
Fasting range from cutting back food, liquids, television, internet, facebook, gossip, anger, and a host of other things, basically you cut out things that aren’t good for you or the amount you partake is beginning to take over your life.  In our busy lives, we can start to forget to spend time with God.  Rosary, Morning Prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving, praying for a person who drives you crazy are all examples of prayers that can be done to spruce up your praying.  Almsgiving can be more than just writing a check.  Volunteer at the local Good Samaritan or soup kitchen.  Put your talents to work by helping an elderly person get their yard in order.  I like to make baby afghans during Lent to give to a local charity.  Finally, studying is good to do by reading the Bible.  Remember though if you struggle with reading the Bible, there are wonderful books by the fathers of Christianity and current lay people.
Jesus stated, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven.” Matthew 7:21.  Our faith has to be more than just playing lip service to our God.  We must act.  Lent is a wonderful time to get busy.  Many times, we are merely spectators in life.  We watch football or listen to music or we go to church.  I see God as my coach or music teacher.  We would never think of just sitting on the bench or just tapping our foot to the beat of the music.  Instead our mentors would be making us catch the ball or plunk away at the piano keys.  God is no different.  He encourages us to volunteer our time and talent; plus, He loves to talk with us.  Participate.  This is what life and faith are all about.
How do I plan to involve myself more fully this Lenten season?  I plan to walk with God, literally.  Each day, I am going to walk while praying the Rosary and giving thanks for the beauty surrounding me.  I plan to crochet a baby blanket and pray for the little one it will keep warm.  I am going to give up sweets during my days at home.  For a week, I am going to fast from the internet.  Finally, I am going to study the Maccabees which are part of our faith history prior to the birth of Jesus.  I am going to be plenty busy, but I am excited because I am focused.  What plans have you made for Lent?  Do you plan to participate?  Are you going to clean?
Blessings to you all.

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