Some years back I started a tradition of sending out a note regarding Lent to men that I have had the privilege of connecting with in some capacity with my work. I offer this hoping it will serve you to begin a renewed commitment to the great mystery of “living in Christ”, seeing your faith life as integral to all you are and do as a person not simply on Sundays.
Just imagine for a moment a company and its leadership taking a period of time every year to work on its identity and personal growth plan so it can be true to its mission for itself and each of its employees, and that these employees were 100% on board with this annual event, knew what was expected of them, were committed, and took ownership of doing the same “self- examination” for the good of themselves and their community. We would all probably praise such a company for its wisdom! Behold the Season of Lent for the Catholic Church! Who am I? What is my purpose in life? Do I have a life mission? How do I grow closer to God and walk in His ways? I consider the season of Lent one of the most critical times of the year to go back to basics and remember these questions.
Lent is time to question our lifestyle as followers of Christ and ponder again that yes we need to be a little different than the rest of the world. We are not made for this world but for the next. It is important to be a bit uncomfortable with what is all around us just in case we think somehow this world will give us fulfillment; that all this “stuff” will fill my heart and make me happy! How very spiritually oppressive and even paralyzing the “non-sensical busyness” can be, most of which is to the detriment of our most important relationships – above all my relationship with God.
In the Church’s wisdom, the season of Lent proposes to stir in us a deeper love and reflection of what Christ actually did for us, to move us out of our self-serving mode of being into a more self- less “other centered” mode of being like our Lord himself lived. Prayer, fasting, and Almsgiving are the order of the day. Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday. For hundreds of years Catholics for 6 weeks have dedicated themselves to these religious practices in a more intense way to help them stop and reflect in the presence of God (prayer), to examine their motives and intentions, to repent when they find selfishness at the root (fasting), and commit to “growing their faith by giving it away” (alms giving). When we serve others, we grow as Pope Francis said “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort.”
Attached are some possible resolutions that you could commit to in Lent, so that this season truly is one of a deeper conversion to a lifestyle that has the values of the Gospel of Christ at the center. I invite you to choose at least 2 from each, if not three, and stretch yourself. Many are not easy and will challenge you. Remember God can never be out done in generosity! It might also be a good idea to print this out and share it with your spouse or family. Good talking points to prepare for Lent.
What I am often is what I do. I am one person – not two – and what people see, they should see all the time and not just when it is convenient. This is what conversion means – to be true to yourself – your best self – and Christ and His grace (through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving) brings us to this!
I end with some words of Pope Francis:
“All have a right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone. Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”.
Be sure I am praying for all of you!
Fr Martin Connor, LC
RC Atlanta Local Director