Lent has come to us a little later this year than usual as Easter is only four days short of the latest it can be. On a side note, if you were wondering how the date for Easter is determined; it is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of Spring. That information and $2 will get you a coffee at Tim Horton’s. With Lent starting so late, it has given us much time to think about what we may want to “give up”, “take on”, “change about ourselves”, etc. to help us enter more deeply into this most holy of seasons.
When I was young, it was always a challenge to (a) figure out what I was going to give up for Lent, and then, (b) to actually be able to stay faithful to my decision. I can remember finding out that Sundays were not technically part of Lent, so there was a loophole there should I decide to wander from my commitment without feeling too much guilt. Looking back, I think my thought process was flawed.
My ideas around Lent started to change significantly when I became a parent. On December 14th, 1989 when my son was handed to me at the Moncton Hospital, it gave me my first taste of what unconditional love is. Whether I was aware of it or not, every other relationship in my life had conditions, but not this one. Not now, not ever. I then connected that to my relationship with God. Up until that point my dealings with God were very formal. God was watching over me, but from afar. I needed to earn God’s favour to receive blessings and anything that went wrong in my life was God wrapping my knuckles for something bad that I had done. I worshipped God, but I’m not sure that I loved God. So, naturally, this shaped how I lived my faith, especially in the important seasons like Lent. My “giving up” was more about obligation than it was about love. That’s why loopholes seemed so appealing.
Now, my thoughts around Lent are much more centered on gratitude as opposed to obligation. If I decide to deny myself of something, or if I should decide to take something on such as additional time in prayer, it is my way of saying to God; “I love you too”. Recently, Matthew Kelly’s book, “The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity” has been made available to us in the diocese to read as a good preparation for Lent. In the book, he talks about creating “Holy Moments”. Holy moments are any time you put someone else’s needs ahead of your own. WOW! Can you imagine what life would be like if we all put ourselves and our egos second and other people’s needs (physical, emotional and spiritual) first? I think the world would be a much different and better place.
Lent is all about repentance and conversion. It’s about exchanging our old ways for new ways. But most especially it’s about the journey toward the Triduum and Easter and the experience of the greatest love anyone has ever shown. For me, Lent has become figuring out how to respond to that kind of love. Like any good parent, all God asks for in return is some quality time spent together and for us to share what we’ve learned from the source of all love. Happy Lent to all.