By Hugh J. McNichol
The season of Lent is once again upon us. The ashes of this week will remind us of our earthly mortality as we journey towards the expectation of Easter Resurrection.
It is a great liturgical season, destined towards a celebration of the Paschal Mystery, as well as a reflective period where we contemplate our lives and make adjustments to our spiritual course. In years gone by, this season was one that was highlighted by penitential actions, which asked us to “sacrifice” something during Lenten journey. Parochial grade school provided a forum which helped us as students to enhance our appreciation of this season with weekly Stations of the Cross and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, The Stations of the Cross written by Saint Alphonsus Ligouri was the version in the those days, and they illustrated the true suffering of the journey towards Golgotha.
Today, I frequently think about that journey and how we as modern Catholics are on our own journey to participate in the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus in our daily lives. No we are not forced to walk the Via Crucis with a heavy cross beam, nor are we physically violated as on Jesus’ journey. We are however on a theological and mystical journey throughout our lives as we attempt to live a life in the modern world with so many secular alternatives to the Gospel message.
Lent is a fabulous time to contemplate the mystery of not only Christ’s redemption two thousand years ago, but also His presence in our lives today. It is an eschatological primer of our journey in faith and in life. Not only are we linked with the Eucharistic Lord in the Resurrection; we are also linked with Him in the trek from Bethlehem, at the manger to the cross outside of Jerusalem. This period of penitential symbolism permits us to focus throughout our physical journey in our daily lives and correlate our actions to the sacred journey we call Christianity.
Do we need to “sacrifice” things from our lives as we did as children during Lent? Fondly, I remember my grandmother giving up cakes and cookies for the period of 40 days, she went to Mass every day, said the Rosary and went to Communion. At the end of Lent, there was always a magnificent outpouring of cookies, cakes and candies at my grandparent’s home.
Celebration of , the completion of the journey, the end of the fast and the arduous survival of the penitential season, but most importantly a truly human appreciation of the value of new life that was generated with the dawn of Easter. The meatless Fridays, the additional rituals of Stations of the Cross, Rosaries and other practices were over, replaced with gustatory celebrations with confections that would send most of us into a diabetic coma.
Today, we might be compelled to sacrifice things that are not related to foods, sweets and indulgences. Perhaps we could as our Lenten sacrifice provide some actions and activities in our lives that could enhance our brothers and sisters in the world.
Operation Rice Bowl is always an exceptional practice of sacrificial offerings for the less fortunate. But how about spending some time actually working in a soup kitchen, or a food bank in the parish. Not only contribute to the funding of such admirable causes but actually participating in their mission.
Volunteer to visit the sick and infirmed, the local parish priests cannot get to see all of the parishioners in all of the institutions, all of the time. Ask your parish priests if they have any need of your help during the Lenten journey. Better yet, commit Lenten exercises to not only 40 days, but to the whole year. Catholicism in action really helps take our academic and intellectual Catholic value to a higher level of participation in the Gospel. We actually share the Lenten trip with others, Catholic and Non-Catholic, those blessed with fortune, as well as those that are unfortunate.
Share Christ his journey and sacrifices with others around you. When this is possible, then we come to understand more clearly our participation in the Body of Christ. During the Lenten period, we will gain new appreciation and understanding of our fellow believers and their chronological journey towards the reality of …life with Jesus.
Lent is a period of preparation for the glory of the Easter reality of Christ’s Resurrection. It is also a period that calls all believers to participate in the journey towards Easter that transcends beyond just 40 days of isolated personal sacrifices. Lent shouts to us as the period which calls our internal reflection of faith to external actions and conversion to a new way of looking at life.
Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker’s Movement was famous for not only suggesting Catholic action, but also actually putting Catholic actions to work. She fed the hungry, housed those without a place to go, and championed the underprivileged. Like her our pilgrimage towards Easter should reflect her sentiments, “There’s work to be done!” We should get out there and do it together on our Lenten journey towards Easter.
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Hugh McNichol - author, 302 6339348
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