It is hard to believe that the holy penitential season of Lent is upon us again. Ash Wednesday this year will be celebrated by the Church on March 5 and, as we have done in the past, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass draws us to very carefully examine our consciences and lives, correct our faults and seek and receive sacramental absolution for all our sins. Lent is the graced time in our year and in our lives when God gives us a special opportunity to “get ourselves right with Him.”
In the glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, this holy season is described this way:
“The liturgical season of forty days which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends with the celebration of the Paschal mystery (Easter Triduum). Lent is the primary penitential season in the Church’s liturgical year, reflecting the forty days Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying.”
The Church further describes the season of Lent by saying: “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (CCC, 540).
Like every other liturgical season in our year and daily lives, Lent is meant for our spiritual and temporal benefit. What we accomplish during Lent is supposed to have a lasting impact on our lives of prayer, our lives of good works and almsgiving, and on our lives of real and sincere penance and self-sacrifice. In other words,
just like Advent is not to end for us at Christmas, Lent is not to end for us at the Easter Triduum
. We are to be noticeably more like Christ on Easter Sunday than we were on Ash Wednesday!
Ash Wednesday is so important for us because, as we are signed on our foreheads with blessed ashes in the form of His cross, we listen to one of two clear exhortations:
1. “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel”
“Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you shall return”
Perhaps a good way to understand them both and what they call each of us to do is to combine them.
Why does this apply to each of us? “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel [because] we are dust and to dust we shall return.” In other words,
our lives are not our own to do with as we please. We come from God, we belong to Him
and, in time, we are destined to return to Him. What will prevent us from returning to Him? Simply stated: sin.
What is sin but the refusal to love God and our neighbor? As St. Thomas Aquinas described sin, he said it is the warping of the good which always darkens the intellect and weakens the will. God is always offering us the graced chances to do what we are urged to do every Ash Wednesday, but the season of Lent is truly
in our lives for this.
Please make every effort to come to daily Mass, be faithful to your daily private prayers, make an effort to spend time in eucharistic adoration, be truly generous to the poor, and freely deprive yourselves of something you like and even may
during Lent. This will cultivate the habit of doing what is good, which is true virtue. True virtue always defeats sin and its many temptations. Let us pray for one another!
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