Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Lenten reflections 2012

This has been our first Lent as Catholics.  It started with Ash Wednesday and will conclude at Easter Vigil.  And it's been...interesting.  A season all about penance and sacrifice and uniting with Jesus in His sufferings, Lent is intended to prepare the Christian's heart for Easter--the biggest and most celebratory feast day of the year.

I say it's been "interesting" because:

1.)  I gave up what I consider to be pretty paltry things, but have actually really missed them, and struggled with the temptation to do them anyway.

2.)  The past 40 days have included a nasty flu, dealing with difficult kid stuff (everything from behavior issues to emotions running high over repeatedly hurt feelings), and a car accident.  In other words, life's circumstances have most definitely been harder than usual around here.

3.)  There have been a couple of instances over the past several weeks where I've felt the tension of being Catholic.  Because unlike my former life as a Protestant, when I identify as a Roman Catholic, I essentially wear my beliefs on my sleeve.  There is great potential to be misunderstood (at best), and accused of intolerance and arrogance (at worst).  Not easy for my people-pleasing, caring-way-too-much-about-what-people-think-of-me self.

Of course, methinks that even though this has all been decently hard, it is probably all very GOOD for my spiritual life.  Because while Lent has been more difficult than I'd anticipated, it has been so in a redemptive sort of way--as it builds virtue in my life by underscoring my desperate need for a Savior.  Not to mention, these are all things I can offer up to God. 

And I obviously haven't been observing Lent all by myself--we participate as a family.  Meaning that we've spent some of our Friday evenings at our parish doing Stations of the Cross (which I've LOVED), and I've been taking my kids through this book.  Which is wonderful, and I highly recommend it--each day of Lent has a reflection, a positive action to do, and a fast from something.  Not to mention, at $1.99, it is super inexpensive! 

And now it is Holy Week. 

On Palm Sunday we processed with our palm branches that the priest had blessed, the crucifix and statues were shrouded in purple linen, and there was a special Gospel reading during Mass.  It occurred to me that every single year, the Church tirelessly and humbly proclaims this crazy, 2,000-year-old story--foolishness to much of the world, but life-changing and of utmost importance to us.  The average person may not care what happened in Jerusalem on that week all those years ago, but the Church does. 

Something I am learning as a Catholic is that Jesus is real.  And the faith I proclaim is real.  Yes, I know that sounds weird and semi-ridiculous, because of course I believed He was real before.  But now that I am practicing a faith that is Sacramental and Liturgical, it is so much more tangible and experiential for me--and I think that's by design.  The Eucharist is, after all, as intimate a union man can have with our Lord, this side of eternity.  And of course if Jesus is real, my sin is too.  The battle between good and evil, also real.  Thus my need to engage in a penitential season to prepare my heart for Easter.

So, those are my current and partially-processed thoughts on Lent.  May we all experience Christ fully, deeply, and abundantly this Holy Week, as we attempt to walk with Him in His Passion.


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