Lent and the flourishing of faith

On March 6, we will celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. The term “Lent” comes from the old English word lenchen, which means springtime. The most obvious basis for this term is that Spring always begins during the Lenten season. But there is also a deeper connection. As the fields and lawns begin flourishing during springtime, so Lent is meant to bring about a flourishing of our faith. Following both Jewish and Christian traditions, the Catechism especially recommends acts of prayer, sacrifice and generosity towards others in order to bring about this springtime of faith. See Catechism 1434; Tobit 12:8; Matthew 6:1- 18.

To draw an analogy from agriculture, we need for a harvest the rain and sun from the sky, the plowing and preparing of the fields on the earth, and the planting of seeds in these fields. Likewise, in prayer we open our hearts and minds to the grace and light of heaven. In acts of sacrifice and penance, we prepare our souls, minds and bodies as fields of the Lord. And, in works of goodness, generosity and charity, we plant the seeds of faith in our homes and communities to bring forth a rich harvest of grace for the world.

And so, as Lent approaches, it is important to make definite resolutions about how we will be prayerful, self-sacrificing, and generous. Regarding prayer, one could make such resolutions as: (1) setting aside a certain amount of time each day with the Bible, devotions or simply informal prayer; (2) praying with the family or friends on a regular basis; (3) reading the Biblical passages for Mass ahead of time; (4) learning more about the saints and praying with them; or (5) praying for the dead, for family and friends and for people who are struggling.

Regarding sacrifice, disciplining of our desires prepares the way for the Lord. In our lives examples could include: (1) cutting back on television or the internet; (2) getting to bed and up in the morning a bit earlier; (3) giving up a favorite food for a time; (4) not insisting on temperature setting being exactly what one likes; or (5) taking regular time in silence to reflect upon one’s life, goals and relationship with God and others. Such sacrifices in turn enable us to make resolutions regarding generosity with others such as: (1) listening to others more; (2) thanking others for their efforts; (3) writing encouraging letters or emails, or calling those who would appreciate the attention; (4) giving extra time or resources to a worthy cause; or (5) simply performing one’s duties with more cheerfulness.

These ideas are but a few ways in which we can make this Lenten season a springtime of faith for us, the Church and all the world.