“These 40 days of Lent, O Lord, with you we fast and pray, teach us to discipline our wills, and close to you to stay.”
These words from a famous Lenten hymn set the scene for this liturgical time of six weeks dedicated to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
The path to the empty tomb on Easter Sunday first passes through Calvary. If we are to rise with Christ, we must die with him. Our anger, pride, covetousness, greed, envy, gluttony, and laziness must be nailed to the Savior’s cross before we can be fully freed from Satan’s snares.
The good habits formed during Lent under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit can stay with us for the rest of the year. Try these commendable projects.
1) Delve into the Old Testament. Although we may be intimidated by the Old Testament because of its length, the cultures it describes, etc., it prepared those who awaited the coming of Christ with the restoration from sin and death which only comes by Jesus. The prophet Ezekiel wrote, “Cast away from yourselves all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and obtain yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of any man, saith the Lord God; therefore turn and live” (18:31-32). Such a message is closely linked to the words of Our Lord: “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15).
2) Offer your will to Christ. “I will try day by day to break my will to pieces. I want to do God’s holy will, not my own. This motto of daily life was expressed by Francesco Possenti (1838-1862), known in religious life under the name of Brother Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother, whose feast day is February 27. Saint Gabriel’s love for Jesus and Mary as well as his continual abandonment to the divine plan is a model for us. of the Most Blessed Sacrament embolden our adherence to Jesus.
3) See in the virtue of temperance a path to freedom. Temperance, one of the four cardinal virtues, helps regulate our food and drink intake. But it is also about our “attachment” to these elements. Saint Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860) was rector of the Ecclesiastical College of Turin, Italy. In his dealings with seminarians, he frequently exhorted them to be careful in their approach to the table. Saint Joseph warned that overeating was not the only fault regarding food. He frequently mentioned the five faults of the table: eating infrequently, eating too quickly, eating too much, eating too eagerly, and eating too deliberately.
4) Often receive an indescribable mercy from Our Lord in the confessional. In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul declares that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (3:23). The Council of Trent (1545-1563) taught that Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament of penance for the forgiveness of sins — especially mortal sins — committed after receiving the sacrament of baptism. But confession is appropriate even for those who have no mortal sins to confess. Saint John Paul II (1978-2005), in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia” of 1984, recognized that while there are different ways of forgiving venial sins, “great importance should continue to be given teaching the faithful. also to make use of the sacrament of penance only for venial sins, as evidenced by a centuries-old doctrinal tradition and practice” (32).
5) Imitate the sinless Virgin Mother of God in her pilgrimage to Calvary. Our Lady’s absolute trust in her Son never wavered even as she walked along the Via Dolorosa – the Sorrowful Way in Jerusalem – which led to the place of Christ’s crucifixion. In the Sorrowful Mysteries of Mary’s Rosary, we begin to understand more deeply that Jesus’ death necessarily precedes his glorious resurrection. For us too, our death is required before we live with God forever in heaven.
Lent is an oasis of opportunity for spiritual growth. Let us welcome each one by opening ourselves to the transformation that the suffering Jesus offers us.
Msgr. Mangan is on the faculty of Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg.