March is a month of transitions. The last vestige of Christmas decorations have been stored and the Lenten season helps us to prepare for the feast of Easter. Perhaps in our first fervor we may have made some important Lenten resolutions that we hoped would help us to be more conscious of what Lent means to us.
As children, we thought that we needed to give up something that was important to us – perhaps not all candy but just one kind that we liked! As we matured, we found a penitential practice to do something would help us to be more aware of how much God has given to us. It is probably more difficult to hold back a quick retort to an unpleasant situation than not to eat a piece of candy.
Perhaps the action of holding back also can be a moment when we also realize God’s presence in us and in those we meet, so we can appreciate the spiritual strength that is given to us.
When I talk to college students about Lenten resolutions many mention that they try to do something that is positive — pay forward kindness, be more conscious about going to church, be more consistent with volunteering to help others, or limiting the use of social media.
As we consider keeping these Lenten resolutions, I think that most of us falter along the way and become discouraged about our failures. That is part of the human condition, but what is necessary is to give ourselves a second chance. Almost all college students agree that is a good course of action. As Babe Ruth said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”
When we begin Lent we hear the opening prayer for the Mass which suggests, “Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.”
It’s a good thought to remember and carry with us throughout Lent especially when we think we may not be living up to what we resolved to do during this special time of the church year.
The Gospel for Ash Wednesday also reminds us that we do not have to try to impress God with our sacrifices. Rather in the Gospel St. Matthew tells that, “When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matt 6:5).
I think the true gift of a Lenten season is a reminder that God loved us so much so that he sent his only Son to redeem us. At sporting events, we often see the sign John 3:16 held on high for all to see. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes might not perish but have eternal life.” Do we stop to think about the meaning of that passage?
How wonderful that God would be so concerned about each one of us to send his Son as our savior. Our God is a loving Father who loves us without reservation. When we falter and think that we are not on good terms with the Lord, it seems we need to revisit the teachings in the Gospel stories and the words of the psalms.
They will reassure us that God is always with us — giving us that second chance — wanting us to continue the journey with him. In the words of the psalmist, we pray:
“O Lord you probed me and you know me, you know when I sit and when I stand: you understand my thoughts from afar. …Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know the whole of it…. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall guide me, and your right hand hold me fast” (Psalm 139).
Sister Anne Marie Burton, I.H.M., Ed.D, is professor emerita, Education Division Archives, Gabriele Library, at Immaculata University.
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