The most sacred and solemn season of the year is underway. Lent began last Wednesday as we focused our efforts once again on fasting, praying, and charity all while trying not to smudge the ashen cross making our forehead itchy. How has your first few days of Lent been? Have you been successful in your efforts to enter this special time? Are you still trying to get your soul into it? Have you been to busy to give it any thought? Whether you can count the good things you have done or if you are still trying to figure out where to begin, you are off to a good start. Lent, like so many things in life, begins whether we are ready or not and will end whether we are ready of not.
The grace of Lent is that the Lord has set this season aside for you to spend some extra time with Him. The fact that it is Lent reminds us that we should be making effort to grow in our relationship with Him. It is the opportunity to grow that I like to focus on during Lent. I often think of Lent as a time of retreat. When we think of a retreat, we think of time spent away on a spiritual weekend. However, one can retreat anytime and anywhere. Just as one may take a working lunch, I see Lent as a working retreat. Indeed, the business of life is still swirling all around me, but during Lent, I make the effort to ensure that even in the business, I am making the effort to be attentive to the Lord, even as I go about my daily routines.
That may seem contradictory but consider the usual meaning of retreat. It is a military term used to indicate that the fight has gotten out of hand to the point where it is necessary to back off the point of attack in order to regroup and attack again from a different angle. What an appropriate strategy for approaching the battles of life! Chances are that in your battles against temptation and to grow in holiness, you have gone as far as you can and given up due to lack of progress. Lent reminds us that sometimes we all need to retreat, regroup, and find a new angle to approach the battle. We are given three weapons to pick up and practice with: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
As we face different struggles, we may need to use one or the other or a combination of two or three of the weapons of Lent to win the fight. Each helps us to retreat and to find new ways to strengthen our souls against the battles of the day. Perhaps you need to give something away. Maybe it is time to go without something. It is always time to turn to the Lord open our hearts to his guidance and help.
How will you use this sacred and solemn time? May God bless you with an increase in grace and strength for whatever effort you undertake during these forty days.