When does Lent start? March 1st! Are you ready? Well, ready or not, Lent is literally right around the corner. It’s hard to believe as many of us, myself included, are still trying to pack away those Christmas decorations. However, since Ash Wednesday will be upon us in less than a month, we should really try to take some time to properly prepare. Wouldn’t it be such a comfort and inspiration knowing that we really made an effort to make the most of the upcoming 40-day period? If you’re like me, I am tired, quite frankly, of just picking some item or activity out of thin air when it comes to the annual Lenten sacrifice, without much thought going into it.
So here are four simple ideas to help you get into better spiritual shape over the next few weeks before Lent begins:
- Pray intently about your Lenten sacrifice. This sounds like a no-brainer, but we are all busy, and at this point Lent may still seem far off. If we start now and begin asking the Lord the areas of our lives that need attention, our Lenten mission and focus will be much clearer, not to mention much more meaningful.
- Be realistic: One of the reasons so many of us tend to fail at our New Year’s resolutions before the end of January is because we bite off more than we can chew. That is quite literal if losing weight is a New Year’s goal, because people tend to shoot for a huge weight loss verses life style changes which are much more attainable in the short and long term. We should take this same approach with Lent. If you’re having a hard time even managing to glance at the Daily Mass Readings, promising to read the Bible cover to cover is probably not going to happen. So be honest with yourself and be realistic.
- Remember that our focus should be long term, not short term: The Church gives us the season of Lent not just to sharpen our spiritual tools during the 40 days but every day. If we take the time seriously and commit it to the Lord, we hopefully will be losing some bad habits and adopting some new ones; practices that will enhance our prayer life and strengthen our relationship with God and the Church.
- Don’t give up: Remember that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. We are going to stumble and fall. We are going to have days where we don’t reach our Lenten goals. So as that old song says, “pick yourself up, brush yourself off and start all over again.” In other words, God’s mercy is new every morning. We just need to have a contrite heart and a willingness to begin again, as St. Teresa of Avila reminds us.
At this stage of the game, I am still not sure what my particular Lenten assignment will be. But I do know, as I continue to stack up those Christmas boxes, that I am praying about it. And that’s a good place to start.