We are entering into our holiest season in the Catholic liturgical calendar. Lent is a time to prepare us for the glorious Resurrection of our Lord. On Ash Wednesday, I got up a little earlier to prepare for Mass. I carefully picked out a coordinating sweater and scarf because this day is sacred for me. Listening to the homily of Father Nan was especially rich food for my soul. Our priest spoke on how we are to prepare inwardly. He said, “The essence of Lent is a movement from the external life to the eternal space to make room for God.” These words stayed with me because they spoke of how God works in our soul. As I helped with the distribution of the Eucharist, I was fighting back tears of overwhelming joy. I thought of all the people who attended the service, souls searching for a fresh start in their spiritual journey. In my heart I want nothing more than to please God. In the natural this is a testing. The journey to draw from the waters of the deep wells can only be accomplished through our own faithfulness.
The Scenic Route
Whenever I’m driving with my daughter Sonja, she always takes the scenic route. I get a little irritated with this because I’m a freeway girl. Not Sonja – she takes her time getting to and from where she is going. “Mom, don’t you just love this house?” My reply is always the same, “No! why do you always take so long to get us home?” “Do you see that front porch? That’s exactly what I want for my house,” she adds. Though Sonja is my daughter, she will find her way to God in this manner. We are different in our walk because God created us this way. I cannot force my strong beliefs on her because she will drive in another direction. Our Son Mikos, on the other hand, is always questioning the doctrines of the Catholic Church. He is serving God under the Protestant umbrella. He is faithful and is the spiritual leader of his family. Both Mikos and Sonja are saturated in prayer, and I know that they pray as well. Their spiritual journey is their own, and I come alongside of them, gently nudging them through prayer.
I cannot tell you how many unnecessary detours I have made in my journey or how I’ve felt a loss by my sinful behavior. Or the psychological warfare and games the Enemy plays with my head, causing me to feel spiritually inadequate. I can only refuel my spiritual perception through prayer and the Eucharist. Lent is a period of reflection; I look in the mirror and see not my face, but myself with ashes over my head, dressed in sack cloth. This is a time we resolve to practice humility, self-examination, and repentance. We are to be as John the Baptist to the world: his life’s journey was to lead others to Christ; he lived and died for the Gospel; he was the epitome of truth. From his mother’s womb, John the Baptist was obedient to his call.
The Mountain Roads
Years ago I attended a retreat in Lake Arrowhead. I was driving a large Chevy Suburban and was not prepared for the challenge this mountain drive was going to be. In my inexperience, I drove with extreme caution and reduced my speed. I had no idea how many vehicles I was holding up behind me. Finally I turned into an area to allow others to safely pass. I counted 12 vehicles! Like prayer, going up the mountain to meet God comes with consequences. By being overly careful, I was unknowingly holding others back by controlling the flow of traffic on the road. We can’t do this because of our lack of experience. Not even God will force you to reach the top of the mountain. Our Lord will equip us for the journey, but it is through our free will that we accomplish these life journeys.
“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” -St. Therese of Lisieux
During Lent three things are required of us: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Prayer does not always come naturally; speaking for myself, it took several years of discipline to develop prayer as an everyday part of my life. I am constantly praying throughout the day, especially when negative thoughts creep into my mind. I usually pray a Hail Mary; this helps me go into deeper prayer. When I’m upset, it takes a lot more than a Hail Mary to get me back to the right spiritual direction. Many times I will open the Bible and ask God to give me a Word. The Enemy attacks me because I am an intercessor, so I must always be aware of how the Devil works. If someone calls me for prayer, I am obligated before the Lord to comply. Reading Sacred Scripture helps us draw closer to God, and that is what we should always be doing.
Years ago, when our children were in their teens, I could fast for many days. Nowadays I’m happy with fasting one day. Fasting is self-control; we master this by preparation. You can also fast from social media, from watching your favorite television programs, or by giving up one or two meals a day. God recognizes our efforts and honors our sacrifices.
When I was the head of a ministry feeding the homeless once a month, almsgiving was a routine part of my life. COVID-19 has changed all that. We serve by sharing God’s gifts with others; we give of our time and talents. As part of almsgiving, our Bible study group will pray the Rosary in front of Planned Parenthood during Lent.
Dear Lord, help us through these 40 days of Lent. Open our hearts and minds to draw closer to You. Speak to us through Sacred Scripture, and guide us on this Lenten journey. Train us to set aside special time for deeper prayer, and encourage us to give of ourselves to Your service. Help us out of any situation that would lead us astray, and make us more and more like You, Jesus. Amen.