God’s goodness has no limits. Giving, giving and more generous giving expresses the very nature of our loving and bountiful God. Count your gifts and blessings and then thank and praise our loving God. This should be done daily!
Your body, your mind, your affections, your soul—all gifts from God. Praise the Lord. The Sacraments, the Church, the Eucharist—the Bread of Life, your Guardian angel, your friends the saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary who is your loving Heavenly Mother, and the promise of eternal life in Heaven. Praise and thank the Lord the giver of all sublime gifts. Saint Ignatius reminds us also that the more we thank God for His many gifts, the more He showers us with even more and greater gifts.
LENT AS A GIFT. Most likely you have never spent much time reflecting upon and thanking God for the Gifts present in the Liturgical Seasons—most specifically, the Annual Gift of the Season of Lent. If that is the case, now is the time to abound in thanking God for the Gift of the Season of Lent. In the words of the Psalmist: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.” (Ps. 136:1)
Every year, usually starting some time in February, Lent commences. The priest dons the Liturgical color of purple. Penance and a call to conversion of life marks the entire season. The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday which sets the tone of the season. Ashes are imposed with one of two phrases which are Biblical. “Be converted and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk. 1:15) Or “Remember that you are dust and you shall return to dust.” (Gen. 3:19) The Church announces the clarion call to conversion, as well as pointing out our mortality—one day we will all die and go before the Judgment seat of God.
GOSPEL FOR ASH WEDNESDAY: 3 PRACTICES TO ARRIVE AT CONVERSION. The Gospel in the Mass for Ash Wednesday sets the tone for Lent. Jesus offers us three specific ways in which we can attain the conversion of our lives and finish our lives dying in the state of grace and thereby attain our goal: Heaven!
Expressed in a three-dimensional pattern we might say: we must go up, go in, and go out! Go up—through a more intense prayer life! Go in—conversion through penance or mortification. Go out—through almsgiving or an active life of charity to live out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. If we can strive to live out these three dimensions in our spiritual life, then undoubtedly we will arrive at a more profound conversion of heart, a real conversion of life, and a deep aversion for sin and greater love for Jesus Christ!
Therefore, let us strive to realize that Lent is truly a great Gift from the hands and the loving Heart of the Lord Jesus to His Church, and to each and every one of us individually. With open hearts let us recognize the gift, receive the gift, and live the gift.
WAYS THAT WE CAN ACCEPT AND LIVE OUT LENT.
1. PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!!! Increase and fortify your personal prayer life. Indeed, what air is to our lungs, prayer is to our soul. Little prayer or a weak prayer life results in the drying up of our spiritual lungs and sure death!!!
2. WAYS TO PRAY? There are countless ways, but we will offer a list that you can choose from and implement, understanding we have to act on these good proposals and not just create castles in the air and follow wishful thinking. The following is a long list of prayers that you can undertake. If you already do some of these, add more for Lent!
1) DAILY BIBLE READING: Using these five classical steps of Lectio Divina: Lectio (Read), Meditatio (Meditate), Contemplatio (Contemplate), Oracio (Pray), Accio (Act).
2) HOLY HOUR. Use your Daily Bible Reading with Lectio Divina to give the Lord a Holy Hour of uninterrupted prayer every day for forty days. Ven. Fulton Sheen coined this “The Hour of Power!” Indeed, it was for Sheen who touched the lives of millions of people!
3) DAILY EXAMEN. Spend ten minutes every day, at any time you prefer, and go through your day thanking the Lord for the gifts of the day and begging pardon for any failures, with firm resolve to reform your life the next day.
4) THE MOST HOLY ROSARY. During the Holy Season of Lent get into the habit of praying the Rosary daily. If possible, pray the Family Rosary. Remember the words of the Rosary-priest, Ven. Father Patrick Peyton: “The family that prays together, stays together” and “A world at prayer is a world at peace.” Incidentally, if possible, view the film/documentary PRAY! The Life of Fr. Patrick Peyton.
5) HOLY MASS. By far the greatest prayer is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If possible, aim for daily Mass and Holy Communion. The Eucharist—Jesus, the Bread of Life, will transform your life and help you to arrive at a deep conversion of heart.
6) WAY OF THE CROSS. Most appropriate in Lent is to make the Way of the Cross. For the fourteen stations move from one to the next contemplating the love that Jesus has for you personally by suffering His Passion and death for love of you and the salvation of your immortal soul!
7) LITURGY OF THE HOURS. Learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours which is the public worship of the Church. In the Magnificat magazine you have Morning Prayer (Lauds) as well as Evening Prayer (Vespers). Most of these prayers are taken from the Psalms, the Official Prayer Book of the Bible.
8) MEAL PRAYER. If not already in the habit, start your mealtime with a short prayer to thank God for the gift of a healthy and hearty meal. Many cannot do this because they will have no food to eat or give to their children today.
9) THE ANGELUS PRAYER. In Lent you might intersperse your day with prayer by praying the Angelus three times a day: 9:00 a.m., 12 noon, and 6 p.m. Beg Mary to bless your mornings, afternoons and evenings!
10) VIEW THE MOVIE THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST. If age appropriate, watch the movie of Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ. However, instead of viewing it as a mere Hollywood rendition, view it as a prayer, as a contemplation, so as to love the Lord Jesus more and more. He suffered all of His Passion for love of you! Which scenes touched you the most?
3. SACRAMENT OF CONFESSION. During Lent make the best Confession of your life. Indeed, this is truly the Sacrament and encounter with Christ where deep conversion really can take place.
4. READ THE DOLOROUS PASSION. In Lent much fruit can be derived from spiritual reading, most specially the Dolorous Passion by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich.
FASTING / PENANCE / MORTIFICATION…
5. FASTING OF THE TONGUE. For the forty days of Lent avoid any words that could hurt any of your family members. Two rules can be of great help: First: Think before you speak. Second: Do and say to others what you would like them to do and say to you.
6. FASTING FROM FOOD. Choose at least one thing at the table that you like to eat and give that up for Lent. Do it for love of Jesus, and for the salvation of immortal souls as well as your own conversion!
7. FORM OF PENANCE: IMPROVE YOUR WORK ETHIC. A most efficacious penance/charity might simply be to upgrade your work ethic. This can be work outside the home or inside the home. Start your work on time and be orderly, systematic and methodical. Avoid cutting corners and doing a sloppy joy. Remember the words of Saint Paul: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) Follow in the footsteps of Saint Therese, the Little Flower. “Holiness consists in doing the ordinary things of daily life with extraordinary love.”
ALMSGIVING / CHARITY…
8. ALMSGVING. Pray to the Holy Spirit to enlighten your mind as to how you can help out the poor in one way or another. Never forget the words of Jesus: “I was hungry, thirsty, naked, a foreigner, sick or in prison… whatsoever you did for the least of my brothers, that you did for me.” (Mt. 25: 31-46)
9. CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME. Perhaps the best way to live out almsgiving or charity would be at home. Every day make an effort—for the forty days of Lent—to do an act of charity or an act of kindness—for some member of your family. This gesture is very pleasing to God and can fortify the bonds of love in the family.
A MARIAN LENT…
10. OUR LADY OF SORROWS. May this Lent be a deeply Marian Lent. Let us contemplate the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
1. The prophecy of Simeon. (Lk. 2: 34-35)
2. Flight into Egypt and massacre of the Holy Innocents. (Mt. 2: 13-18)
3. Loss of the Child Jesus in the temple. (Lk. 2: 41-51)
4, Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.
5. Crucifixion of Jesus with Mary at the foot of the Cross. (Jn. 19: 25-30)
6. The Body of Jesus taken from the Cross and laid in the arms of Mary. (The Pieta)
7. The Body of Jesus laid in the tomb. (Jn. 19: 38-42)
In conclusion, friends in Jesus and Mary, let us abound in an overflowing attitude of gratitude of praise and thanksgiving towards our loving God. Indeed, how good God is in His countless gifts that He has bestowed on the world and on each and every one of us individually. Therefore, let us recognize the Gift of Lent. Let us receive and accept it as an extraordinary gift. But then let us live out this gift! If done, our lives will be converted and our love for God will be growing, blossoming, flourishing and overflowing towards the whole world! May Our Lady attain for us a truly grateful heart!