We are less than 2 weeks away from our annual Lenten journey. Lent is my favorite Liturgical season. It is my favorite because of it's simplicity, yet it's complexity. Lent is stripped down and raw. It is a 40 day journey of fasting and prayer that will unite us with Christ's suffering and passion.
We will soon be entering into an period known as "Shrovetide." Shrovetide is the pre-Lenten time in which the faithful attend confession and discern what they feel spiritually called to do during the Lenten season of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. During our short 40 days of Lent, the faithful will strengthen their bond with Christ. Lent is about more than giving up something, it is about spending 40 days in spiritual renewal.
It is no mistake to find the common thread of "40" throughout the Bible. For instance, Exodus 34:28 tells us that Moses spent 40 days with our Lord on Mount Sinai. With his time spent in fasting and prayer, Moses was preparing himself to receive the Ten Commandments. Another example, of course, is Matthew 4:2 that tells us about Jesus spending "40 days and 40 nights" in the desert where He spent His time in fasting and prayer before beginning his public ministry. In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI said that during Jesus' 40 days in the desert, "he nourished himself with the Word of God, which he used as a weapon to conquer the devil." Notice that both the Old Testament (Moses) and the New Testament (Jesus) are parallel figures. Both Moses and Jesus spent 40 days in prayer and fasting before their pivotal moments in history. The pivotal moment for Moses was bringing down the tablet from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments emblazoned upon it. Jesus' pivotal moment in this case was (is there only one?!) His public ministry.
Moses and Jesus spent 40 days in fasting and prayer, strengthened by the Word of God- whether it be the burning bush or the Jewish scrolls known to us as the Old Testament. The Word of God can and will nourish us, too. God is drawn to our suffering, especially when we offer our suffering up out of love for Him.
During Noah's time, it rained for 40 days so that God could renew the Earth. Scripture couldn't be more obvious that 40 days is needed to renew and strengthen the faithful- every year.
Whether we abstain from social media, read a chapter of the Bible every day, donate money in a "rice bowl," God will see us. He knows our hearts. God will know if we are prepared to enter into the 50 day Liturgical season of Easter with purified hearts and a renewed spirit.
Galatians 5:16-26 tells us to "walk by the spirit... for the flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit... The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition; drunkenness and the like. those who live by acts of the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God."
Step it up. Step up your usual Lenten practices. Renew your Lenten season! In order to correct an immoral sin, choose to do its opposite. Instead of gossiping about someone, pray for them. To avoid immorality, spend time in adoration/spiritual meditation- see the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.
In my family, we ask for a Lenten Family Chore from our parish priest. My husband and I will participate in spiritually renewing exercises. We will also teach our children about almsgiving. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are central to the Lenten season, however, they are the cornerstones of the Catholic Church.
During this Shrovetide period, I challenge you to go to confession and to spend time in Eucharistic Adoration. I challenge you to seriously discern what you need to do in your life so that you are renewed and "nourished with the Word of God" that you can "use as a weapon to conquer the devil."
Don't just make a change for 40 days, instead, make a permanent change so that you may always walk in the Light of Christ.