Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The observances of Lent: pathways, not to diminishment, but to abundance of life in Christ (Reflections on Ash Wednesday, Mt. 6:1-6, 16-18)


Three times in today’s Gospel reading, we are reminded of the meaning of this entire season ahead of us.

Lent is a time of almsgiving, a time to remember the poor and those who have very little in life, a time to share the blessings we receive in order that we may store up for ourselves, not earthly treasure which moths eat, rust corrodes, and thieves steal, but treasure in heaven that lasts.

Christ invites us this season, to give, not so that we may have less, but so that we may have more of what truly matters. He invites us to consider that to give generously is not to diminish ourselves, but to gain for ourselves even more.

Lent is a time of prayer, a time to lift our minds and hearts to God and to be reminded of his ways, not so that we can forget our own ways but in order that we may find their fulfillment in Him; not so that we may forget the concerns of daily life and focus only on God, but so that the attention we give life may in fact become even deeper and more genuine.

Christ invites us this season to consider that raising our minds to God is not to neglect ourselves, but to discover our true selves even more.

Lent is a time of fasting, a time to deny ourselves the usual comforts and conveniences we’re used to, not so that our life will be more difficult, but so that we could appreciate life’s blessings even more.

Christ invites us this season to consider that to deny ourselves is not to reject who and what we are, but to discover, accept, and appreciate ourselves even more, in the way that God sees, accepts, and appreciates us.

Lent is usually seen as a time of renunciation, a time when we give up things, even the sanctuary of our churches are stripped bare. As we receive ashes on our forehead this day, as we enter into this season of penance and self-denial, let us keep in mind that the barrenness, the emptiness, the penance and renunciations of Lent are not ends in themselves.

They are instead, reminders and pointers along the way, leading us not to diminishment, but to the abundant life promised to those who truly enter in the spirit of this holy season.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)