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For more than one billion Catholics across the world, the start of Lent signals the beginning of 40 days of prayer, self-denial and confession that culminates with Easter.
During the Lenten period, lasting from Ash Wednesday to Easter, Christians abstain from certain foods or physical pleasures.
Some vow to give up bad habits, such as smoking or nail biting, while others abstain from chocolate or a certain kind of ice cream.
Others promise to help “heal the environment” by walking to work for 40 days instead of driving, or use Lent as a time to give to others without being recognised for their good works.
Lent is a time for prayer. It is a time for self analysis and to consider our values as a result of which we live our daily lives. We are living in a very materialistic world at present. It is said that technology has developed more over the last 100 years than it did since the beginning of time. Years ago people had never seen a motor car, an airplane, a radio or a TV, and they certainly had never heard of the internet. But today our lives are, to a great extent, governed by this technology.
Needless to say, there has been sin in the world since Adam fell – even a casual reading of scripture confirms this. But it is also true to say that in our times we are simply inundated by the world and its values as never before, which makes it difficult to dwell on the importance of prayer and penance.
During Lent we should consider doing some “fasting,” not only from food but also from TV, smoking, drinking and any other habits, which, though they may not be sinful, attach us more to the world and its values. Lent is also a time for more prayer, not just reading prayers, but talking personally to God, not only in Church but also at home or at work. God is everywhere.
For most of us perhaps control of the tongue would be the greatest penance. In a letter St. James the Apostle wrote, regarding the tongue: “Consider how a small fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. Controlling our speech, means not speaking unkindly to or about other people, but, instead being kind and helpful to everybody, beginning, of course with our family and remembering the words of Our Lord, “If you did it to others, you did it to Me.” Both the good and the bad.
The real aim of Lent is, above all else, to prepare us for the celebration of the death and Resurrection of Christ… the better the preparation the more effective the celebration will be. One can effectively relive the mystery only with purified mind and heart. The purpose of Lent is to provide that purification by weaning us from sin and selfishness through self-denial and prayer, by creating in us the desire to do God’s will and to make His kingdom come by making it come first of all in our hearts.
Lent really is so much more than simply fasting for a long time. It is a time of increased prayer, worship, and church attendance, and giving. Yet, it is possible to fast rigorously, go to church more frequently, pray daily, and give more during Lent and be no better off spiritually than the Pharisee who went to the temple to pray with the Publican (Luke 18:9-14). This may be a bit harsh and most of us are not as arrogant, self-absorbed, and self-satisfied as the Pharisee. However, we can be like him and do all the “right things” during Lent and still miss the point of it. Why is that? It has to do with how we frame our thinking. Do we think of Lent and fasting as what we must give up and requirements or rules we must follow; or do we understand it as a means for gaining increased spiritual growth and wellbeing? Seeing fasting as all about giving up rather than gaining is actually distorted thinking.
We learn early on in Scripture about how our thinking got distorted due to sin and that our first impulse is typically to run away from God or do the opposite of what God would have us do. Fasting is about gaining through giving. We voluntarily give up so that we may gain. Instead of being focused on the giving up of certain foods, we should see it as a step in growing toward something wonderful. Like an athlete or an artist, we give up our time for leisure and voluntarily choose to work because we want to get better at what we do. We see working hard and giving up leisure activities as necessary means to attain our goal.
For us as Christians that goal is to become more Christ-like. Fasting is a first step to gain control over ourselves in this regard, however increased prayer and fasting may feel like a forced effort at first, but that is normal. Many things feel forced at first until they start feeling more natural.
If you are struggling to decide what to do for Lent, or if you have already given up on what you committed to do, why not commit to do something different and get closer to God by attending a Cursillo Weekend. We have just held A Cursillo Weekend for ladies at the end of March but there will be another one for ladies held towards the end of this year meanwhile...
The Cursillo Movement is holding a weekend event for men from the 18th till the 21st May 2017. If you are interested in attending please contact us on Mob:58008885 or send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you an enrolment form, we look forward to seeing you there.
Cursillo Team Leaders
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