Start Hard but Finish Strong
Lent is a privileged season, meaning we seek to live it with more intensity. Lent is a season of penance and conversion, a time to reexamine our ways and reorder our lives to Gospel priorities. Hence one invitation with the imposition of ashes: “Repent and believe in the Gospel!” Our inevitable death and impending judgment impel us to conversion. Hence the other invitation: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return!” One day, we will all meet our Maker, and our lives will be instantly sorted out, by the intensity and purity of our love, in other words, how well our love was ordered in service of God and neighbor.
Typically Lent is known by three spiritual practices: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These great traditions are good in themselves, but they are most valuable as tools which assist to put our houses in order. As we prepare gameplans for Lent (oh yeah, gotta have a gameplan!), two good questions are: “What needs to go?” and, “what needs to grow?” We can apply these three tools to address those questions.
Sometimes folks ask me about the difference between fasting and abstinence. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of FAST (only one full meal) and ABSTINENCE (no meat). All other Fridays of Lent are days of ABSTINENCE (no meat). Also, those between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to FAST (only one full meal) as above. From the age of 14, people are also obliged to ABSTAIN (no meat: this obligation prohibits the eating of meat, but not eggs, milk products or condiments of any kind, even though made from animal fat). Please be prudent and intentional.
The Lenten season begins intensely: with Ash Wednesday and the first Friday in the same week, but remember that Lent is 40 days. It is a marathon not a sprint. So, as we make our resolutions and spiritual gameplans, we need to save enough energy to finish strong. We do not want to fizzle in our resolve before halftime. Make it a great Lent!