Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Joyful Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the day which marks the beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. During Lent, we are called to draw closer to our Lord by emulating the 40 days of fasting and prayer in the desert that Christ underwent before He began His public ministry. The Church asks Her followers to deny themselves common pleasures and to pray more deeply, so as to follow in the footsteps of Christ.
But far too often, Lent is treated as a time of gloom, sorrow, and self-sacrifice by Christians. We are called to give up pleasures that are dear to us. We are called to mortify our senses and our pride, praying and reflecting on the sufferings of Our beloved Master.
To many (including myself), this is a painful trial. After all, who would not be unhappy at the thought of giving up things that they like – especially for things that do not provide obvious temporal benefits? Lent can become a time of fruitless complaining, even for faithful Christians, who fail to bear their suffering well.
But Lent should not be a time of sorrow. Indeed, in order to be a fruitful Lent, our sacrifices should be made in a spirit of cheerfulness, and the period of Lent should be a time of joy.
Lent reminds us that comforts and possessions cannot grant us happiness in the long run, and that our true happiness is in the Lord. Only God can satisfy man’s desperate craving for happiness.
We must be willing to cast aside unnecessary things during this Lent, and embrace our Master's yoke.
If we do so, we will come to a fuller realization of our spiritual state. We will come to rely less and less on those pleasures we depended on to bring us happiness, and instead rely solely on God, the source and fountain of true joy.
If our Lent is successful, we will draw ourselves closer to God through its observance. In doing so, we will become truly happy - for the Maker of happiness will fill us with His delight as we draw ever nearer to Him.
Besides, Christ told us not to be sorrowful when fasting. Indeed, we are commanded by Him to be so joyful that others may not be able to detect that we are fasting through our misery: “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matt 6:17-18)
Indeed, as Catholics, we must go farther than mere stoicism. We must be joyful in this season of Lent – so joyful that others may be inspired by our glowing example. We must attract others to live the Christian life of suffering by taking joy even in the Cross.
Let us all seek to exude a spirit of Christian joy this Lent, as we draw ever closer to our Master through prayer and self-denial.
Have a blessed Lent, dear readers.

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