Thinking about Lent and Penance


The Christmas Season ended a few weeks ago and we’re already for Lent.  Ash Wednesday is around the corner, the sixth March.

Birth of Jesus

It appears to us that the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary comes before his incarnation and birth at Christmas, at the end of the year.  But that’s not really the case at all.

The Church’s liturgical calendar begins with the first Sunday of Advent.  That is actually “New Years Day” on the liturgical calendar.  January 1st was adopted as the beginning of the New Year in 1752 when Pope Gregory XIII ratified the current calendar, which we call the Gregorian Calendar.

The first solemn Christocentric celebration occurs on December 25th when the Second Person the Most Holy Trinity breaks into human history as the child Jesus.  We celebrate Christmas with great joy and solemnity, because God has humbled himself to become human.

Lent follows the Christmas season on the liturgical calendar, beginning on Ash Wednesday.  It is a time of penitential preparation for the sacrifice of Christ on Good Friday and a time of expectation as we celebrate his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Catholics have always sacrificed something during Lent.  Some people didn’t eat candy, others didn’t east dessert, many would not attend celebrations, carnivals and were not usually married during Lent. These things are good in the eyes of God.  God does not measure quantity, but the intent of the heart.

(c) Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

However, if we look around us at today’s world, we have a lot of reasons to do penance for ourselves and those who don’t do penance.  We have had horrific scandals in the Church’s human element, because its divine character comes from Christ, not from man.  Christ is perfectly sinless.

Our country is split over politics and policies.  Everyday the back stabbing gets worse.  Terrorism has spread to Europe and North America.  Once upon a time it was contained in the Middle East.  That’s no longer the case.

People must abandon their homes out of fear.  They fear that they will be dragged out and killed.  While adults may feel strong enough to combat criminals, those who have children find it very difficult to do so.  What happens to my kid if I were killed in a resistant uprising?

A trailer park. (c) Caren Mack Photography

Poverty also triggers migration.  In the United States, poverty in some of our southern states is never mentioned, but it’s there.  People live in conditions not fit for human beings.  The people migrate to the coasts where they hope to find work and housing in the big cities.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.  The same is true for people of many countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.  Families must emigrate from their homes because they don’t earn salaries to support themselves.

This leads to all kinds of problems in the host countries, from a shortage of resources to violence.  The violence is usually rooted in frustration, distrust, or simply there are individuals among the immigrants who have criminal history.  This cannot be avoided.  Every country, every race, every ethnic group has its fair share of criminals and delinquents.

The Franciscans of Life are encouraging all our relatives and friends to offer this Lent for a peaceful resolution to conflict and dishonesty in the world.  Will it happen?  Gabriel said to Mary, “Nothing is impossible for God.”  But let’s sacrifice something that really hurts, without doing damage to our mind or body.

Copyright: Franciscans of Life

Some suggestions for Lenten sacrifice:

1. Turn off the television or restrict its use to a specific time of the day without exceptions.

2. Turn off the game systems and computers.  If you can’t live 40 days without Facebook, try at least three days a week in honor of the Blessed Trinity.

3.  Stop smoking or drinking alcohol.  How many people die because of smoking cessation or because they reduced the amount of alcohol they put in their bodies?

4. Children and adolescents may pick up an extra chore around the house.  If one’s job is to take out the garbage and the parents must remind the young person to do his duty, taking out the garbage is not a Lenten sacrifice.  Taking out the garbage is justice.  It’s your contribution to family life.  Taking on an extra chore from Mom or Dad, is a sacrifice, even if it’s two days a week.

5.  Man has become an extension of his cell phone.  The cell phone is no longer used just for communication when you can’t get to a landline or a payphone.  It’s where people watch movies, play video games, use as time pieces, or status pieces.  There are people who pay their monthly visit to parents or grandparents via Skype.  We can reduce the use of the cell phone and limit it to communication.  It doesn’t have to be our diary, calendar, notebook, or library.  Any or all those applications can be sacrificed and offered in atonement for our sins and those of people who don’t to penance. 

6. For many people, healthy living is a penance:  going to bed early and rising early, going on a diet, engaging in physical activity, or sitting with your family for dinner, even though you know that the kids are going to bicker, complain, play, and do many things that we adults can’t imagine.  Using dinner time as a learning experience can be a healthy sacrifice. 

You may ask, “Why do penance for those who don’t do penance?”  The answer is simple.  What would have happened to our immortal souls if Christ had not offered his life for humanity?

Look at these suggestions and see if you can try one of them or come up with a penance that is truly a challenge for you.

 

Published in: on February 23, 2019 at 7:49 PM  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Thank you Brother Jay! Blessings to you and your community!


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