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Father Muench Says...

Holding on to Jesus, the message of Lent

February 18, 2015

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Okay – it’s about Lent again.
I suspect that, like me, you are more preoccupied with snow or maybe health related problems.  Yet, Ash Wednesday is upon us.  So it is that time again, time for doing something.  Lent is about doing something.

The message of Lent is Jesus.  Jesus is what Lent is all about.  Those Lenten things – the special prayer and the acts of mortification – mean nothing unless they empower our friendship with Jesus.  So our Church encourages us and challenges us to use this special time as a time to make our lives, our spiritual lives, even better. This is our time to strengthen our relationship with God and our friendship with Jesus.

I know that you have been through Lent many times, haven’t you?  I remember way back when I was a kid that Lent was all about candy and chocolate.  I am really not a chocolate person, even back then.  However, when I gave up chocolate for Lent, it seemed to take on a new importance. I suddenly found that I couldn’t live without candy and chocolate. I had this strong longing for candy.  So it became quite a battle to give it up.  Then came Easter and I had seemed to lose my yearning for candy.  I seemed to have gotten over chocolate.  Lent had worked; I was changed.

This is what Lent is about. Lent is about conversion.  Conversion is about Jesus because conversion needs Jesus.  So, Lent is truly about Jesus.  The purpose of Lent is to lead each one of us closer to Our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Yet, each of us is so very different.  So, each of us must make our own choices, our own plans to getting closer to the Lord, for making ourselves more open so that the Lord can find us and enter into our lives.

So, what will your decision be this year? What will change your life this Lent?  Choose something that will open the way for Jesus that he may find you. Does it really take seven weeks?  Speaking for myself, I probably need more time than seven weeks.  However, if Lent works properly, I hope to be more faith-filled and closer to the Lord when it is time to celebrate Holy Week and Easter. 

Lent is basically about developing good habits and making good choices.  This is the way to bring each of us so much closer to the Lord.  Yes, I truly know from experience that Lent works.  We must do something intentionally, to truly improve our spiritual life.

Easter is the end of the time of Lent but it is not the end of the Lenten program.  Easter must be the beginning of this year’s program, the beginning of a new life developed during Lent.  We should and can end Lent as very different people.  If we do not, then we have missed out on this most important opportunity. 

The idea of Lent is to add something new to our future.  Can you imagine if every one of us had developed something new each and each and every Lent, since we began observing this special time of prayer.  This would be a very different world, wouldn’t it?

So make your choice carefully.  Add a little mortification to your life;it is still good to give up something for Lent as long as it is an opportunity to get closer to the Lord.  Or maybe do something that will bring you closer to the Lord.   This will guarantee to open your heart and mind so that Jesus may enter more completely into who you are.  Then celebrate – and enjoy Lent – the Lord will be with you.

Okay, I know what you are thinking. You probably want to ask me – what are you going to do this Lent? I have been thinking of that as I have been writing. The last couple of years I have given up all computer games but I must admit I have gotten away from computer games.

I have found new peace and strength from a daily holy hour, so I will promise the Lord – a daily holy hour this Lent.

I want to take a moment to close with a remembrance. I have learned that Father Richard McBrien died recently.  His writings – books and columns – did have a profound effect on my life and my priesthood.  Father McBrien was on the theology faculty at Notre Dame University.  He was special and certainly made the Second Vatican Council more understandable to me.  I used often his two volume classic  “Catholicism” on the Church and the teachings of our Church.  He was a very special theologian.   

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