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Father Muench Says...

Lent is a chance to wake up to reality

February 26, 2020

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

Lent is about waking up. I must thank Father Richard Rohr for giving me this expression. As followers of Jesus, you and I need frequent opportunities to impress ourselves with Jesus’ message – “Who is God? Who are we?”
For me, the best expression for this experience to wake up as a Christian.

Jesus teaches us and demonstrates to us the great and passionate love that God has for us. We, Christians, are a loved people. Each year, Lent gives us an important opportunity to wake up to the reality that “God loves us.”

Lent is a time to back off from the cares, concerns and pleasures of ordinary life. Lent is a time to open our hearts more than ever before to God’s overflowing love. Lent is the time to wake up to the changes we must make to transform our lives to become more alive and to live well in God’s great love.

Changes are good. Lent is about changes, the changes in life that we need as growing and alive Christians, followers of Jesus. We do something during Lent so we can better become aware of just what needs to be important in our Christian lives. As followers of Jesus, we dedicate ourselves to avoiding sin. This truly put us on the road for becoming a saint. We trust Jesus, who has promised to guide us and love us and forgive us. So, the sacrament of penance is an important part of Lent.

However, Lent is about more than this. Jesus reminds us all in the Gospel message that we must do something if we are truly to be a disciple of the Lord. We are a loved people. The challenge for us is to live like loved people. We must wake up to the fact that each and every day, our God fills our lives with unique opportunities to make our lives more fulfilling and to make our world a better place. By living in God’s love and peace and joy, we may draw ourselves and others closer to God. We can lead other to do good things by our example.

These opportunities cannot be planned. Usually they are God’s surprises. However, because we are faith filled with God’s great love, we must be ready and open to meet God’s surprises, to God’s opportunities. Lent is about doing something.

God knows how to reach us. Lent wakes us up and opens us up in love. I believe God knows how to fill us with the love and power of the Holy Spirit. So, with our Lenten activities – quiet prayer, Bible reading, frequent attendance at Mass, doing something special as a Lenten mortification – there is a perfect connection of our heart and mind. The Lord becomes our Savior and our friend, walking with us and becoming more a part of our life.

We begin Lent with the most dramatic ritual of our Catholic faith. We smudge some ashes on our forehead to remind ourselves and everyone we see on Ash Wednesday that I am going to do something in preparation for Easter. Why ashes? I used to tell the small children from school that it is because they are dirty. We need something powerfully bold as our Lenten reminder. We are alive. Let us live well the days that are given to us. “Remember, you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”

Yes, our time is limited, and we have so much to do, so we need Lent, a time to prepare us to use our days well.

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