Lent is meant to be a time of conversion in our lives. It is a time to reflect upon who we are, and who we are to become.
In order to figure this out, I’d like to suggest that we need to look at some wants versus some needs. Most of the time when we think about wants versus needs, we focus on the material elements, such as do I want a new computer, or do I need a new computer. What about that new cell phone that is coming out.
I want to try to focus our discussion on a more spiritual plain instead of the material plain to which we are accustomed.
Many times at the beginning of Lent I’ll hear people talking about their intended sacrifices, or their Lenten Penance. They’ll say things like, I want to spend more time in prayer. I want to eat less. I want to give up TV. These wants are great, but this year we need to focus on our spiritual needs instead of our spiritual wants. With that in mind, I’m going to present a quick list of spiritual needs that can help us in our Lenten conversion process.
1. We need to have a prayer life that leads us closer to God. (Prayer)
a. Prayer needs to be seen as something that we get to do, not something we have to do2. We need to recognize Christ in the Eucharist (Prayer)
b. Prayer needs to help us see all that God has done
i. Fatherc. In the parish we offer many opportunities to join together for prayer
(1) Made us all out of nothingii. Son
(2) loves us completely and unconditionally
(1) came into the world as our savioriii. Spirit
(2) suffered on the cross to free us from our sins
(3) makes himself present to us in the Eucharist
(1) Fills us with grace
(2) gives us strength and courage to live out our faith
i. Daily Mass
ii. Stations of the Cross during Lent
iii. Morning Prayer before weekday morning Mass
a. Eucharist is Christ’s body, blood, soul and divinity3. We need to be less focused on ourselves (Fasting and Almsgiving)
b. We need not only to recognize Christ in the Eucharist, but to love him
i. We develop that love by spending time with him in private or public adoration
a. This is where our material wants and needs make themselves present
b. We need to be thankful for what God has given us and be willing to make a return to him those things which he has entrusted to our care
4. We need to make sacrifices (Fasting)i. Our lives
(1) are we using our lives in a ways that are truly pleasing to Godii. Our material benefits
(2) are we striving to eliminate sin and grow in holiness?
(3) Are we using our talents to glorify God, or to seek glory for ourselves?
(1) are we truly being charitable in our giving? Sometimes we are not charitable but we give to charity for the tax benefits, or for the praise that we receive for our gifts
(2) are we ensuring that are doing what we can to support the work of God through the local parish, the diocese and the world wide church?
a. Abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Fridays of Lent and fasting on Ash Wednesday and good Friday need to be in a spirit of penance5. We need to be serious about meeting our needs
i. It is not meant to be a time to go out and eat lobster or other exotic fish and seafoodb. Our sacrifices should be seen in the spirit of penance
ii. The hunger we feel from fasting should be refocused on the hunger we should have for God
i. We have all sinned
ii. We develop a sense of sorrow for our sins via penance
a. I often joke about giving up football for Lent which is easy to accomplish
b. The needs I have presented today are the needs of all of us
i. It does not matter if we are Catholic, or not
ii. Fasting, prayer and almsgiving focus our lives away from ourselves
iii. We hear Saint Augustine at the beginning of his Confessions writing about God state, “for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” (Augustin: confessions 10)
My prayer for each of you during this holy season is that you will search for the true needs of life and that your hears may rest in God. Have a blessed Lent.