The liturgical celebrations from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost have something in common with each other. They are about the suffering, death and glorification of Jesus. They are also about the struggle between life and death, our struggle with living and dying. They are about the bond between death and life and about our response to this mysterious relationship. By connecting the seasons of Lent and Easter, we are saying that suffering and glorification are fused together, but salvation demands commitment on our part. We start with the end and end with the beginning. On Ash Wednesday we are marked with the sign of the cross on our foreheads with ashes which are a symbol of the end of things. On Pentecost we commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit which marked the beginning of the Church.
Habits are not easy to change. Yet the events of life are constantly calling us to change our ways. A new job or the loss of an old one, financial crisis, sickness, the growing independence of our children, the beginning of a new love relationship, all call on us to change in some way. There is a natural human inclination to resist change. We are comfortable in our self-designed ruts. Change in our way of life is costly.
The gospel is always calling on us to change and grow. Jesus preached a message of conversion. Turn away from evil. Turn towards God. Conversion is the everyday experience of choosing or refusing to grow. Lent is the time when the Church stops and reflects on what changes the Gospel demands of us.
Lent calls us to renew our commitment to ourselves, to the people we encounter in our day-to-day lives and to our God. Lent is a time to take "ownership" of faith. It is a season for conversion by individuals and communities. The slogan reads: "Not to decide is to decide." Each day each one of us makes innumerable decisions. We choose what time to get up, what clothes to wear, what TV programs to watch, what newspaper articles to read. Sometimes the choice requires little thought; it is an automatic part of living and part of our routine of day-to-day life. Other choices call for considerable reflection, discussion, debate. Shall I marry him or her now? Should I change my job? What will be the effects in our lives if we move to a different city? These kinds of choices affect the basic fabric of our lives. They require significant changes in the way we live. Making such decisions involves looking at our values, and determining which among them takes priority at this time. Values are the realities that ultimately determine what we choose to do.
Living as a Christian is a response to a deliberate choice. It calls for a decision to place our faith in Christ. Faith is not inherited. It is a gift offered to us, but accepting the gift is a personal decision. Lent is a special time when Christians renew their faith choice. It is the season when we reflect on the meaning and consequences of our baptism. We consider what baptismal commitment calls for in the decisions of daily life. This season of grace calls us to honestly look at how well our faith affects our decision in life.
May this time of renewal and conversion be a time of encountering the power of God's Spirit drawing us to a deeper and more abundant relationship with God. May this Lenten Season be a special time for all of us as we prepare to celebrate Easter with renewed faith and enthusiasm and commitment. May this be a time when we respond to the grace of God calling us once again to turn away from sin and be ever more faithful to God's call in our lives.
[Source: Father Don's Message, Supplement, St. Paul Roman Catholic Cathedral, Saskatoon, SK, Canada; March, 2010]