Let’s Build a Better Lent

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Ash Wednesday kicks off a season that can change our hearts

Let’s Build a Better Lent
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Are you seeking ways to make Lent more personal and meaningful? Does giving up the same things each year leave you wondering what you accomplished at the end of 40 days?

Here is a weekly guide to building a better Lent with sure guidance from Scripture and traditions of the Church. Be prepared to engage your spirit, mind and body as we travel this Lent together.

A Two-Point Conversion

“Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned,” reads the refrain for the Responsorial Psalm for Ash Wednesday. Our need to do penance and God’s unfailing mercy are constant themes of the season of Lent. Throughout this “Let’s Build a Better Lent” series, we will reflect upon the Mass readings in light of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy, suggesting ways we might be inspired to pray and act in ways that will make a difference in our lives and the lives of others.

Ash Wednesday

March 6

As we receive ashes on our forehead to remind us of our mortality and our need for interior conversion, we begin our Lenten journey on a somber note that invites us to a serious examination of conscience.

1.“Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning,” says the first reading of Ash Wednesday from the prophet Joel. “Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God” (Joel 2:12-18).

Did you catch that emphasis? It is about changing our hearts, not tearing our garments, an ancient sign of repentance or grief. In other words, observe the Lenten fast and abstinence, but seek the repentance and renewal these sacrifices signify. Resolve to pray daily this Lent that you may reform your life and return to God “with your whole heart.”

2. In the Gospel, Christ echoes the prophet: fast and give alms, but with sincerity and not for show (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18). To give alms to the poor is a Spiritual Work of Mercy as well as a precept of the Church, so be mindful of parish appeals, special collections and other worthy charities. Just writing checks or dropping cash in a basket can still keep us at arm’s length from the poor, so consider taking things a step further by seeking opportunities to offer direct service to those who need it most. Volunteer to assist personally the “least among us” in your community – the homeless, the incarcerated, nursing-home residents, or that lonely neighbor on a fixed income. In this way, you’ll put your heart and your body into renewing your spirit!