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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

Today marks the beginning of Lent, a penitential season set out by the Church as our forty days in the desert. It is not a dull time if we remember that Christ is with us. These days remind us of our need for constant renewal. To Protestants, this could be best understood as a means of being constantly confronted with The Law. With the very life of God in us as sanctifying grace, we can live up the Law, but not perfectly. However, each day thus lived, falls and all, is the opportunity to grow in holiness. In the desert of Lent, we set ourselves apart, finding ourselves with Christ in that bare landscape, away from the distractions of everything else in the world.

The Daily Gospel readings focus on the heart of Lent, which actually is to the heart, rather than in the rituals themselves, which are only means to reach the heart. Pope Benedict XVI (General audience of 21/02/07 ©Libreria editrice Vaticana) refers to Lent as "a way to true freedom":

From the outset Lent was lived as the season of immediate preparation for Baptism, to be solemnly administered during the Easter Vigil. The whole of Lent was a journey towards this important encounter with Christ, this immersion in Christ, this renewal of life. We have already been baptized but Baptism is often not very effective in our daily life. Therefore, Lent is a renewed "catechumenate" for us too, in which once again we approach our Baptism to rediscover and relive it in depth, to return to being truly Christian. Lent is thus an opportunity to "become" Christian "anew", through a constant process of inner change and progress in the knowledge and love of Christ.

Conversion is never once and for all but is a process, an interior journey through the whole of life. This process of evangelical conversion cannot, of course, be restricted to a specific period of the year: it is a daily journey that must embrace the entire span of existence, every day of our life… What does "to be converted" actually mean? It means seeking God, moving with God, docilely following the teachings of his Son, Jesus Christ; to be converted is not a work for self-fulfilment because the human being is not the architect of his own eternal destiny. We did not make ourselves. Therefore, self-fulfilment is a contradiction and is also too little for us. We have a loftier destination. We might say that conversion consists precisely in not considering ourselves as our own "creators" and thereby discovering the truth, for we are not the authors of ourselves. Conversion consists in freely and lovingly accepting to depend in all things on God, our true Creator, to depend on love. This is not dependence but freedom.

Further references:

  1. Catholic Encyclopedia on Lent
  2. Jimmy Akin links to Lenten resources
  3. Taped radio show on Lent and Fasting by Scott Hahn and Gus Lloyd.

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