DEEPENING OUR LENTEN JOURNEY
I have a confession to make: Lent is not my favourite Ecclesial Season.
At its beginning, I’m counting down days for it to be over so I can be relieved that I don’t have to do that again for another twelve months. If not for the Grace of God, I can see that this shallow approach to Lent could easily have stayed with me for my entire life time. As I matured in my spiritual journey however, it became clear that my Lenten sacrifices in the past had more to do with switching on my will power and declaring “I can do this”, rather than making a true offering pleasing to God. I was ready to battle and immerse myself in the pain of deprivation. If I succeeded, my ego was given a boost and if I succumbed to temptation (which was usually the case), the sense of failure was often profound.
The time Jesus spent in the desert prepared Him for ministry to others. And while our penances can be important for training us in self control, we need to ask ourselves the question “Do they mould and transform me into Jesus’ model of self-giving? – which is to spend my life for the good of others.
Hindsight has shown me that one of the big mistakes I made in my approach to Lent was in ‘my’ choices. I would think for some time about what I would give up – this usually involved deciding on what choice would afford me a chance at success and that which would cause me the least pain. However the Holy Spirit knows me better that I know myself. When I listened to Him, my approach to Lent changed.
Gone were the childish ideas of depriving myself of ‘adult chocolate’ and hearing suggestions from the Holy Spirit like “instead of watching TV, spend time with Me”; “unsubscribe from internet shopping sites”; “don’t react so quickly to your husband’s comments”. I must admit giving up my adult chocolate sounded an easier choice. Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12 (TPT), When I was a child, I spoke about childish matters, for I saw things like a child and reasoned like a child. But the day came when I matured, and I set aside my childish ways.
Take a moment to reflect on your past Lenten observances and ask yourself if it is time to move deeper into the mystery of the Lenten Season. Make a choice to seek the Holy Spirit for wisdom in choosing that penance which will change your heart as only He knows. This choice takes courage because transformation always involves letting go of something and embracing another way. To help in this process I invite you to reflect on the following pictures which speak powerfully of the Lenten journey.
This photo of a young man carrying his father on his back (a 12 hour round trip) from a remote village in the Amazon to a Covid vaccination clinic has gone viral. This picture bought me to tears. The love, sacrifice, surrender and humility depicted in this image speaks powerfully of the relationship between God and humanity. It speaks to others differently; a friends response was “I do know one thing is true for all of us: There is a time to carry the other: There is a time to allow the other to carry us.”
What is the Holy Spirit saying to you through this powerful image?
In this other picture, I invite you to reflect on what is called the ‘blank page.’ On leaving her boarding school, a young woman, with a short amount of time to live, left a blank page on her study room table with this explanation – “I have put another thing on my desk and those who come into my room cannot understand it. It is a blank sheet of paper with my signature at the bottom. God can put on it what He will; it is signed in advance.”
Jesus signed His own ‘blank page’. Completely surrendered to the will of the Father, He gave His all on the Cross and revealed to humanity the immeasurable and unfathomable love of God. Do we have the courage to sign our own blank page and surrender to God?
Let’s keep each other in prayer during this Lenten Season that we will all have the courage to surrender more deeply into the mystery of this Season.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ann Brereton lives in Tasmania, Australia with her husband David of 40 years. Ann’s ministry involves over 40 years in leadership positions including being the first woman National Chairperson of the Australian National Service Committee. She also served as a member of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (ICCRS) situated at the Vatican. She is a mother to 4 sons and grandmother to 6 granddaughters, has lived as a Missionary in Uganda and traveled extensively as a Conference Speaker.