Let us begin again

Today is Fat Tuesday.  Enjoy it with a paczki (only prune is authentic!) or your favorite treat.

Enjoy it while you can.

Tomorrow we will celebrate Ash Wednesday and be marked with ashes with a timeless call to remember our mortality and to turn from our sins and believe in the gospel.  We will commit ourselves to a season of prayer, fasting, and works of charity or justice.  We’ve done this before and we will do it again. 

Our English word “Lent” is derived from the Old English word lencten or “spring.”  The meteorological seasons mirror the cycle of life, death and new life that we experience as human beings, and spring is the season of new life, new beginnings.  It’s an opportunity to start again.

But we never start from the beginning.  We start from where we are here and now.  I am a different man at the age of 56 than I was at the age of 36 or 16, and I will be different next year than I am now.  Not totally different, but likely with some more grey hair (or less hair altogether!) and hopefully a little wiser, healthier and holier than I am today. 

Holiness is a lifetime journey, a season of seasons of life, death and resurrection.  The disciplines of Lent help us to focus our attention on the process of becoming more and more like Jesus.   It is no accident that the words “discipline” and “disciple” have the same root.  Prayer, fasting and the works of mercy are spiritual practices that the Lord has given as tutors. 

We don’t fast to feel miserable or to punish ourselves but rather to remind ourselves of our incompleteness, what we may take for granted, and our hunger for what God alone can provide for us.  We pray not to talk to God but rather to talk with God, which means that, like Jesus, we need to set aside time and space to listen to God’s voice and direction and to enter into the mystery of communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We make sacrifices or do things for others not to feel good but rather to follow the example of Jesus, who gave his very life out of love for us.

What we do as individual disciples of Jesus, we’re also called to do as a Church.  As each of us becomes holier, the Body of Christ becomes healthier.  As each of us is renewed, the Church is renewed.  We remember what St. Francis told his brothers: “Let us begin again, for up to now we have done little or nothing.”—JC