As the season of Lent begins, we have an opportunity to step back and reflect on our spiritual lives. Have we progressed or regressed andhow can we improve?
The 40 days of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, are a time for three spiritual exercises:
During this penitential season, Catholics 14 and older are obligated to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent. Fridays are symbolic because of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on Good Friday. Those ages 18-59 also are obligated to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting means eating only one full, meat-less meal. Small amounts of food can be eaten at other traditional meal times, but their combined total should not equal a full meal.
These penitential practices are intended to refocus our thoughts and intentions toward God, making him the focal point of our lives. With prayer, reflection and repentance, we can identify our weaknesses and make reparation to amend our sinful ways.
The Diocese of Cleveland offers a special opportunity during Lent for the faithful to seek the sacrament of reconciliation. The annual Evening of Confession will take place 5-8 p.m. on March 20 at all Catholic church- es throughout the diocese. Catholics are encouraged to visit a church and receive the sacrament — regardless of how long it’s been since your last confession. The sacrament of reconciliation allows us to seek forgiveness from our sins and to receive God’s mercy.
Daily prayer — a conversation with the Lord — will help strengthen our relationship with him. It also could lay the foundation for a practice that extends beyond the season of Lent.
Almsgiving, or sharing our resources, can help ensure the basic needs of human dignity. Some families or individuals will eat a simple, meatless meal, give up going out to eat or abstain from ordering pizza or takeout food, save that money and then donate it to a charity or a program that helps the less fortunate.
Attending Mass additional days (besides Sunday) during Lent is another way to make the season more meaningful. Consider reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament, as another way to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of your faith.
Take advantage of these opportunities to make the Lenten season more meaningful and to give your spiritual life a boost while preparing for the joy of Easter.