Taking some time to get ready for Lent will ensure that we aren’t going to miss the first week or two of Lent, because we are just getting started! Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, but we want to be ready to really take off on that day, rather than just beginning to think about Lent on that day. Part of what makes a vacation or a special anniversary so special is the build-up to it.
Before we get to Ash Wednesday, we should start asking ourselves some questions and we should start with some preparations. “What does God want to give me this year?” This question may require that I slow down a bit and listen to my inner spirit. For example, even if I’m very busy, I realize I’m hungry when I hear my stomach start “growling.”
“What am I going to be doing on Ash Wednesday?” Too often, Ash Wednesday is like every other day, except that I manage to get to church and get ashes on my forehead. Is there anything else I can do on Ash Wednesday? How will fasting and abstaining happen for me, for my family on that special day?
It doesn’t a lot of time to prepare for the beginning of Lent. It just takes desire and focus. God can do so much with that. We can give God more of a space to touch our hearts if we begin to establish some simple patterns. We could wake up each morning, and for something like a half a minute to a minute, stand by the edge of our beds, and just ask the Lord for the grace to let this day be one in which I long for the beginning of Lent.
Perhaps we need to ask for specific helps or graces to get ready to begin Lent. Whatever we try to say, our Lord can understand the Spirit trying to speak through our simple words. And all it takes is the time to find and put on our slippers. And each night, in the days ahead, we can practice giving thanks to God before I go to bed. This simple pattern, in the morning and evening can stir our spirits to look forward to and prepare for Lent, as a season of grace.
What about “giving up something” for Lent?
When many of us were children, we might remember our giving up candy for Lent. And, it seemed like a real sacrifice. As we grew up, it was often more difficult to decide what special thing to do, to make Lent a special season – to get our attention and to prepare ourselves for deeper sacrifices.
What would help me grow in freedom? That’s the question to ask. For some of us, it could be, committing ourselves to give up judging others, every single day of Lent. For others, it could be giving up a bad habit we’ve developed. For still others, it is obvious what seems to be the important choice for me during Lent.
For many of us, the choice may not be to give something up, but to add something to our daily lives during Lent. We may commit ourselves to extra prayer time. We may decide to do some service to the poor, once a week during Lent. We may choose to increase our almsgiving to the poor – perhaps related to something we choose not to do, e.g., some might choose not to go out to eat one night a week, and to give that total amount to the poor.
Whether it is fasting, abstaining or other acts of penance, the whole desire we should have is to use these means to help us grow closer to our Lord and prepare ourselves “to celebrate the paschal mystery with minds and hearts renewed.” (First Preface of Lent)
May our Lord bless us all on thi.s journey ahead