Lent is a time of purification and renewal. The 40 days of fasting and reflection help prepare our body and mind to receive the greatest gift of all: Christ's loving sacrifice. Although we are deeply flawed and full of sin, he gave himself up to allow us a second chance to embrace his eternal love.
Forty is a sacred number deeply connected to our spiritual journey: Noah was set adrift for 40 days as God purified the human race, Moses led his people through the desert for 40 years as God purified his chosen people, and Jesus confronted Satan for 40 days in preparation for his earthly ministry. The times of 40 come with difficulty, but they were required to prepare us to become closer to God.
We are called to confront our own weakness and sin over these 40 days. This is not a time for half measures. Do not give up one item and think that you will be saved. You must turn to God and give yourself completely over to his will. As St. Paul wrote in Romans 6:11-13 (NABRE), "Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as [being] dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus. Therefore, sin must not reign over your mortal bodies so that you obey their desires. And do not present the parts of your bodies to sin as weapons for wickedness, but present yourselves to God as raised from the dead to life and the parts of your bodies to God as weapons for righteousness."
There are many ways to embrace this time of spiritual cleansing. We are called to fast and seek reconciliation with the Lord. We should pray often for an increase in faith, hope and charity. For Catholics, there will be Stations of the Cross services available throughout the county, and I encourage your attendance to facilitate a meditation on the mysteries of the Crucifixion.
Those desiring more outward actions can attend the Maryland March for Life March 9 at St. Mary Catholic Church and School in Annapolis. Both the nondenominational worship service and Catholic Mass start at 5 p.m., and the March will begin close to 6:30 p.m. This is an opportunity to join with people of all backgrounds in standing up for the right of the most innocent to live.
Another way to deepen your relationship with Christ during this time is to go on a retreat. St. Joseph Catholic Community in Eldersburg is offering one March 9-11 that returns to the basics with the theme "I Will Go to the Altar of God." Starting at 7 each evening, the Rev. Anthony Schueller and Jim Brown, two prominent guest speakers and members of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, will explain how going to Mass is more than being present.
We must use this time to ready ourselves to accept Christ's sacrifice. As the Rev. Neville O'Donohue, pastor of St. Joseph's, says, "The journey through Lent is even more valuable when at the end of the season, in Holy Week, we enter interiorly into the celebration of the paschal mystery: the death and resurrection of Jesus which Easter celebrates."
Jeffrey Peters, a graduate student at Catholic University, attends St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Manchester. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.