By Juliana Valdez
And so, the reign of the Merry Monarch is over, ushering in the season of Lent with the distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday.
I’ve come to realise over the years, that just as people plan for the carnival festivities, similarly there are those who look forward to the season of Lent, a time which means different things to different people.
Viewing EWTN’s Bookmark with Doug Keck, I listened as his guest Fr Cedric Pisegna CP, shared the contents of his latest book, Your Best Lent Ever, as a guide to truly observing Lent in a more meaningful way.
He first shared that Lent is a time of purification (from sin) and enlightenment (so that our faith in Jesus Christ could be deepened). It is therefore a preparation to encounter God (our life’s mission) and so celebrate Easter in a more profound and significant way.
As we receive the ashes on Ash Wednesday, it acts as a symbol of our faith in Christ Jesus and begins for us a time of reflection, confession, grace and peace.
Fr Cedric shared that just as we make resolutions at the start of each New Year, so too the faithful make resolutions to have a meaningful Lent, observing the Lenten pillars of increased prayer, fasting, penance and almsgiving.
Sadly, after the first few months into the year, these resolutions wear away, similarly, so it is with those we make as we begin the Lenten season.
He advised that it should also be a time of revolution (spiritual revival), allowing the Holy Spirit who led Jesus in the wilderness, to lead and re-energise us to persevere in our quest to have a meaningful Lent.
The Church, Fr Cedric shared, at the beginning of the season, reminds us that her teachings are not “death denying,” rather they are “death defining,” assisting us to look at our own mortality.
It is a time of enlightenment, where we recognise that God has the power to help us overcome all adversity, but we need to surrender all to Him.
Fr Cedric also shared that it is a time to examine our consciences, and as we do so, we move forward selflessly and not selfishly as we practise the virtues of faith, hope and charity.
Our strategies to cope as we move forward should involve thinking about others since Lent is about people, the poor and the less fortunate among us in the community. It should be a time when we reach out more to others.
The very scriptures the Church uses at the beginning of Lent, such as those from Isaiah, Joel and the gospel of St Matthew, Fr Cedric continued, remind us that God is waiting for us to repent and so strive to do His will.
“Don’t mis-interpret the silence of God in situations we face as His absence. He is exercising patience, waiting for us to repent,” Fr Cedric stated.
Doing God’s will, he continued, is exercising generosity, patience and forgiveness to others, since our holiness is not only observing the pillars, praying, attending Holy Mass, etc, but in how we live with others.
Lent prepares us for Easter Fr Cedric shared, so that for the 50 days of the Easter season, as we encounter and celebrate the risen Lord, we ourselves would experience resurrection from the negatives in our own lives which weigh us down.
In closing, Fr Cedric reminded us that Satan will tempt us and if he can’t pull us away from God, he will make us miserable. “Have a positive mind set,” he advised, “Let God be active in your life.”