Welcoming Lent

“Your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matt 6:6).

Going to God in secret tells us that Lent is focused on our interior life with God.

Each act of Lenten practice -- prayer, fasting and almsgiving – is meant to deepen our awareness of the One who sees us intimately and in secret.

Prayer invites us to spend time talking with God. Fasting is meant to sharpen our attention and get out bodies to feel that deeper hunger and thirst for God we miss if we are always sated.  Even the social benefits of almsgiving are secondary to the inner detachment we gain from sharing our blessings with others as a way to find God. 

Lent replicates the 40 days the Hebrews spent in the desert after the Exodus. Like them, we surrender our very survival to God’s guidance and providence. We learn obedience, a word whose root is “to listen,” so we will always be tuned into the Word of God in our hearts and to the voice of the Spirit.

The traditional ashes we receive on our foreheads remind us that we exist only because God has called us into being from nothing and sustains us at every moment, calling us by name.

A perfect psalm for Lent is Psalm 139, which begins with these words: “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.” The goal of our entire lives is this kind of intimacy — God calling us within the recesses of our heart to turn and respond to the divine initiative.

In our discipleship, which is our accompaniment with Jesus as he journeys toward the completion of his ministry, his death on the cross and his resurrection, we have the season of Lent to strengthen our baptismal call. One day at a time, step by step, we grow in the same intimate relationship. To know Jesus is to come face to face with God.