Lent begins tomorrow with the ashes of Ash Wednesday. It's common to hear people plan parties for tonight with huge amounts of sweets and other pleasures. After all, the thinking goes, we won't be able to enjoy ourselves again until Easter.
It's true that Lent is a season to focus on acts of self-denial. Self-denial, however, is not unique to Christians. Athletes (1 Cor 9:25), pregnant women, soldiers (2 Tm 2:4), dieters, Buddhists, and others often perform heroic acts of self-denial that make giving up chocolate for the forty days of Lent pale in comparison. Our Lenten sacrifices must help us grow deeply in our relationship with Jesus. Our Lenten crosses, when joined to the sacrifices of Jesus (1 Pt 4:13; Col 1:24; Phil 1:29), become acts of penance and reparation.
Will your Lenten self-denials simply be acts of self-improvement, or will they help you to "draw close to God" (Jas 4:8)? Is your goal to "make it" to Easter with no failures, or is your goal to be united with the crucified Jesus out of love for Him?
As for not being able to "enjoy ourselves" again until Easter, when we draw close to Jesus in a spirit of repentance, we will find a joy that is heavenly (Lk 15:7, 10), "full" (Jn 16:24), and "inexpressible" (1 Pt 1:8). No Mardi Gras party can begin to compare with sharing in Jesus' joy. So why wait until tomorrow to "draw close to God"? Turn to Jesus today.
|Rescript: In accord with the Code of Canon Law, I hereby grant the Nihil Obstat ("Permission to Publish") for One Bread, One Body covering the period from February 1, 2006 through March 31, 2006.
†Most Reverend Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, August 16, 2005.