Lent is an old English word meaning ‘lengthen’. Lent is observed in spring, when the days begin to get longer. Lent is a good time to concentrate on fighting the urge to gossip about others and instead trying to correct one’s own faults and defects, Pope Francis said as part of his Lenten message. “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” “We all know it usually is easier or more comfortable to notice and condemn the defects and sins of others rather than seeing our own with that kind of clarity,”
If someone were to say, “but, Father, I don’t have any,” the pope said he would explain that “I assure you if you don’t notice you have any here, you’ll find them in purgatory! It’s better to notice them here.” Unfortunately, he said, people seldom stop at just noticing others’ defects, something “we are experts at.”
What almost always happens next, he said, is that “we talk about them,” not telling the person to his or her face in a way that could help the person improve but indulging freely and happily in gossip. “It’s something that because of original sin we all have, and it leads us to condemn others,” the pope said. “We are experts in finding the bad things in others and not seeing our own.”
Speaking the Sunday before Lent was to begin, Pope Francis said it would be great if everyone tried during Lent to reflect on Jesus’ words to see the faults only of others and on the temptation of gossip. Catholics should ask themselves, “Am I a hypocrite who smiles and then turns around to criticise and destroy with my tongue?” He said. “If, by the end of Lent, we are able to correct this a bit and not go around always criticising others behind their backs, I assure you (the celebration of) Jesus’ resurrection will be more beautiful.”
Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.
Whereas Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross, Lent recalls the events leading up to and including Jesus’ crucifixion by Rome. This is believed to have taken place in Roman occupied Jerusalem. The Christian churches that observe Lent in the 21st century (and not all do significantly) use it as a time for prayer and penance. Only a small number of people today fast for the whole of Lent, although some maintain the practice on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It is more common these days for believers to surrender a particular vice such as favourite foods or smoking. Whatever the sacrifice it is a reflection of Jesus’ deprivation in the wilderness and a test of self-discipline.
Lent is always an invitation to begin again. This is above all, a time to build a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Lent can be a most profound and liberating personal journey allowing us to build a relationship that gifts our personal lives hope and resilient confidence, a confidence that reminds us, no matter what happens we are not alone. The light of Christ is brighter than any clouds of despair or uncertainty. St. Paul reminds us, “With God on our side who can be against Us”
Make the most of this sacred season as an opportunity to grow in our humanity. The more we accept our wounded selves the more we grow in wholesomeness and peace of mind. When this happens our vision and perspective becomes positive and bright.
I Will Turn
(A daily prayer for Lent)
Lord, I will turn,
Turn my face towards you.
I will lay before you the desert areas I hide
And turn to soak in your refreshing words of life.
I will cast aside the barren, selfish pursuits
And turn to rest in the tranquil warmth of your love.
I will draw back from the harsh pull of media
And turn to bathe in the gentle power of your Spirit.
Lord, today I turn my face towards you.
I will turn
To soak in your words of life,
To rest in the warmth of your love,
And to bathe in the power of your Spirit. Amen