Lent: A Time of Refelction and Preparation

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Grow roots of compassion, empathy, kindness, patience, charity, and love!

Today we begin the next holy season of the Liturgical Calendar as the fourth graders lead us in our liturgy for Ash Wednesday. This important day marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of refection and preparation for Easter Sunday when Jesus demonstrated love’s life-giving power in his death and resurrection. The color we use to cover our prayer table during this time is purple, symbolizing royalty!

At our Ash Wednesday Mass, our foreheads are marked with ashes to “humble our hearts” and remind us that life passes away on Earth, but our journey does not stop there. Ashes are a symbol of penance and help us develop a spirit of humbleness and sacrifice. The ashes that are used to make the sign of the cross on our foreheads are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebrations the previous year. They are sprinkled with Holy Water and are scented with incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and repentance, they are also a reminder that God is merciful to those who ask for true forgiveness. Just as a mighty oak grows deep roots in order to withstand the strong winds or harsh conditions it may encounter, we too, must grow strong roots. These are roots grounded in the knowledge that walking in the footsteps of Jesus and knowing that we can depend upon God will help us weather the challenging times we may face and thrive in His love. As we grow stronger and our roots spread, we grow the Kingdom of God here on Earth.

It does not go unnoticed that the season of Lent begins as winter is drawing to an end. Trees are beginning to bud as crocuses, daffodils, and tulips start to push their way thorough the softened earth bringing new life to the dark landscape. Birds begin to return and chirp happily as they listen for worms beneath their feet.

People, too, begin to blossom as the days grow longer and the temperatures become warmer. Jackets and coats are replaced by shorts and t-shirts. Last year’s old leaves and grass have become compost for a new year. Earth is beginning to stir after its winter’s sleep.

Lent is a time for old ways to give way to new. The change of seasons calls us to change our hearts, to cultivate a new life within our family, work, neighborhood, and Church. What in our life can we nourish? Where can we lead others to do what is right rather than look the other way?

Each Lent, we are invited by the Church to awaken our spirit and seek to deepen our faith in Jesus’ promise of a new life. We are asked to focus on three different life-giving actions; fasting, praying, and alms giving. We fast to break away from those habits or behaviors that take us away from God. We commit to replace them and feast on more Christ-like actions. Alms Giving helps us to go outside of ourselves and focus on the needs of others. We are asked to prioritize our resources and contribute to the well being of those whose needs are not being met. Praying is our personal connection to God.  Through prayer, we bring him our hopes, our disappointments, our needs, and our gratitude for what we have been given. It is a time of quiet reflection.

Lent lasts for 40 days. The number 40 has always had special spiritual significance regarding preparation. The great flood of the Old Testament lasted 40 days and 40 nights. Moses stayed on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights, preparing to receive the Ten Commandments. The prophet Elijah walked for 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb. The Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years. And Jesus himself fasted and prayed for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert before He began His public ministry.

In our Religion Classes , the fifth graders have reflected on a Lenten promise that each will work hard to keep. Rather than “giving up” the usual things such as candy or use of electronics, they are encouraged to decide upon an action or behavior they are going to fast from, feasting instead upon a more life-giving action. We will continue our daily prayer in the classroom, adding a Lenten component, and the students will have an opportunity for alms giving when they participate in our “simple Lenten meal” during lunch later during Lent and contribute to our Lenten Rice Bowl.

Finally, on March 30, Good Friday, the 5th graders will be presenting Shadow Stations to our Villa community. This is a very moving portrayal of the hours leading up to the death of Jesus on a cross and how we are connected to these events still today. There will be two presentations that morning, one at 10:05 and one at 11:15. We hope that you are able to join us for one or both!

Lent is a season for “winter hearts to melt, regenerate, and turn to our commitment as Easter people. We believe that like Jesus’ love, our love gives life.” What are you going to fast from and feast on during the next 40 days to grow your roots deep and strong?

Food for Thought During Lent:

Fast from judging others; feast on Christ dwelling in them.
Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on unity of life.
Fast from words that pollute; feast on words that bring joy.
Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude for what you have.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
Fast from self-centeredness; feast on compassion for others.
Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.
Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.
Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayers that calm.
Fast from the shadows of sorrow; feast on the gift of serenity.

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