Before Jesus’ public ministry, he went out to the desert for forty days of prayer and fasting. We periodically need to take time to shed the excess in our lives, that is, the overabundance of activity and events that so consumes our time and focus that we forget about the most important thing in this life and beyond: our relationship with God.
There are forty days between today, the first Sunday of Lent, and Holy Thursday, the beginning of the Easter Triduum. During his time in the desert, Jesus was tempted by the evil one. So, what’s your battle plan to ward off the prince of this world and cancel some events and activities on the calendar, so as to have the quality time to invest in your relationship with God? Apart from our Sunday obligation, here are seven steps to a life-giving Lent in 2015, along with the opportunities we have in the parish to help you accomplish them:
1. Commit an hour a week to growing in your faith. Friday, the day of our Lord’s Passion, is a good time to have that weekly hour of growing in wisdom and knowledge. That’s why we are having “Faith Formation Fridays” at 6:30pm on 2/27, 3/6, and 3/27. Using the introductory level Symbolon series (www.symboloncatholic.org), Fr. Chas, Fr. Kurian, and Todd Gale will present the fundamentals of our faith, but the Q&A discussion will also allow you to go into the finer points of the faith in the end.
2. Discover your God-given gifts. Part of going out to the desert is discerning God’s will for our life. We all have a vocation, a calling by which we help fulfill God’s plan in the world. Central to that calling is the set of spiritual gifts that God has given to you to build up his kingdom and the people in your life. On March 20 and 21, we are offering the Called and Gifted workshop, which sets you on the path to discerning those God-given gifts. Find more information and register on our website: www.stjohnjackson.org.
3. Encounter Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. There is nothing quite like God revealing his reality in the Eucharist to you. On Friday, March 13, we will have another powerful hour of adoration called “O Come, Let Us Worship” that helps open people’s hearts to that reality. We also will have a simple weekly holy hour on Wednesday mornings of Lent from 7:25am to 8:25am (just before the 8:30am Mass). This morning prayer is particularly convenient for those heading off to work but want some midweek quiet time with the Lord beforehand. Most convenient of all, however, is our adoration chapel at St. Joseph Oratory that is open throughout the week.
4. Fast. Identify something you use or consume excessively, and give it up for Lent.
5. Give alms. What do we give over and above our parish tithe? For our Lenten project, there is a miniature house in the St. John sanctuary in which alms can be deposited for two causes: 1) the seniors in our parish who need help paying their utilities will receive most of the proceeds and 2) Lingap, the orphanage in Cebu, Philippines founded by local John Drake. We will also be collecting food donations for St. Vincent de Paul each Sunday. Finally, the Friday evening “Soup & Salad” net proceeds from the $10 almsgiving at the door will also go to charity.
6. Go to confession. We have five communal penance services in the Jackson area during the weeks of March 15 and March 22. The one here at St. John is on Monday, March 16 at 7:00pm.
7. Pray a few minutes each day. It is difficult to be in a profound relationship with someone with whom you never spend regular time. So last, but certainly not least, is to acknowledge God everyday and spend even just a few minutes in prayer with him. If you need a little spiritual reading of a few paragraphs each day to get you into “the zone,” sign up for Fr. Barron’s brief Lent reflections emailed to you each day: www.lentreflections.com. The popular Matthew Kelly also has a daily email devotional: www.bestlentever.com.
If you’re new to Lenten observances, keep it simple. Start by choosing just one of these steps and practice that faithfully. For you seasoned Catholics out there, can you fulfill all seven? Remember that these are all means to the same end of a more intimate, life-giving relationship with God.