Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent in the Catholic Church. This liturgical season is a time for penance and sacrifice but most importantly, it is also a time for conversion by growing deeper in our faith.
Our foreheads are marked with ashes in the shape of a cross, made through burned remains of palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In many ways, were are reminded that: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return (Genesis 3:19).”
Biblical origins of Lent
We remain faithful to the spirit of the Gospel by living out the 40 days of Lent by increasing our prayer, penance and almsgiving.
We put ourselves in the footsteps of Jesus, who fasted food, water, shelter and comfort for 40 days in the desert (Mark 1:13), before he began his public ministry.
The desert was a place for solitude and reflection where Jesus was able to spend time with God the Father in deep prayer.
Living Lent day to day
On Ash Wednesday, Catholics aged between 14 to 60 abstain from meat. The fasting aspect consists of eating two half meals and one full meal. This criteria is also followed on Good Friday. Meat is also not eaten on Fridays in general during the Lenten season. Of course, children and the elderly are not obligated to follow the guidelines.
Some practical ways to make the most of the Lenten season include:
- Devoting more time to personal prayer with Jesus by concretising the time in our schedule
- Giving up or spending less time on social media, Netflix and our technological devices
- Trying our best to attend Mass more often (in person or online depending on the situation)
- Spending time with an elderly person who lives alone and who could use some company or a helper in their home
- Making an effort to have moderation in our meals by eating healthier or avoiding snacking in between meals
- Giving away any clothing or items that we don’t need to charity
- Letting go of any grudges and hurts by making more of an effort to forgive
- Making an in-depth examination of conscience so we can make a good Confession
- Creating a spiritual reading list so that we can grow in our relationship with God and in knowledge of our Catholic faith
Every soul needs a ”spring clean” every once in a while and Lent is an opportunity to do just that. Making the most of Lent is personal for everyone. Some may give something up or others may take something up instead.