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It’s Lent!

It’s Lent!

From Anthony Navarra

February 14, Ash Wednesday, marks the start of Lent. The word “Lent” comes from an Old English term that means “springtime.”

Lent is a forty-day period of repentance before Easter. It is observed by many Christian denominations and by some nondenominational churches. Traditional Lenten practices include prayer, almsgiving (helping the poor), and fasting. Other Lenten practices include daily reading of a devotional book, attending a Lenten Bible study, taking up a sacrifice during Lent (for example, doing without television), fixing a sinful habit, and so on. Those who observe Lent follow the example of Jesus who prayed and fasted for forty days and nights (Matthew 4:2).

On Ash Wednesday, some folks put ashes in the form of a cross on their foreheads. This old custom symbolically expresses sorrow for sin and a desire to change one’s life. While Christians are called to grow in holiness all year long, Lent is a concentrated effort to work on whatever separates us from God.

That is to say, Lent is a time when a person finetunes keeping the two Great Commandments Jesus gave His followers: “… love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. … love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31).

Another way to think of Lent is to reflect on the Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-24). Briefly put:

A son went to his father and said, “Father, I want my share of your estate now, before you die.” So the father gave him his share.

The young man moved far away. He spent everything on promiscuous and extravagant living. When his money ran out, a famine struck. Now destitute, he began to starve.

The lad thought, “Back home, my father’s servants have plenty of food. I will return to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and you. I no longer deserve to be your son. Please hire me as one of your workers.’” So the young man headed home.

His father saw him coming. With love and compassion, he ran to his boy and embraced him. The son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and you. I am not worthy to be your child. Please hire me as a worker.”

But the father told his servants, “Prepare a feast! We must celebrate! My son was dead, but has come back to life. He was lost, but now he is back home with me.”

Like the Lost Son, most of us have distanced ourselves from God in one way or another. Lent is an opportunity to change this.

There is a contemporary Lenten hymn called “Hosea.” (Hosea is a prophet in the Bible. The hymn is based on his teaching.) Here are a few lines from the hymn that sum up what Lent is all about. Here, God is speaking:

“Come back to me with all your heart.

Don’t let fear keep us apart. …

Long have I waited for your coming home to me

And living deeply our new life.”

If you are observing Lent this year, may it be a blessed and fruitful experience.

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