Entering into Lent

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

As I enter into lent, I’m so grateful for the way that the fasts and feasts keep me connected to my faith community back home. Celebrating the calendar and reading the lectionary reminds me I’m a part of something bigger than just me and Jesus. “No man is an island entire of itself…”

These reflections from Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen blessed me today, and I hope they will bless you too as you begin your lenten journey this year.

An excerpt from Thomas Merton’s Ash Wednesday

The Paschal Mystery is above all the mystery of life, in which the church, by celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ, enters in the Kingdom of Life which he has established once and for all by his definitive victory over sin and death.  We must remember the original meaning of Lent, as the ver sacrum, the church’s “holy spring” in which the catechumens were prepared for their baptism, and public penitents were made ready by penance for their restoration to the sacramental life in a communion with the rest of the church.  Lent is then not a season of punishment so much as one of healing.  There is joy in the salutary fasting and abstinence of the Christian who eats and drinks less in order that his mind may be more clear and receptive to receive the sacred nourishment of God’s word, which the whole church announces and meditates upon in each day’s liturgy throughout Lent.  The whole life and teaching of Christ pass before us, and Lent is a season of special reflection and prayer, a forty-day retreat in which each Christian, to the extent that he is able, tries to follow Christ into the desert by prayer and fasting.

A prayer from Henri Nouwen’s Show Me the Way

The Lenten season begins. It is a time to be with you, Lord, in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.

I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.

I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are not times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.

Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life that you have prepared for me. Amen.

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