At the beginning of this Lenten season, it is good for us to reflect a moment upon the purpose of our Lenten observances. As we take on the traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we can often be drawn into thinking about Lent in terms of “giving up” without really asking ourselves the question of “Why?”
Our Lenten practices are meant to help free us from our little attachments, which keep us from freely responding to God’s call in our lives. Later this month, we will celebrate two solemnities, St. Joseph and the Annunciation. Both Mary and Joseph are excellent models of this Lenten spirit. Both were completely ready and willing to embrace God’s plan for their lives. At the word of an angel, Mary gave her consent to bear the Son of God, and Joseph took Mary as his wife. Sometimes these events seem so distant from our own experience that, while we know the stories and can see the marvelous love of God at work, we fail to see the application in our own lives.
Mary and Joseph were able to embrace God’s will because they were free. There was nothing in their lives which stood in the way of their relationship with God. It is this freedom, the freedom that opens us to embrace God’s will with joy, which is the goal of our Lenten journey. Sin keeps us from this freedom, making us believe that we must cling to the little things of this world in order to be happy. The practices we adopt during Lent help us detach from our sin and recognize that the desire and hunger we so often feel can never be fully sated by food or possessions. Lent asks us to allow ourselves to feel hunger without completely satisfying it, so that we can realize the real object of our hunger – God himself.
Let us unite in prayer during this holy season of Lent, asking our Lord to grant us the graces we need to journey towards true freedom. May we never lose sight of the purpose of our Lenten practices, and so embrace Easter with the joy of those whose hearts have been made pure.
The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist