It’s hard to believe we’re at the start of Lent. The time of reflection as we approach Easter. I think most would agree that Easter is one of the most important holidays for Christians worldwide. The death and resurrection of Jesus are what our faith is centered on. And it is cause for much rejoicing. As we prepare ourselves for Easter and anticipate its preeminence in the Church, we can collectively experience the season of Lent and The Resurrection.
By definition, Lent is a 40-day season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday (USCCB). It is a season of preparation to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Most of us are familiar with Lent as a time for fasting and doing without. It is full of traditions and practices that connect the modern-day Church to its history.
Considering attendance numbers haven’t returned to pre-pandemic numbers, how can we ensure that parishioners participate in Lent? How can we motivate those still attending remotely to experience Lent on a deeper level? Here are a few thoughts on how to encourage those in our congregations to experience Lent afresh and anew.
Create opportunities to pray in solitude. Worship is only part of reflection; we need to listen and hear what the Lord tells us. By being intentional, you create an environment where you can focus and receive His message.
In addition to praying, our traditions include fasting. Fasting can be helpful in times of deep personal prayer and reflection. Fasting also is not just refraining from food. It could be fasting from a pleasure that could cause distraction from hearing God’s divine guidance. Think of social media platforms or your phone in general. And remember, fasting is a personal activity done without fanfare.
As we reflect, it is essential to prioritize repentance. Lent can be a time for purposeful penance. And an important part of preparing for Easter. The discipline of penance can help us work through issues in our private lives that may require some much-needed attention. Life moves so fast and gets so busy that this discipline is often forgotten. Repentance in a believer’s heart can bring joy and relief while furthering an individual’s spiritual walk.
Although Lent brings with it some serious work, Lent can also bring joy to those who use this season to hear from God. When Christians dedicate themselves to prayer, listening, penance, and worship, God’s work is revealed. Seeing God work in miraculous ways and intervening in our petitions can hearten us to live in a Christ-like manner.
Seeing God’s plan come to fruition in life can also be the very thing that propels church members to greater heights of ministry and loving others. As one body, the Church can have a season of intentional rejoicing together about all that God has done.
Use this season of Lent as a time to recommit to living a life pleasing to and fully dependent on the Lord. The ancient Church tradition of Lent can be a catalyst to work with fellow parishioners to find the way forward in life’s difficulties. Then, commit anew to walking the path God would have us walk.