Lent 2017 has arrived. And so Catholic people dive back into some of the culture of our religion: Wearing ashes on the forehead at work and answering questions about that. Going to fish fries at the local parish. Giving up chocolate or sodie pop for the duration of the 40-day penitential season.
Somehow, that doesn’t seem enough to foster much change in a person’s life, does it? What should Lent foster then?
I say: Gratitude. I say: Be a Samaritan leper.
“Gratitude,” Pope Francis said, “is the flower that blooms in noble souls.” There’s a real Lenten resolution for you: Develop a noble soul.
According to the glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Lent is “the liturgical season of forty days which begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with the celebration of the Paschal Mystery (Easter Triduum). Lent is the primary penitential season in the Church’s liturgical year, reflecting the forty days Jesus spent in the desert in fasting and prayer.”
So Lent is meant for reflection, gazing inward at our personal lives as well as spiritual lives. How can we do that? The Catechism offers this: “spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).“
All of that provides an opportunity to do a spiritual self-assessment and investigate how well we love God. In the process, especially when we experience the forgiveness and absolution of the confessional, we remember how very much God loves us.
We all can find multiple ways toward that recollection. Did you have enough to eat today? Did you sleep in a warm, comfortable bed in a safe, dry house? Are you relatively healthy? Do you have a job, or an income in retirement? Do you have family and friends who are relatively healthy and who care about you?
“The secret of happiness,” said St. Gianna Beretta Molla, “is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”
Yes, it’s okay to find happiness during Lent.
Look closely at your life. What is there that you take for granted? I hope that examination gives you a grateful heart.
Now … How often do you thank God for all of that and so much more?
As (Jesus) continued his journey to Jerusalem, he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met [him]. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
And when he saw them, he said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going, they were cleansed. And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan.
Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
I want to be that Samaritan leper. I want such a grateful heart that my thoughts immediately go to thanking Him, even when no one else around me seems so inclined. I want to always keep in mind that I have done nothing to earn anything I have, that I owe all that to the Lord.
I want the kind of faith that will save me. I want to stand up and go tell the world of my gratitude and faith.
There’s no better time to begin than this Lenten season. In the words of St. Ambrose: “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.”