Even though we all know we've entered the season of Lent, I suggest if you look a little closer you can find “Lent” in places that you might never have noticed. The Scrabble players among us may have an edge in this search, but with a little digging we can find some ourselves, that is, words with “lent” in them. While this may be a bit of philological fun, it actually can uncover some insights that may help us prepare to celebrate Easter (which is the point of Lent) a little more fully this year. So I hope you enjoy five ways to discover “Lent.”
- Si-Lent – This “lent” is one of the most overlooked ways of having a great Lent. We live in a noisy world, but God clearly speaks in the silence. This simple phrase from Psalm 46 is one of the best directions on prayer, “Be still and know that I am God.” Being in prayer should be less like a workout and more like soaking in a tub. It is a time to quiet our minds and hearts, open our hearts in Scripture so that God can fill you with His peace, which in turn He asks you to bring to the world. I think the best place to be si-Lent is before Jesus in the tabernacle, but any quiet place will do.
- Condo-Lent – Condolent is adjective form of the noun condolence. To be condolent means that we see where there is suffering and we bring comfort. Almsgiving, or care for the poor, is an important part of our Lenten journey, but caring for the needy is more than just putting some money in the poor box. It means developing a heart like the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He wept when his friend Lazarus died, He was moved with pity for the crowds that hungered and came to Him with their sick. From Jesus’ heart flowed action that fed and cured, forgave and fed. Finding Lent in condolent begins by asking the Lord to make our heart like unto His, and then turning that into a specific action of doing His work in your world.
- Tal-Lent – So what is that specific action? That where you’re tal-Lent comes in. God made just one of you with a specific set of gifts. Maybe you are a baker or a great leaf raker, a singer or a bell ringer, perhaps you have a big brain for totaling or a strong back for toting. Homebound? How about being a prayer warrior? Each of us has something to give, but first we must figure what that that tal-Lent is and then offer it back to God. Whether it’s ladling soup for the poor or running a troop for Scouts, what matters is that you share your gift(s) with others.
- P-Lent-y – Do you have clothes that have not been worn in over a year? Do you enjoy a latte or a night out every once in a while? How about cable television or any other little extra treats in your life? These item of pLenty are good and deserved to be enjoyed, AS LONG AS they are balanced by a p-Lent-iful generosity to the poor. Do a little math and add up what you really spend on these things and from that begin to calculate your gifts to those in need. Remember, as Catholics we don’t just give to a need, but we have a need to give.
- Excel-Lent – St. Matthew gives us some excel-Lent advice in the sixth chapter of his Gospel, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.” Lent is not about misery. It’s about excellence, not your excellence but Jesus’ in His generosity and love to suffer and die for us. The journey of Lent should be a discovery of how deeply we are loved. When we skip a treat, we should be thinking not of our own challenges, but rather we should recall the true challenges of a crown of thorns and a cross, of jeering crowds and a broken-hearted mother. That Jesus entered into the mystery of suffering and death so that I could be healed and forgiven is cause for a joy that is more profound than any sorrow known to humanity. So make sure you smile a lot in these next weeks, it is the secret to an excel-Lent Lent!
(Father Byrne is the pastor of Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Potomac.)