Lent, a time to take stock Print
Cutting Edge
Thursday, Mar. 04, 2010 -- 1:00 AM

Guest Column

My experience has been that far too much of our lives are often spent running in the fast lane. Many people, myself included, seem to go from one thing to the next without much time for reflection in between. There are times when I actually long for the days when I would complain to my mother that I was "bored." I had a hard time doing "nothing."

Although my actions don't always witness to it, I am convinced that we are not meant to live at such a rapid pace. We need time to reflect on our experiences and on our relationships, especially with God.

Pull out of the fast lane

The season of Lent affords us a great opportunity to pull over out of the fast lane. We are invited to slow down and fill in the spiritual potholes in our lives.

Every year the Church, in its wisdom, gives us 40 days as kind of an annual retreat to spend the time to examine our spiritual lives and our relationship with God.

Lent is a yearly opportunity to reflect on how well we are living out our Baptismal commitment and whether our actions are in line with the Gospel message.

Our Catholic tradition guides us to use the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as ways to renew our spiritual lives during Lent -- actually not just in Lent but throughout our lives. Lent is a good time to do an assessment of how we live our faith and take stock of our lives.

Prayer -- Listening to God

As far as prayer goes we might look at how much quality time we give to the Lord. Maybe our prayer life is limited to Mass on Sunday and a quick prayer before meals, if we remember and not too many people are looking at us. Maybe we pray primarily when we need a favor, like a good mark on a test that we aren't prepared for!

During Lent we can try to slow down enough to have a real conversation with God and give him a bit of our time.

No relationship can deepen and grow unless we are willing to listen and share ourselves with the other person. God is no exception. During Lent, if you don't already, set aside 15 minutes of your quality time each day to be with God.

Go to a quiet place, slow down, and let God love you. Read and reflect upon some Scripture each day and get to know him better.

I know this is not always easy for us at first. I remember when I first went into the convent and was expected to make an hour of silent contemplation every day. I wasn't used to being quiet that long and at first it seemed like an eternity to me. I don't suggest starting with an hour.

More than one way to fast

The second Lenten tradition is fasting. The majority of people think fasting means to give up some kind of food, like candy or ice cream, but there is more than one way to fast. It depends on us what type of fasting would best benefit our spiritual lives.

Maybe it would be more beneficial for us to fast from gossip or negative words or some other behavior that only God and we know.

Or perhaps we need to talk less and become better listeners. Those in the fast lane rarely have time to really hear what people say to them. They are usually preoccupied and rushing to the next "important" event or checking off their to-do lists.

Giving of ourselves

Lastly, there is the discipline of almsgiving. It can be much easier to give our loose change to a charitable cause than to give the precious gift of our time. Lent calls us to give of ourselves, not just our money.

We can look at our lives and see who we need to spend more quality time with and who could benefit from our gifts and talents. Lent is an opportunity to get our focus off ourselves and reach out in love to our brothers and sisters.

Besides our time, another thing we may be called to give during Lent is forgiveness to someone who has hurt us. It might even be someone who has died.

Or maybe we need the grace to ask for forgiveness from someone we have injured. This is another way to give alms and is a sacrifice pleasing to God. Reconciliation is an integral part of the Gospel message.

So as this season of Lent begins, let us slow down and try to be more reflective. It is difficult to get out of the fast lane but in the long run it will benefit our Christian journeys. Meetings, jobs, term papers, and classes will pass away but our relationship with God is forever. Have a happy and holy Lent.

Sr. Margie Lavonis, a freelance writer, is a Sister of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame, Ind.