Lent calls us to deeper conversion Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes, by Fr. Don Lange

In the Peanuts comic strip, each fall Lucy held the football for Charlie Brown to kick. At the last second, Lucy picked up the ball and Charlie Brown missed it and fell flat on his face.

After years of being tricked, Charlie refused to kick the football because he no longer trusted Lucy. She broke down, shed tears, and confessed, “I have sinned. I want to change. Won’t you give me another chance, please!” Charlie Brown trusted her again.

But again Lucy pulled the ball and Charlie fell flat on his face. Lucy defended herself by saying, “Recognizing your faults and truly changing are two different things, Charlie Brown.”

Striving to change

The 40 days of Lent invites us who are baptized and those preparing to be baptized or converts who are received into the Church to recognize our sins and faults. Then through grace, we are to strive to change into more Christ-like persons.

Lent prepares us to renew our Baptismal promises at Easter when we celebrate the resurrection, the heart of our faith. Lent is the season of final preparation for those who will be baptized and/or received into the Church at the Easter Vigil. The Church invites us who are already baptized to pray for them.

Ash Wednesday

On Ash Wednesday we indicate our desire to change by receiving the cross of ashes. The ashes indicates our willingness to take up our cross and do penance for Lent.

The priest or deacon says, “Remember, you are dust and unto dust, you shall return.” These words remind us of the mortality of our body and the immortality of our soul. The body upon which we lavish so much attention will turn to dust. The soul which we may ignore will live forever.

The alternate words which accompany the distribution of ashes are “Repent and believe the Good News.” The ashes remind us that we will die. But there is still time to repent and believe the Good News. Lent invites us to seriously ask, “How can we live our baptismal promises better? How are we doing in our quest for heaven?”

Penance and prayer

Since the early centuries, the Church has urged Catholics to choose a Lenten penance. In my opinion, Lent is the season when Catholics respond best to parish programs, devotions, and penance. The Ash Wednesday Gospel recommends that we choose a penance based upon prayer, fasting, or almsgiving.

Prayer deepens our relationship with God and helps us to discern and do God’s will as did Mary. We might ask, “How do we pray? Should we pray more? As a family or individually, we can pray the Rosary, participate in Mass, attend devotions, do spiritual reading, or other forms of prayer.”

Prayer opens us to the grace of almsgiving. It enables us to see and respond to the needy. In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” We minister to the needy by contributing to food pantries, helping hidden poor in our midst, sponsoring a third world child, or by visiting and affirming the self-worth of shut-ins.

Fasting and call to holiness

The Ash Wednesday Gospel also recommends fasting. In nos. 2013 and 2015 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says that all Christians in any state of life are called to holiness. Spiritual perfection passes by way of the cross. To live the Gospel, we must daily struggle to die to self and sin and rise to new life in Jesus. In Colossians 3:1-2, it says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is of earth.”

The Lenten rules for fasting and abstaining are that every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent. Every person between ages 18 and 60 must fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. (See the Catholic Herald or parish bulletin for more information.)

In Isaiah 58:7, it says that fasting should result in “sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless, clothing the naked when you see them,” and the like. During Lent we are encouraged to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation which strengthens us to fast from sins such as grudges, resentments, and revenge.

Our response to Lent’s graces can help us to recognize our sins and faults and change day by day into more Christ-like persons. May our Lenten participation help us to renew our baptismal promises at Easter, grow into a more Christ-like person in this world, and enjoy the fullness of Eternal Life.

Receiving the Eucharist worthily strengthens us to live the Gospel on earth. In John 6:54 it says, “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” May we truly become more like Jesus during Lent.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.