Do the words “celebration of Lent” give you pause? I have heard Lent called a celebration many times in my life. How the heck is all this self-denial a celebration? It means abstaining, fasting and alms-giving.
On Ash Wednesday, the entire NCS community took part in an ancient ritual, the receiving of ashes to mark the beginning of Lent.
This sign of repentance existed even before Christ. In the third chapter of Jonah, for example, the Assyrian king dons sackcloth and sits in ashes to show his repentance to the Lord and save the city of Ninevah. He calls for a fast for all those living in the city. But with all this talk of repentance, how can that be a celebration?
Lent is a time to remove some of the unnecessary clutter in our lives in order to eliminate barriers to our relationship with God.
This Lent at the Norwalk Catholic School Junior High and St. Paul High School, I will speak at Mass about how Jesus drove the money changers out of the temple. The point of having the temple was to serve God and Jesus recognized that the temple was being abused and God was being neglected
We are God’s temples on earth; Jesus wants to help us drive out the money changers in our lives so we can better experience God and serve him. Some of it is sinful and some of it is just time-draining and distracting. Every member of our school community will have the opportunity to celebrate reconciliation to remove that sinful clutter from our lives. Each of us is encouraged to fast from those things that are distracting and unneeded.
Without the clutter in our lives, we can free up our time and our thoughts to that which God has planned for us, spending time in prayer and service to one another. Being less cluttered helps us love more and spread a loving example to all we meet. That certainly sounds positive!
At school, I asked if we could all try and save up that money we saved from our fasting and acts of self-denial to hand over to Operation Rice Bowl. Operation Rice Bowl is a decades old practice of the Catholic Relief Services which provides for the needs of people in our own diocese and throughout the world. I know I participated in the practice many times while in school. The mere sight of little cardboard boxes gives me waves of warm nostalgia.
The monetary gift will be good, but being more Christ-like will be great. And that is cause for celebration.