Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the wonderful season of Lent. We need to stop and think about what all this Lent stuff means. The Church, of course, gives us guidance in the prayers of the liturgy. In the reception of ashes, one of the possible blessings, given by the liturgy of the Church is, “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” That really says everything but needs some unpacking. We get the word repent from the New Testament Greek word “metanoia.” That’s a good, meaningful translation, but the word literally means a turning, changing direction.
What do we do during Lent? We give things up. We stop eating chocolate, we turn the TV off a couple of days a week. We don’t do this because these things are bad. Sins we should give up all year long, not for Lent. God created the things of this world and gave them to us, but we have to admit, each of us, that we can become attached to these created things. Repentance certainly means sorrow for sin, but also means making God the center of our lives. This takes on the literal meaning of metanoia, changing direction. During Lent we give up enjoyable, but temporary things to help us in metanoia, turning back to God.
There is, however, another element of our prayer for receiving ashes, “believe in the Gospel.” Lent is not just a time for giving up candy, television, or afternoon naps. Lent is a time to seek the Gospel of Christ. During Lent we refocus on prayer and our contact with God. We need to think about our routine of prayer. Do I pray every day? Do I pray with the people I care about? We don’t need to spend hours in prayer every day, but we need routine and we should use Sacred Scripture in our prayer. There are specific Scripture readings for the Mass of each day and they are on the internet (www.usccb.org).
We remember that the Mass is a privileged encounter with Christ in the Eucharist. Lent is a great time to refocus our attention on the importance of the Mass. We need to get to Confession. By the way, you don’t have to go to Confession on Saturday. We are priests seven days a week. Call the office (609-399-0648) and make an appointment. These things bring us to what Lent is all about, reconnecting with God, and, hopefully, bringing along those we love.