The School of Lent
In grade school confession used to cause high anxiety. Why? It was not that I feared going to confession. I feared my brother Richard going to confession. He was holier than the rest of us and loved confessing not only his small sins but all of our great faults. He would emerge from the confessional looking for all the world like a holy card of Saint Dominic Savio, the boy saint.
I do not want to cause dread or panic in you about confession or Lent. However, I would ask you to imagine that this would be the last Lent of your life. Okay, maybe that is too radical.
Perhaps you could imagine that you were experiencing Lent for the first time like catechumens who are being taken by the hand on Ash Wednesday and being brought to the School of Lent.
The School of Lent
The Church has carefully assembled the prayers, the readings, the rituals of Lent and Holy Week to lead us in two acts to a school of conversion and grace. The first day of school is Ash Wednesday. Everybody shows up on this day. Why? To receive ashes traced in the form of a cross on one’s forehead as a reminder of our sinfulness and mortality. “Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”
This is also the day when catechumens enter the homestretch to Easter and Baptism. The Lenten school term runs for 40 days and challenges us to pray, fast and give alms throughout. The first half of Lent uses readings from the Synoptic Gospels and Old Testament that challenge us to live a life of Gospel conversion. Turn away from sin and live the Good News. Again and again we pray “Grant to us, O Lord, a heart renewed; Recreate in us your own Spirit, Lord.”
The resolutions we make and break help us to be humble, not to think less of ourselves but to think of ourselves less and God and others more. Our weakness and sinfulness during Lent help us to see that we need God, that we cannot live a good life of discipleship without God’s grace and mercy.
The second half of Lent begins on the Monday of week four when the Gospel texts are taken from John and the focus is away from living the moral life to an encounter with the mystery and person of Jesus Christ. Christ is revealed as the one who is the God/Man, who reconciles and heals the wounds of sin and death, and gives life to all who believe in him.
In the school of Lent we learn that we need help and that Jesus is the Savior who loves nothing more than to bring us to salvation. We are sinners, Jesus is the Teacher who takes us by the hand and brings us to the beauty of Easter and the risen life.
Friends, this Lenten season welcome Jesus into your family and invite others to come and join you in prayer.
About Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C.
Father Willy Raymond, C.S.C. is President of Holy Cross Family Ministries. He entered Holy Cross Fathers in 1964. He earned a Bachelors in Philosophy from Stonehill College in 1967 and a Masters in Theology from the University of Notre Dame in 1971. In addition to English, Father Willy is conversant in French and Spanish. He's a native of Old Town, Maine and one of 12 children. He remains a diehard fan of the Boston Red Sox, even though he has served as Chaplain for the Los Angeles Dodgers.