Lent, can be and has been for me, one of the most fruitful times of spiritual progress. It is likely so because not only do we have a heightened awareness of a need to repent, turn back, and make peace once again with God, our neighbor, and ourselves, but also because during this time, God makes available for us his tremendous grace and power through sacramental help.
The Church recommends every year that we avail ourselves to the restorative and healing power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Often daunted by the natural fortitude we must muster to get ourselves there, we often put it off till the very last days of Lent. Perhaps too we save it till later worried that if we go early on, we will just have to go again to regain the state of grace for our Easter Communion. Heavens! How uselessly inefficient would that be.
But, maybe that is the point. Maybe a most fruitful Lent would be letting God impress upon us just how weak and needy we are. And nothing guarantees that like a complete, thorough, and deep examination of conscience and a humble admission of one’s sins. There are many helpful examinations of conscience to be found online. These can help us pinpoint something more useful and perhaps difficult we should be giving up during the Forty Days of Lent rather than sweets, TV, or coffee. And one such good confession often gives us a hefty list not only of which things we are to avoid, but also what virtues we need to strive actively to do. The preparation you put into your Confession will likely determine how well the rest of your Lent, and maybe even your life, will go.
One thing to be noted this year regarding the reception of ashes on Ash Wednesday. The Church has the priests this year to sprinkle the ashes on the crown of the penitent’s head rather than smear them over the forehead—a non-contact safety precaution in line with many others during this year of the pandemic. I brought this up to a person who then said to me, “Well how then can anyone know that I got my ashes?” “They won’t,” I replied.
Isn’t it better for them to see in us a serene, hopeful, and joyful peace that resides in a broken and contrite heart?
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