Lent - a holy season of penance and preparation. We need balance in our lives, which is why the Holy Church offers us opportunities for rejoicing and penance. We must be careful that we accept both penance and joy in a balanced way so that our spiritual life may be healthy. It’s too easy to focus on one or the other. Some Christians tend to emphasize only penance by preaching exclusively on sin. This is not healthy, as it can lead us to a life of misery and depression. Some Christians focus exclusively on the positives of our faith, joy and reality of holiness in our lives. This, on its own, is also unhealthy, because it can lead us to stagnation in spiritual growth. We need both, an awareness of our own sins which leads to penance and conversion; and acceptance of joy and holiness which are offered to each baptized follower of Jesus, and leads to hope and peace. The Holy Catholic Church leads us each year through periods of penance, as well as rejoicing. In order to experience one, we must accept the other. Penance without acceptance of holiness and joy can become unbearable. Acceptance of holiness and joy without penance for our sins can leave us hallow and unable to change and grow. In other words, Easter without Lent is shallow, and Lent without Easter is unbearable. A healthy approach to our Christian life is one that accepts both, enters into both, and benefits from both. Lent is a season of penance and preparation. It is a time set aside to focus on our sins, and on acts of penitence. Only once we’ve embraced this opportune season through works of penance will we be able to experience a renewal of holiness and peace in our lives come Easter time. I guess what I’m saying is “let’s take Lent seriously, so that God can take us seriously”. The Church recommends three acts of penance appropriate for the season of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Each one of these is important and should be used by those who wish to experience renewal. So, what should I do for Lent, you ask? Make a concrete plan to pray more, to fast at least on Fridays of Lent, and offer alms above and beyond what you are already giving. I’ll do the same, and we’ll see a holier and happier version of each other come Easter time.
Fr. Wojtek Kuzma