By Terry McCafferty ’22
One way to think of Lent is as a journey: an approximately forty day journey from winter to spring, sin to salvation, and darkness to light. Pope Francis recently wrote that it is a journey toward “faith, hope, and love”. It is an opportunity for us to restore our commitment to what is right, rediscover our spirituality, and renew our dedication to the parts of our lives that matter the most. Living through COVID makes these messages more pertinent than ever and this time to recenter ourselves more needed because so many parts of our lives have been thrown off balance and for many people there has been so much darkness, sadness, and loneliness in the past year.
In his Lenten message for 2021, Pope Francis also wrote that, “Fasting, prayer and almsgiving, as preached by Jesus (Mt 6:1-18), enable and express our conversion.” In other words, it is through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving that we make this journey. Accordingly, over the next three weeks this column will focus each of those mentioned pillars of Lent beginning this week, with fasting.
I think the most helpful thing that I have heard over my relatively few years is that done right, fasting does not have to be seen as a painful process of giving things up. Instead, it can be a liberating experience of freeing ourselves from the vices that hold us back from being our best selves. What is holding you back from being your best self? What things do you do that leave you feeling unfulfilled or even guilty? What are the things that, after doing them, make you think “I regret that” knowing that you will do it again anyway? All of us have ways that we can become better, no matter how big or small they are. This Lent, we must summon up the strength and fortitude to free ourselves from whatever weighs us down with guilt. Reflect on what it is for you and then find the courage to make your commitment concrete, perhaps by writing it down.
Before Lent starts, we can say to ourselves, “This Lent, I will follow through on my promise” and then during Lent, when excuses flow through our minds, we must not give in to the temptation. We must remind ourselves that if Jesus could go for forty days without eating in the desert and then die on a cross for our sins, we can fulfill our 2021 Lenten promises. Think of how it will feel on Easter Sunday, when we can all look back and say to ourselves, “I did it!”
At the end of the day, make your Lenten journey your own. Make it special and unique to where you are at in your life and with your faith. If you have wandered away from being active in your beliefs, perhaps make Lent a time to come back. If you’ve lost all faith, maybe Lent is a time to reconsider what you believe. If you are strong in your beliefs, Lent can be a time to grow even stronger by acting on them. Try to set goals that push you to do your best while also not making it an impossible mission. For example, if you need to preplan a one day break from your fasting on Saint Patrick’s Day, you should. We do not usually think of Lent as a fun occurrence, but there is a lot of internal joy and satisfaction to be had from taking time to try especially hard to be the best person that you can be.
Hopefully, at least a few of the ideas in these three Lent themed columns will spark a thought or give you at least a bit of inspiration. To all of our readers beginning their own Lenten journey this year, many blessings and may the light of Christ guide your way toward greater fulfillment and renewal.
– No. 3 –
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‘At the End of the Day’ is a weekly column written by Terry McCafferty ‘22. Each week focuses on a different topic often related to politics, faith, culture, or society at large.