Part of the Mary Moment Monday series

Finally! Lent! This week!

I have REALLY been feeling my need for Lent. And it’s made me think about why that is: Lent is, after all, usually very difficult. In that difficulty, though, I so often find fruit and, if I cooperate, grace to grow spiritually.

In the Pope’s Lenten message for this year (which I listened to via Father Z), I was struck by a few things, including this:

The Lenten journey finds its fulfillment in the Paschal Triduum, especially in the Great Vigil of the Holy Night: renewing our baptismal promises, we reaffirm that Christ is the Lord of our life, that life which God bestowed upon us when we were reborn of “water and Holy Spirit”, and we profess again our firm commitment to respond to the action of the Grace in order to be his disciples. (emphasis mine)

Then there’s the Lenten focus on almsgiving, which Papa explains so beautifully:

In our journey, we are often faced with the temptation of accumulating and love of money that undermine God’s primacy in our lives. The greed of possession leads to violence, exploitation and death; for this, the Church, especially during the Lenten period, reminds us to practice almsgiving – which is the capacity to share. The idolatry of goods, on the other hand, not only causes us to drift away from others, but divests man, making him unhappy, deceiving him, deluding him without fulfilling its promises, since it puts materialistic goods in the place of God, the only source of life. How can we understand God’s paternal goodness, if our heart is full of egoism and our own projects, deceiving us that our future is guaranteed? … The practice of almsgiving is a reminder of God’s primacy and turns our attention towards others, so that we may rediscover how good our Father is, and receive his mercy. (emphasis mine)

Almsgiving is a fancy word for sharing, that concept my girls, ages six and three, are struggling with as much as their 34-year-old mother does. It’s easy to tell them to share, but how easy is it to share of my own abundance? How often do I neglect to share myself, even if it’s a simple sharing of time with a child or relative who’s lonely? Sharing doesn’t have to mean I do more; it can direct me, instead, to let go of my attachment to things and focus on the better part, the priorities that so easily fall out of focus in my life.

This spirit of generosity that seems to pervade Lent is what my miserly, exhausted soul needs in the spring. Something about leaving winter, about being cooped up and sick and in the dark, begs for this kind of mandate: share what you have. Give what you can. And maybe, just maybe, give and trust.

Prayer is another focus of Lent, and an area where I always seem to find help in the upcoming 40 days. First, from Benedict:

During the entire Lenten period, the Church offers us God’s Word with particular abundance. By meditating and internalizing the Word in order to live it every day, we learn a precious and irreplaceable form of prayer; by attentively listening to God, who continues to speak to our hearts, we nourish the itinerary of faith initiated on the day of our Baptism. Prayer also allows us to gain a new concept of time: without the perspective of eternity and transcendence, in fact, time simply directs our steps towards a horizon without a future. Instead, when we pray, we find time for God, to understand that his “words will not pass away” (cf. Mk 13: 31), to enter into that intimate communion with Him “that no one shall take from you” (Jn 16: 22), opening us to the hope that does not disappoint, eternal life. (emphasis mine)

Ah, prayer. It’s an ongoing struggle, balancing a realistic prayer life with the hurdles and challenges of life. It doesn’t seem to matter what state of life I’m in; I always have an excuse for why I do (or don’t) what I do.

This year, I’m feeling Mary close by my side. As I consider my plan for Lent, I can’t help but glance at her.

She sort of set the bar for generosity and prayer, offering her very life for God’s will to be done and for the Word of God to become flesh. She’s the perfect person to guide me, to lead me, to hold my hand as I stumble along on the road to Ash Wednesday.

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