By Deacon Bob McCoy
WHAT! Lent is here again. It seems that the Lenten season appears on my calendar more often than it did years ago. My perception of time has changed with each passing year.
It is not unusual for many of us to find our response to Lent to be dull and boring over time due to repetition. God invites us to enter into the season of Lent in a very personal way. We are asked to spend more time in prayer, voluntary self-denial and to share our time, talent and material goods with other people.
If we are asking ourselves, “Why am I trying to observe Lent?” a place to begin is reading Jesus’ example as described in Matthew’s Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent. It is often said, “Jesus went into the desert to be tempted.” Jesus went into the desert not to be tempted, but to prepare himself to be tempted by the devil. “He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights, and afterwards he was hungry.” Then the devil approached Jesus to tempt him! Jesus’ actions can be the blueprint for each of us to enter into the spirit of Lent following his model. Jesus has experienced our human condition; he knows what it is to be hungry, tired and sad. He also experienced temptation.
Lent calls each of us to look closely at ourselves, to deal with our temptations and shortcomings and to follow Jesus’ call to conversion. Our Lenten practices are of little value if we are not making an effort to improve our relationships with God, family and community. The traditional Lenten practice of prayer, self-denial and acts of service help us to answer Jesus’ call to conversion.
I have found when I take time to initiate a conversation with God I become more relaxed, less concerned about those irritating distractions which pop into my day’s activities. This simple conversation, or prayer, has led me to a more personal relationship with God, whose presence has become more important to me in my daily life.
Prayer does not need to be lengthy or formal. It can begin anywhere at any time. Some people pray before they get out of bed in the morning. I have found it necessary to at least make it to the shower before greeting the Lord. Acts of self-denial help me to move away from those times when I am preoccupied looking for activities that satisfy my current need to feel good.
What activities in my life are false gods which become more important than my relationship with God? I need to take time to reflect on whether the clutter of our technology prevents me from focusing on the message of Jesus. Is the time I watch TV, use my cell phone or other electronic device taking time away from my conversation with God?
Our Lenten practices can move us away from these distractions and lead us to a closer relationship with God who wishes to move closer to each one of us.
(Deacon McCoy is deacon personnel director for the Diocese of Davenport.)