March 9 is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the holy season of Lent. Lent lasts for forty days. The color is violet. It signifies repentance. It is a time to reform. When we are signed with ashes we are told, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” (Mk 1:15). We are invited, “Return to the Lord, your God” (Joel 2:13); and we pray, “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness, in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense” (Ps 51:3).
Lent is a time to get back to doing what we should have been doing all along. As we plan ahead for what we might do, we might decide, “I am going to say my morning prayers every day,” except we should have been praying every morning anyway. Or, we might pledge to ourselves, “I am going to go to Confession this Lent,” except we have been guilty of sin for a long while and could and should have approached the sacrament earlier. We might decide, “I am going to attend daily Mass every Friday;” or, “I am going to attend daily Mass every weekday;” or, “I am going to go to Eucharistic Adoration once a week;” or, “I am going to say the rosary;” while those opportunities were available and by-passed previously.
It is the same thing with good works. Our Lenten pledge might be, “I am going to say something kind to a different person each day,” when we could have been much more charitable before; or, “I am going to contribute alms for the needy and donate to some charitable agency,” when we should have been more generous previously.
And again, it is the same thing with self-denial. We might promise, “I’m going to give up sweets or desserts,” except we should have been consuming less sugar and fewer calories, and paying more attention to our diets previously; or, “I am going to limit my TV watching,” when we should have been monitoring and limiting our TV time all along.
We need Lent. We need to pause and look at our lives. As we do our spiritual assessments, it is amazing, distressing, how often we find that we have wandered away from the basics of Christian living, how we have grown lax in doing the simplest things, small, ordinary good things. Lent is the season to get back to doing what we should have been doing all along. Now is the time to “Return to the Lord, our God.”