The Significance of the Liturgical Season of Lent
The weather begins to change, calendars continue to turn, and Christmas and New Year’s celebrations drift further into the rear-view mirror. All are signs that Lent is drawing near.
Lent is one of the five seasons of the Catholic liturgical calendar, together with Advent, Christmas, Easter, and Ordinary Time. Lent is the liturgical season before Easter centred on three key themes: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
- Through prayer, we come closer to God to better realise the promises made for us at our baptism, to live justly as Jesus teaches us.
- Fasting joins us in solidarity with people experiencing poverty who often have no choice but to go without basic human needs.
- Sharing what we have, or ‘almsgiving’, is a sign of our commitment to justice and our thanks for all God has given us.
There is no better time to reconnect with or deepen one’s faith than the liturgical season of Lent. During this time, we can draw closer to God as we prepare for the joyous celebration of Jesus’ resurrection at Easter. By praying, fasting and giving alms, we are reminded of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus brought the promise of hope to all people so that we may “have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). As we live into that fullness, may we also be challenged to act with love and hope now and for all future generations.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the forty days of Lent. The Gospel read on Ash Wednesday reminds us of Jesus’ message to his disciples, “if you want to live as good people, then beware of practicing your holiness before others in order to be seen by them”. We are challenged by this message to be good people who love God and their neighbour more than anything. What counts is not what others see, think, or say but what we do when no one is looking. What is important is what is in a person’s heart. The praise of other people is a small reward simply because human praise lasts for only a moment. The reward worth having is the one our Father in heaven gives people who are good. This reward, Jesus suggests, will last forever.
What Should I Give Up?
Many Catholics often wonder what they should “give up” for Lent. Lenten sacrifices can be valuable if they help strengthen our relationship with Jesus and if the void we create by giving something up opens up space in our hearts for God to fill. As much as we consider something to abstain from during Lent, it is also important to consider what we can commit to or take up as well. What outside actions can we take to better ignite the flame of our faith that lies within us?
As we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery – the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus – this Easter season, may we stand in solidarity as a global family, challenging ourselves to live and act with love and hope. May we also support the work of Caritas Australia’s Project Compassion, walking shoulder to shoulder with our sisters and brothers worldwide until all live life in fullness.
Melissa Trolio | Director of Mission