“Ugh. It’s Lent Again! I Can’t Wait for This to be Over.”

Such were little Billy Murphy’s thoughts every year, as he walked home from grade school, forehead freshly ashed up by Father Griffin (small dot cross), or by Monsignor Corrigan (big thick cross going all the way down to the bridge of the nose!). Lent in the Murphy household meant Rice Bowl Wednesdays with grilled cheese and soup for dinner—and nothing else for the rest of the night. (And dad had an uncanny ability to hear cookies being removed from the kitchen shelf.)

Lent meant kneeling for the rosary in the living room, with no butts crouching to the floor but kneeling straight! (Billy would sometimes cheat by kneeling with his elbows leaning on the piano bench. The hands in prayer position and head bowed gave the proper appearance of piety.) It all seemed to be such a drudgery to Billy, and he found out years later, to his older sister Teresa, too. (Not sure about Dennis and Michael.)

To be honest, even now, every year as Lent approaches, when I think about all the Lenten practices and preparations for Holy Week, there is a part of me that still sighs an inner “Ugh.” But like most of us, as I’ve matured (or should I just say aged?), I’ve discovered a richer, deeper meaning to Lent.  That meaning can be summed up succinctly is Jesus’ words for the First Sunday of Lent: REPENT and BELIEVE in the gospel.

Now, “repent” can conjure up images of someone—God, Jesus, Sister Stella Gabriel, etc.—pointing an accusatory finger my way, telling me to stop doing all those bad and naughty things. And, of course, we do want to work on changing any sinful ways or habits that we cling to. But, as I’ve mentioned many times, the word REPENT is so much more than working on our peccadillos. 

In biblical Greek, “REPENT” is “METANOIA.”  That is META which means BEYOND.  And NOUS which means MIND.  So, METANOIA, REPENT literally means GO BEYOND THE MIND you have; go beyond the way you presently think. Are you still thinking about God as the Big Man in the sky who is keeping count of everything you do and especially of every sin and mistake you make? Well REPENT. Go beyond that! Are you still thinking of God as the one who has a hissy fit, gets disgusted with humanity and decides to destroy them all in a flood, except Noah and his family? Well, REPENT.  Time to get beyond that and think a new way, see with new eyes. Do you still live with a religious mindset that proposes that life is all about behaving as best you can in this life so that, just maybe, if God is really really merciful (and if you’ve gone to confession to make sure your mortal sins have been forgiven), you’ll get your reward in the next life?  Well, REPENT. Time to go beyond that. Why? Because “this is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand.”

Now, if all that throws you off a bit, confuses you, leaves you with more questions than answers, good! Because THAT is what Lent is about. Lent is about taking the time to stop, think, reflect, and pray. Lent is a time to ask: what do I really believe about God? Above Jesus? 

Where am I in my relationship with God? With Jesus Christ? Do I really believe Jesus when he proclaims that the Kingdom of God—God’s love, God’s way of living—is at hand for me, accessible to me and to all? Right here, right now? Free for the receiving? No charge? No pre-requisites, no chores to perform to merit or gain God’s love and to be caught up in God’s way of life?

And if following Jesus is the WAY to open up and become more aware of and enter into this Kingdom of God way of being loved and of loving, then: do I let Jesus—his words, his actions, his way of life—lead and guide my words and actions and way of life? Do I trust in the ever-present, always faithful, compassionate, and merciful love of Abba with me, as Jesus did? And do I live confidently in that love and out of that love, sharing it always, everywhere and with everyone?

Tough questions! Challenging questions! Questions that might even spark an initial “ugh” in us. 

“It seems I have such a long way to go,” we think.  And that’s good.  Because we GO. We keep GOING, deeper and deeper into a new mindset, a new way of knowing God and letting ourselves be known by God.

And we use the three traditional “disciplines” along the way to help us:

We PRAY:  There is no way to grow in a relationship with God, with Jesus Christ, if we don’t pray. We must have dedicated time to BE with God, or, more accurately, to become more consciously aware that God is with us.  We need time to talk with God, to let God talk with us and to simply sit quietly in God’s loving presence which enfolds us.  This habit of prayer can lead to real REPENTANCE, to a real going beyond the way we presently think of God, ourselves, and others. 

We FAST:  We refrain from unnecessary eating, we say “no” to that dessert we’d really like to have. And we do so to gain the discipline to refrain from that unnecessary word we’re busting to say but know we shouldn’t, to say “no” to that habit we know we should stop before it becomes an addiction. 

We GIVE ALMS:  When we fast, as we feel the slightest pang of hunger from fasting, we remember those whose daily experience is hunger, and we offer our savings from fasting to them. We give generously to those in need, not to “gain” a reward from God, but to share the blessings of God’s abundant love.

We also give to our faith community, the the parish that sustains us and enables us to grow in our faith. Lent is a good time to reflect on my generosity towards my parish.  Am I as active as I can be and want to be? Do I share my resources sufficiently so that the parish can continue to nourish me and others spiritually, and can also continue its many ways of outreach? 

This can lead to another “ugh.” Ugh: talking about money again. Well, yes. In the sense that money is a part of our lives, and as with everything else, we need to reflect on how we use it and share it.

Father Jim and I so appreciate the generosity of so many of you! We know you give generously —very generously! –  and we are very grateful. You literally help us to keep Saint Miriam up and running. We simply ask everyone who participates in our parish life in any way to use Lent as a time to seriously consider how you are sharing your financial resources with the poor and with our wonderful parish.  And we assure you that we, too, share our financial resources and we go out of our way to use every dollar responsibly and wisely.

So, here we are! Lent 2024. 


Or “Yes”?

Yes! This wonderful, gifted time to REPENT, to rethink everything and go deeper and deeper into the generous, faithful, ever-present life-giving Love of God. We pray you will join us. A lot of work went into this year’s offerings and now it is time to take advantage of it all as we enter a journey that will change our life!

Father Liam

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