Today is the first day of Lent. So what does the word Lent mean – It comes from the Anglo Saxon word for Springtime which is a time of new beginnings – an opportunity to begin again.
The 40 days of Lent remind us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert when he overcame the devils temptations. The number 40 in the Bible has meaning and also signifies a time of new beginnings.
The 3 words associated with Lent are Prayer Fasting and Almsgiving.
Why do we pray? We have the awareness that by prayer we come closer to God which is important, but the other equally important function of prayer is that it brings us closer to ourselves and to who we really are. Without prayer and giving time for quiet and reflection there is very little real depth to us and the less prayer the more shallow we become. Our lives may become fuller but remain unfulfilled. No matter how much we might have or how well things are going we can still be running on empty.
What is the purpose of fasting. Not something we hear that much about nowadays. Last Ash Wednesday I walked into the home of a family who don’t attend church. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed lamb chops on the table and then in a blink they were gone. Naturally I didn’t let it go and made a joke of the way catholic guilt was still around and not to let me spoil their supper. I guess it is that in experiencing physical hunger we are reminded of our deeper hunger for the things of Spirit’ To become more aware of those who go hungry. To appreciate what we have.
Finally almsgiving. What is the purpose of almsgiving? To help us to be generous and less selfish To make us aware of those who have so little. Trocaire Box. A Practical way of helping someone less fortunate. 5-100
Why do we use ashes on Ash Wednesday? To admit that we have done wrong and also that we all come from ashes and it is to ashes that our bodies will one day return. A child said to his father, Dad is it true that we all come from dust and will one day return to dust. Yes son it is, why do you ask. ‘Well in that case,’ the child replied, ‘there must be someone either coming or going under my bed.’
So on Ash Wednesday ashes are marked on our foreheads – It’s a public sign our commitment to Christ as his followers and to acknowledge that we are sorry for any wrong we have done; that we will learn from our mistakes and make a new beginning.