Lent is almost upon us! So how does that make you feel? Try imagining for a moment that this Lent is going to be different from every other Lent you have ever experienced. Imagine that there will be many graces offered to you this Lent. Let us even imagine that God is going to help transform our lives with greater freedom, greater joy, and deeper desires for love and service. If we want it, we will choose it.
Lent will be this wonderful season of grace for us if we give ourselves to it. And, we will give ourselves to it to the degree we really want it badly. So, in these few days before Lent, we need to prepare our hearts. We need to prepare by realizing how much we want to grow in freedom, how much we need to lighten our spirits and experience some real joy, and how much some parts of our lives really need changing.
Preparing our hearts is a process of preparing our desires. This means practicing our sense of anticipation. If one imagines Lent as an "ordeal" or a time we dread in some way, then we've already pre-disposed ourselves to not getting very much out of it. These days before Lent are a time to start anticipating something wonderful that is about to happen.
Taking some time to get ready for Lent will ensure that we aren't going to miss that first week or two of Lent, because we are just getting started. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, but we want to be ready to take off on that day, rather than just beginning to think about Lent on that day. Part of what makes a vacation or a special anniversary so special is the build-up to it.
It does not take a lot of time to prepare for the beginning of Lent; it just takes desire and focus. God can do so much with that. We can give God more of a space to touch our hearts if we begin to establish some simple patterns. We could wake up each morning, and for something like half a minute to a minute, stand by the edge of our beds, and just ask the Lord for the grace to let this day be one in which we long for the beginning of Lent. Perhaps we need to ask for specific helps or graces to get ready to begin Lent. Whatever we try to say, our Lord can understand the Spirit trying to speak through our simple words. All it takes is the time to find and put on our slippers. And each night, in the days ahead, we can practice giving thanks to God before we go to bed. This simple pattern, in the morning and evening, can stir our spirits to look forward to and prepare for Lent as a season of grace.
May our Lord bless us all on this journey ahead. - Fr. Jim