Lent Post Mortem

 

In software engineering it is common to have a post mortem upon completion of a large project.  A post mortem gives the team a chance to identify what went well and what went badly in the course of the project and investigate the root causes.  The idea is to continue doing what is good and avoid making the same mistakes in future projects.  I like to think of Lent as a large spiritual project that deserves its own post mortem.

When I look back at my Lent, here’s what I did right:

  • Received the Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Listened to the Gospel nearly everyday
  • Prayed the rosary nearly everyday (okay, that’s not too different from my usual routine)
  • Fasted from alcohol, candy, and snacks during the day

What was less than ideal:

  • Did not attend any extra Masses or prayer services
  • Did not receive ashes on Ash Wednesday
  • While I did not snack during the day, I didn’t exactly show a lot of willpower in the evening.  So my fast was more like a delayed gratification on some days.

What did I learn?

  • Listening to the daily Gospel really fills in the story and teachings of Jesus that you don’t get only listening to the Sunday Gospel.  I started to better understand the buildup to Holy Week and how Jesus drew the ire of the Pharisees which led to his crucifixion.  I will try to continue reading/listening to the Gospel daily.
  • I should try to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation more often.
  • Since I abstained from snacks and treats on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, I know I can make it the entire day without them.  I should put in more effort to fast from snacks throughout the year, not just on those two days.

Now it’s your turn.  What did you gain during this Lent?  Where did you fall short and do you plan on correcting any errors made during Lent in this Easter season?

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Easter is the Beginning, Not the End

Easter Sunday has come and gone which means life can get back to normal right? No more Lenten sacrifices so the donuts, chocolate, and beers can come out of the hiding spots. No more meatless Fridays. No more long Gospel readings. No more stations of the cross, rosaries, and being hounded to go to Confession.  Time to shelve that piety until Advent yes?

Don’t start making plans for that vice-filled weekend quite yet.  Lent was a time of preparation. But preparation for what? What happened on Easter Sunday that required 40 days of training? Surely Lent wasn’t about fine tuning your egg finding abilities or expanding your sugar tolerance. In terms of process, the Easter Mass wasn’t any different than other Sunday Masses.  There really wasn’t anything different on Easter Sunday than any other Sunday. What was all the preparation for?

Technically, Easter isn’t a day but a whole season.  It lasts 50 days starting with Easter Sunday and ending at Pentecost.  Did we spend 40 days of Lent preparing for 50 days of Easter?  Do we just have to practice our faith extra hard for three months and then we don’t have to think about it until Christmas?  Of course not.  In fact, there is no end date or time limit to what we profess during Easter.

When we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Easter, we acknowledge the truth of his ministry. Jesus said that he would die and rise again and we celebrate the reality of that claim on Easter. But it’s not just about celebrating that single promise, but all of his promises. Easter is a celebration of the entire Gospel where we rejoice in all the promises and teachings Jesus gave us.  If Jesus was right about the outlandish claim of raising from the dead then he was right about everything else he preached. And we celebrate and give honor to Jesus’ resurrection by promising to go out and live according to his teachings.  Jesus asked us to go out and love our neighbors and our enemies.  He asked us to show compassion to the suffering and less fortunate.  He asked us to forgive those who wronged us.  He asked us to turn away from sin.  He promised eternal joy in Heaven.  He fulfilled that promise on Easter by rising from the dead and opening those gates for all of us.

Jesus Resurrection 1778
Jesus Resurrection 1778 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s spring so I’m going to use a baseball analogy.  Think of Lent as the pre-season.  We exercise and got into spiritual shape through fasting and prayer.  It was a time where we worked extra hard to shed those bad habits that crept in over the past year.  But if Lent is pre-season, Easter Sunday is opening day.  Yes, it’s a grand event filled with joy, hope, and optimism.  But it’s one day of many. And it is one Easter season of many.  Following Jesus’ teachings doesn’t end on Easter Sunday any more than the baseball season ends after the first game.  Instead, it is a time of hope and renewal as we look towards living out the Gospel in its entirety for the rest of our lives.

Easter Sunday has come and gone.  The candy will disappear over the next few days.  The pastel decorations and colorful eggs will be takn down.  But the celebration continues and requires your active participation.  Continue praying the rosary.  Continue attending Mass.  Continue fasting (maybe after indulging a little on the things you gave up during Lent).  When you meditate on the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary, picture Jesus opening the gates of Heaven in his resurrection.  He showed us that there is so much more to our lives than just what we experience on earth.  We are eternal beings with souls destined for Heaven if we choose.  Our praying, fasting, penance, and charity doesn’t end on Easter.  It ends when the Lord welcomes us into his kingdom that he made available to us through his resurrection.  Keep your rosaries close and God even closer!

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Lent — Winning Spiritual Gold

We are entering a very special time of the year. People all around the globe will come together and really show the extent of the human spirit. People from different countries, languages, and cultures will be united for a few weeks with a common purpose. It will be difficult and require many sacrifices. But in the end, some people will rise up and find a strength they never knew they had and emerge triumphant. Are you ready for… Lent?

Nancy Johnson with her Olympic gold medal
Image via Wikipedia

We are entering a very special time of the year.  People all around the globe will come together and really show the extent of the human spirit.  People from different countries, languages, and cultures will be united for a few weeks with a common purpose.  It will be difficult and require many sacrifices.  But in the end, some people will rise up and find a strength they never knew they had and emerge triumphant.  Are you ready for… the Olympics Lent?

Much like the Olympic games, Lent and Easter are not ordinary times of the year.  It is a special time where we set aside our usual routine and really focus on becoming stronger in our faith.  It is a time to really push ourselves spiritually so that we may win that eternal “gold medal” — God’s grace and a place in His heavenly kingdom.  Athletes train for years in preparation for the Olympics.  Similarly, we must train and build our spiritual muscles in order to get the most out of this holy season.  Similar to last year’s Lenten article, here are some things you can do to earn that “Lenten Gold”

  • Fast: This can be the toughest form of meditation and prayer.  Fast by consuming only one full meal during the day (two smaller meals are allowed to maintain strength).  While most people are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, become a Lenten Olympian by fasting more often.  Try fasting once or twice a week during Lent.  Not ready for that gold medal?  Just try skipping desserts and avoiding snacks.  God sees every small sacrifice.
  • Pray: Allow extra time for prayer.  Wake up five minutes earlier and spend that time in silent meditation.  Remain conscious of Lent by praying throughout the day.  Leaving work?  Coming back from lunch?  Running an errand?  Say a small prayer at any of these times as a reminder of your faith.  Want to go for the gold?  Check with your parish for Stations of the Cross, Adoration, and other Lenten events.
  • Sacrifice:  In the Olympics, earning your place on the podium takes hard work and sacrifice.  You have to constantly adhere to a strict training regiment and never “slack off” or become lazy.  Likewise, making the most of Lent requires making sacrifices.  Give up something difficult like watching television or browsing the internet.  Give up snacking.  Give up alcohol.  Replace your “guilty little pleasures” with prayer and build those spiritual muscles.
  • Know the Rules:  Olympic athletes need to understand the rules of their sport in order to win.  Skiers must know the twists and turns of a hill so that they can stay on the best path and achieve a winning time.  Hockey players need to know what actions result in a penalty and avoid making them.  How do you expect to be a Lenten superstar if you do not understand the rules of the game?  Read Bible passages.  Read a few pages of the Catechism every night.  Learn apologetics.  If you are feeling really ambitious, read one of the Holy Father’s encyclicals.  Knowing your faith will keep you on that winning path.
  • Confession: Even Olympic athletes have bad days.  Sometimes a ski jumper gets out of position and doesn’t get as much distance as he should.  Sometimes a figure skater falls while trying to land after a difficult leap.  But what do they all do?  They get back up, learn from their mistakes, move on, and try to do better the next time.  To be a Lenten athlete we also need to learn from our mistakes, get up, and move on.  Go to Confession.  Purge yourself of your sins, listen to the priest giving you absolution, do your penance, and move on and live in God’s graces.  Want to go for the gold?  Try to convince a loved one who hasn’t received the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a long time to go during Lent.
  • Have a Plan: Olympic athletes set goals.  Skiers have a target time they have to beat in order to win a medal.  Figure skaters have a list of moves they need to complete in their routines.  They just don’t go out there without a strategy and hope that it all comes together.  Likewise, have a plan for Lent.  Make a list of all the spiritual goals you want to accomplish before Easter.  Start now and continually add to the list as you think of new ways to make this Lent an extra special time of prayer.

The holiest time of the year begins in a few days.  Are you prepared?  Are you ready to win that spiritual gold medal?  Please share in the comments any other ways we can all become Lenten superstars.

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