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Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 17, 2021

I want to start today with the idea of asking Jesus to inform you what you need to do this Lent to strengthen your relationship with him and with his Church. Too often in my life I try to identify doing everything myself. I like to think about having everything in control, rather than trusting others. Nowhere do I struggle with this more than in trusting God.

So how do I grow in this? First, I must admit I need help from God. The first step to solving a problem is to admit that it is in fact a problem. So, I will admit it. I struggle sometimes to trust God. I do not always find it easy to believe he has a plan for me. When things are not going as I planned them, when I am stressed, when I suffer, then in my life I find it difficult to see the blessings God has in store for me, and even worse, can doubt those blessings even exist!

And so seeing again more clearly is what Lent is all about. I have been listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz’ The Bible in a Year Podcast. One thing that changed my thinking was his observation that the story of Joseph in Genesis, or the story of Moses and the Israelites in Exodus, or the experiences of Job in the Book of Job are all instances where there was profound suffering. But in the end, the profound suffering resulted in even greater blessings. And not greater blessings after the suffering, but greater blessings during the sufferings!

Once you have admitted your lack of trust (because come on, isn’t this a challenge for all of us?) then it is time to take the bold step with Jesus. What is it in my life that is keeping me from trusting God more? Struggle to make time to pray? Then maybe I need the courage to examine my life to identify the ways in which I choose activities that are not supportive to my life of prayer and faith. Find it difficult to get along with this or that person? Pray for them. Can’t imagine just a few seconds without your phone? Put it away where it is not on your person for periods of time. Wondering how many likes you got on that latest post even though you should be spending time with your family. Maybe this is a good time to fast from social media. Maybe it is a good time to read the catechism, or the bible, or to delve into the writings of a saint.

Whatever it is, it begins with identifying just where you need to make more room for Jesus in your heart. Maybe you look to your parish. If you can, maybe you try to go to daily Mass or to celebrate the stations. Maybe your parish is offering something new for Lent that would really cause you to think, to pray, to reflect. Often parishes have resources and materials that can offer assistance. Your parish may be using something online in the time of pandemic. If not, I would suggest going to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website section on Lent, where there are some resources to help. You could go to the prayer section of this website if you would like to start devotional prayers. We will also be offering daily reflections for each day of Lent. You could use the time you drive to work to pray the rosary or listen to a Catholic podcast. The most important thing is to think about how to enter more fully into prayer with an open heart. Jesus will do the rest.

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