The mark of the Cross in ashes on our forehead is a sign we yearly take to signify our entering into the Lenten season, it’s the beginning of a journey of penance and charity, of self-denial and reflection. These things are true of our Lenten experience, but at the core is something far more important and far more powerful.
Lent is about removing the barriers between ourselves and God.
The act of giving something up, of doing more charitable works, of reflecting on God’s words through the bible aren’t meant to be daunting or tedious. How often as a child I entered into Lent “distraught” over the thought of not having chocolates or junk food, or so many other “simple” self-denials that would last for forty days. How long those forty days seemed.
The reality of what we are called to do during this period isn’t to deny ourselves simply for the sake of denial, but instead remove the barriers in our lives that turn our attention from God, that turn our attention from our call as disciples, and more importantly distract us from becoming the saints we are called to be.
The distractions of life can easily turn into moments of weakness that lead to sin, from the simple anger we may feel when someone cuts us off in traffic that momentarily sprouts hate towards our sister or brother in the other car, to more serious sins. Distractions and barriers keep us from being the best version of ourselves, the best disciple we can be.
Lent is a time to remove these barriers and distractions. Sure we can always give something up, but we should be “tactical” in how we choose our self-denial, by giving up the things that cause barriers. If chocolate elicits gluttony, then by denying ourselves of chocolate, we remove a barrier. If in our daily lives we tend to see only the negative, denying the negative and forcing ourselves to look for the positive in any situation can be equally as powerful a Lenten discipline.
Whatever we choose to do this Lent, in preparation and anticipation of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection, let it be removing the barriers that keep us from Him, and keep us from being the disciples He calls us to be.
Lord, Heavenly Father,
Grant in my heart this Lent the insight to see the barriers in my life,
Help me to remove the things that prevent me from loving you fully,
Help me to destroy the barriers that keep me from being the disciple you call me to be,
Grant me the strength to continually strive to remove those barriers, even if I should stumble,
I ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.