Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent and reminds people to be grateful for the sacrifice He made for us. It is a time to ask for forgiveness of sins and embark on a better way of life. We contemplate the past and consider how we can make the future better. Consider five simple ways to celebrate the Lenten season.
Catholics aged fourteen and older are encouraged to eliminate meat on Friday. Adult Catholics are also urged to fast on days such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and each Friday during Lent. Fasting means eating one major meal throughout the day. While these church rules have loosened up over the years, fasting is an excellent way to show Him we remember His sacrifice. When we fast, it is also a good time to pray and meditate. Rather than focusing on food, we can strive to nourish our souls. Fasting is a private matter and should not be announced to everyone. Consider the words of Matthew 6:16-18, "And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
Going to Mass is another way to express our faith and appreciation during Lent. Often we get busy during the year and wind up skipping Mass. Try to attend every Mass during the Lenten season, including special Masses for days such as Ash Wednesday. Listen to the words being spoken during Mass and truly pay attention. Make the effort to say prayers, sing along and receive the Eucharist. Remember He urges us to do it in memory of Him. Mass is a time to gather with other Christians and renew your faith by reading the Bible and praying with a group to strengthen your intentions. If you are sick or unable to attend Mass, you can go online at your convenience.
Often people give something up for Lent. Typically it is an indulgence they enjoy. Making sacrifices shows how much we appreciate His ultimate sacrifice for us. An example is choosing not to eat your favorite chocolate candy during Lent. Some people give up indulging in food, alcohol or cigarettes. These positive habits can be carried over after Lent ends. They benefit our health and overall well-being. Try to quit a bad habit and become a better person. These habits can be negative behaviors such as gossiping or being envious of your neighbor. Let go of behaviors that hold you back from being the best possible Christian.
Give of Yourself
Making donations is an important part of being an active Christian. This year, go beyond donating money to church and worthy causes. Give your time to the church and various causes to show your dedication. In today's economy, it is certainly meaningful to make donations. But it only takes a few minutes to give money. Try giving an hour or two to help others. Drive elderly parishioners to Sunday Mass. Teach a religious education class. Donate food to a soup kitchen and volunteer to give it out or serve it to the needy people in your neighborhood. Touch others and give a piece of yourself during Lent and beyond.
Add Lent to Your Home
Bring the spirit of the Lenten season into your home. Spend a day making hot cross buns for Lent. They are delicious and bring a seasonal feeling into your house. Often hot cross buns are served on Good Friday. Decorate your indoor and outdoor furniture with purple cushions, pillows and blanket, the color of Lent. Get a cross made from palm and seasonal flowers to display on your front door for Easter Sunday. Make palm crosses for your house from the palm distributed at church on Palm Sunday. This is a wonderful way to spend time with your family.
The Lenten season gives us 40 days to improve our lives and show Him our appreciation for His sacrifice. Make the most of these 40 days and strive to learn something about your religion and yourself. Share with others and discover the Holy Spirit that lives in each of us.