What path will your Lent take?

Many find it helpful to be more intentional or deliberate for Lent, but what should be our focus? On Ash Wednesday, we heard one of two admonishments with the signing of ashes on our foreheads: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.” Although self-improvement is important and helpful, pondering these two utterances points us beyond the superficial to something deeper.
The first sounds a little dark. It invites us to reflect on our death. It is as if you hear the doctor give you somber words, “Get your affairs in order, you’re going to die.” Are you ready for your judgment?
The second doesn’t sound as harsh or morbid, but it still has an urgency in its tone. It speaks more of a way of being – not fearful, but needing to alter our path, a conversion. It sounds warmer, softer, like turning back to see the one we know who loves us.  
In last year’s Ash Wednesday address, Pope Francis urged another focus – not so much upon ourselves, but on other people. He asked that we make Lent a time to say no: no to indifference, by not thinking that other people’s lives are not our concern . . . no to attempts to trivialize life . . . no to a life burdened by so much superficiality.
What path will our Lent take this year? By focusing on Sunday’s Gospel, we will recall Jesus’ own 40-day sojourn in the desert after he was driven out there by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan. We would do well to imitate Jesus, as his path was not “self-led” but led by the Holy Spirit. In effect, we are letting God take the wheel, so to speak, in this year’s Lenten journey. 
Again, I find Pope Francis helpful in making this Lenten journey more intentional when he tells us, “Lent is a path: It leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children . . .  a road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life.” It is our path to our own Easter, our very own resurrection.
Father William L'Heureux is pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in Silver Creek, St. Rose of Lima Parish in Genoa and St. Peter and Paul Parish in Krakow.
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