Reflections: Observing Lent prepares you for Easter

Saturday, April 11, 2009

People have different ways they observe the season of Lent. You may choose to eat less, attend church or Mass more often or forgo some pleasure. But what does Lent mean to you? Will Easter bring greater joy in your life because of what happened to you during Lent?

Perhaps you want to suffer with Jesus and try to feel his pain and rejection in your own way, accomplish a goal that gives credit to his death, grow closer to God or experience a resurrection yourself?

As a child, I always gave up something, attended church more often and thought about and confessed my sins during Lent. My dad saw to that. I usually relinquished Snickers candy bars. Food was a main sacrifice then. I also tried to empathize with the suffering Jesus endured, physical and mental.

"Are you asleep? Couldn't you stay awake and watch with me even one hour?" Jesus asked Peter, James and John while they slept in Gethsemane (Mark 14). Rejection and depression still cause pain today. It helps to know Jesus felt it, too, and rose above it. We can gain courage from his example.

In general, I attempted to make myself as miserable as possible during Lent. Finally after years of torturing myself, I matured and realized that Lent was not all about punishment. Rather, it was to reflect on the positive benefits of the cross. My ability to have an infinite spiritual life after this earthly temporal one was possible because of what Jesus suffered. I absorbed the wisdom that anything I did could be forgiven if I repented. My present body would eventually be placed in a grave but I would rise again and continue living. Jesus proved that.

After reading scripture and pondering, I decided the best way for me to observe Lent and prepare to rise again was to try to rid myself of questionable habits and grow in love for other people. Loving others more would result in my becoming more cognizant of people's needs -- and responding. I examined my life to see how I could become more Christ-like, to rise from whatever was confining me.

When you become caught up in what goes on every day, it's difficult to stop and evaluate where your life is going. Your death could be that you're where you don't want to be -- stuck in a job that doesn't fit your talents and gifts. Maybe you doubt your abilities, have low self-esteem and you're afraid to venture into a school or pursue other training. You're physically ill, unable to release a grudge or an injury. You can't see that those around you love you. One doesn't always recognize the good will others are extending toward him. You think they don't mean what they say or they expect something in return.

Easter can mean resurrection for everyone if he looks for insights into what he needs to change, forgive, get rid of or continue. You can rise from whatever death is keeping you back and be like Jesus.

On Easter morning you, too, can rise again.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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