In a few hours Lent 2012 will be upon us. Today's reading from the Gospel of Mark (9:30-37) is the perfect reminder of what Lent is supposed to be about; the key is right at the end. Jesus tells the disciples that the first shall be last and the last shall be first, then Jesus sets a child in their midst. The New American Bible (official translation of the American Catholic Church) states, "Whoever receives one such child..." I prefer the New Jerusalem Bible translation; 'Anyone who welcomes a little child such as this in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me.'
That's it, that is what Lent is about...welcoming God deeper into our lives. As a kid I remember thinking that Lent was about giving something up (mainly sweets) and that was about it. It wasn't explained to me why giving up sweets should bring me closer to God. I often heard that giving up sweets wasn't a "good enough" penance. People who say things like that clearly do not understand how much I love sugar. No sweets for all of Lent was (and still is) a big deal for me. Only if someone could have broken it down simply like this: "Deirdre, when you really want to have dessert or some candy, say a prayer to God for the strength to say no. Or, you can say prayers for souls in Purgatory for your "suffering" for sweets. This is why we give something up during Lent, so that we can fill up that space with God." Man, that would've made so much sense to me as a kid!
So, here I am on the eve of Lent and trying to figure out how to welcome more of God into my life. This year I've decided to take fasting seriously by doing it more frequently than required. I'm horrible at fasting and I hate it! So, I figure that is a good sign that it's something that I should work on. I pray that it will help me to decrease so that God may increase.
Also, I'm reading Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. It was written 1608 and you'd think it was written today. It's a timeless classic on spirituality and very accessible; you don't need a theology degree for this. St. Francis de Sales wrote simply and clearly about how to welcome God into your life.