Lent is a time to take stock

My experience has been that far too much of our lives are often spent running in the fast lane. Many people, myself included, seem to go from one thing to the next without much time for reflection in between. There are times when I actually long for the days when I would complain to my mother that I was bored. I had a hard time doing nothing.

Although my actions don’t always witness to it, I am convinced that we are not meant to live at such a rapid pace. We need time to reflect on our experiences and on our relationships, especially with God.

The season of Lent affords us a great opportunity to pull over out of the fast lane. We are invited to slow down and fill in the spiritual potholes in our lives.

Every year the church, in its wisdom, gives us 40 days as kind of an annual retreat to spend the time examining our spiritual lives and our relationship with God.

Lent is a yearly opportunity to reflect on how well we are living out our Baptismal commitment and whether our actions are in line with the gospel message.

Our Catholic tradition guides us to use the disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as ways to renew our spiritual lives during Lent — and throughout our lives. Now is a good time to assess how we live our faith and take stock of our lives.

During this 40 days, we might look at how much quality time we give to the Lord. Maybe our prayer life is limited to Mass on Sunday and a quick prayer before meals, if we remember and no one is looking at us. Maybe we pray primarily when we need a favor, but during Lent we can try to slow down enough to have a real conversation with God — and give him a bit of our time.

No relationship can deepen and grow unless we are willing to listen and share ourselves with the other person. God is no exception.

If you don’t already, set aside 15 minutes of your quality time each day to be with God. Go to a quiet place, take a deep breath, and let God love you. Read and reflect upon a Scripture each day and get to know him better.

I know this is not always easy for us at first. I remember when I first went into the convent and was expected to make an hour of silent contemplation every day. I wasn’t used to being quiet that long. At first it seemed like an eternity to me, so I suggest starting slow, then building up to more time with God.

The second Lenten tradition is fasting. The majority of people think fasting means to give up some kind of food, like candy or ice cream, but there is more than one way to fast. It depends on us what type of fasting would best benefit our spiritual lives. Maybe it would be more beneficial for us to fast from gossip or negative words or some other behavior that only God and we know.

Perhaps we need to talk less and become better listeners. Those in the fast lane rarely have time to hear what people say. They are usually preoccupied and rushing to the next important event or checking off their to-do lists.

Lastly, there is the discipline of almsgiving. It can be much easier to give our loose change to a charitable cause than to give the precious gift of our time.

Lent calls us to give of ourselves, not just our money. We can look at our lives and see who needs more of our quality time and who could benefit from our gifts and talents. This season is an opportunity to take our focus off ourselves and reach out in love to our brothers and sisters.

Besides our time, another thing we may be called to give during Lent is forgiveness to someone who has hurt us. It might even be someone who has died. Maybe we need the grace to ask for forgiveness from someone we have injured. This is also a sacrifice pleasing to God, because reconciliation is an integral part of the Gospel message.

As Lent begins, let us try to be more reflective about how we pray, fast and give. It is difficult to get out of the fast lane, but it will benefit our Christian journeys. Meetings, jobs, term papers and classes will pass away but our relationship with God is forever.  

I hope you have a happy and holy Lent.

Sister Margie Lavonis is a Sister of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Ind., and writes “The Cutting Edge.” Contact her at mlavonis@cscsisters.org.