Lent is a season that challenges us to be better Catholics. Photo/Wikimedia Commons via Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ [http://bit.ly/1xiMDz7]

Lent is a season of unsettling lessons learned

  • March 19, 2015

Lent has a way of unsettling us, of shaking up our easy routines and making us question what more we should be doing as part of our Christian obedience.

This Lenten testing gets underway for me every year at the Ash Wednesday Mass. There, without variation, the Gospel reading exhorts us to: “Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice . . . And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them
 . . . When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do . . .”

Got that? Every year Matthew instructs us to not be showy in our almsgiving, our prayer or our fasting. And then, Mass concluded, we head back out into the streets with a black, cruciform smudge of ashes on our foreheads, a sign that telegraphs to the world: “Hey, I just got out of church where I was praying, fasting and almsgiving. What do you think of that? Aren’t I just about the most thoughtful and pious individual you’ve ever locked eyes on?”

Well, nowadays it’s actually a minority of people who know enough about the symbolism of the Church to think anything about you at all, except that you aren’t very diligent with a facecloth.

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