Since I am freshly out of the confessional, I feel the need to be completely honest with myself as I prepare for Lent—the time we set aside to ready ourselves for the greatest day of the year, Easter Sunday.
To me, preparing for Lent instantly conjures up thoughts of what I can give up that will cause me a little, but not too much suffering. I know that’s not the right way to look at this beautiful time of the liturgical year, a time that is set aside to draw us ever deeper into conversion, ever deeper into our relationship with Christ. Still, each year I somehow seem to have a crazy conversation with myself, because determining what I need to forego for 40 days throws me immediately into the whole Elizabeth Kübler Ross five stages of grief. So, today I decided to find a Lenten preparation that would skip stages one through four and just hit stage five, acceptance.
Two days ago at Mass, the priest gave a fabulous homily on how we cannot be a lover of the world and a lover of God at the same time, and I really liked how he explained this concept.
Father talked about how great it would be to be like St. Francis and simply chuck everything worldly to do the work of the Lord. However, he also pointed out that for many of us this may not be as doable as it was for St. Francis. Then he added a beautiful caveat that can help get us to that Franciscan way of living, that can help us give up all worldly possessions. Father simply said, “Serve more.”
When we take time doing the work of the kingdom—when we simply serve more—we become like Christ, and as we begin to transform ourselves more to Christ, we will naturally begin to shed the earthly treasures from our lives. For example, imagine the way you care for possessions as the way you pack a backpack for a hiking trip. At first you pack everything, but as you become familiar with the terrain and the path, you realize you don’t need so much “stuff” to get you to the beautiful mountain top. In fact, you soon learn that less “stuff” allows you to navigate better and brings a heightened awareness to the beauty of your surroundings.
I loved this message, because it is something I can do. I know there is no way I could chuck everything, every earthly possession and become like St. Francis tomorrow, but I can serve more today. And get this, by deciding that this Lent I will serve more, I skip wrestling with denying I can really give up chocolate, or becoming angry at the thought of not having my morning coffee, or bargaining with the Lord halfway through Lent to just let me check my FaceBook once a day, or being depressed that I can’t have my glass of Chardonnay with my fish on Friday. Yep, in deciding to serve, I skip denial, anger, bargaining and depression and move right to acceptance.
Now, I may still give up something this Lent, but my focus is not going to be on my suffering, my focus is going to be on my service. So even if I go without my coffee, I will serve with joy—even if that means serving others a hot cup of yummy coffee!
Here are three things I’m going to add to my life of service this Lent and I invite you to come up with three things you can do to simply serve.
- Serve The Lord: It’s much easier to serve when you know the need, and with that in mind, I’m going to sit with the Lord for an extra hour a week in adoration and listen to where he needs me. (For those of you who don’t know me, sitting in silence is a big sacrifice… it means I give up talking, I give up telling the Lord what I need, or even praising him, or even thanking him. I will do those things throughout the day, because let’s face it, I’m not going to be able to give up talking to or praising the Lord, but for one hour a week I am truly going to sit in silence and just listen to the sound of his voice and listen to where he needs me to be to serve him.)
- Serve My Family: Often the work of evangelization takes me away from my family, physically and sometimes mentally. This Lent, I am going to be extra attentive to serving my family joyfully, especially in the little things such as cooking a favorite meal (that isn’t on my diet), or taking them to their favorite activity (even if I don’t like going to SkyZone and jumping on trampolines—as one who has birthed three babies, there are many reasons I dislike this activity), or reading their favorite bedtime story for the umpteenth time (even though I could recite it in my sleep). Bottom line, I am going to delight in serving each of them, even in their smallest need, because I know the Lord delights in serving me in mine.
- Serve the Body of Christ: Each Saturday throughout Lent (and beyond) I’m going to help others add a richness to their prayer life by inviting them to join me in the beautiful ancient practice of Visio Divina, which is Latin for “divine seeing”. Visio Divina is a method of praying with an image. I was blessed to have been led through a beautiful meditation by Fr. Mark Haydu on a painting from the Vatican Museum while at the Napa Institute last July and it inspired me to lead people through a meditation each week using his beautiful book, Meditations with Vatican Art. Each Saturday throughout Lent, we will walk “The Way of Beauty” and pray with masterpieces from the Vatican Museums. For a description on Visio Divina and to join us in this prayer, visit my blog.
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