Journey through Lent 2019 at St. Anthony's
This is the first installment of Lenten Reflections from the Pews. To receive a reflection written by different parishioners every weekday during this Lent, email us to subscribe.

Ash Wednesday
March 6, 2019

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. The word Lent, derives from the Old English word lencten , meaning 'spring season'. I do believe we can all agree that this has been a long and brutal winter for many. With joy and hope stirring in our hearts we can anticipate the upcoming warmth and awakening of spring.

We are so beautifully blessed to receive this time of grace to pray, fast, give to others, and suffer with Our Lord Jesus as we turn away from sin and begin anew. A few centuries ago when Lent began, new Catholics had to go through a process of purification before completing the process of entering the church. They had to identify what was still holding them back from fully giving their lives to God.

Fasting. When I used to think of the concept, I immediately imagined Lent and thought, "Hmm, what should I give up this year?" It felt so routine. I would go without a favorite treat or soda, and I'm not sure how much I grew from the experience. I was not fasting with gratitude in my heart. When I put myself at the foot of the cross or picture myself sitting with Jesus in the garden, I am happy to suffer alongside Him. We often think of fasting as a burden or a hindrance that can be quite unwelcome. Fasting frees us from the bonds of our material possessions, leaving more room for God in our now peaceful hearts. Fasting should draw us closer to Jesus and doesn't have to have anything to do with food. How many times do you check your phone for a text, a social media app, or your e-mail each day? How quickly do you come home and switch the television on? When driving in your car, do you often have secular music playing just to get you through the day? Let the Lenten season quiet your heart. Take these moments to listen to a Christian radio station, to add a daily reflection app to your phone, to pray or listen to the rosary, or to just be still.
In the first and second readings today, there is a strong call to reconciliation. In the Bible, Ezekiel says, "But if the wicked turn away from all their sins that they have committed and keep all my statues and do what is lawful and right, they shall surely live; they shall not die. None of the transgressions that they have committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that they have done they shall live" (Ez 18:21-22). Have you ever listened to Father Mike Schmitz from Ascension Press? He does a wonderful job of dispelling any fears you might have about going to confession. Perhaps you are returning to make a confession after many years. He encourages us that it is not a place of judgement, in fact he says he has something called 'divine amnesia' where he forgets what he hears! Yet, the confessional becomes a place of victory for us to return to Jesus fully and with a joyful heart. If you are ever struggling to bring your thoughts together and don't know what to bring to your confession, I think he gives us a wonderful place to begin. "Has God been number one in your life? Has He been the center of your life?" With everything increasingly material and secular competing for the number one spot in our lives, let's start by simplifying this Lenten season.

In the Gospel today we hear, "But when you pray, go to your private room, shut yourself in, and so pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you". We are to trust that God knows our every intention. Many times when Jesus performed His miracles, he would say, "See that you tell no one what has happened". He did not ask for fame or for others to glorify His actions. Again, Father Schmitz shares four reasons for fasting and one reason to not fast. The only reason we should not fast is to get God's attention, or the attention of others. The reasons we should are very profound.
1. We can grow in self mastery. As we say no to our constant self-gratification, we say no to the evil surrounding us daily and deny our own legitimate pleasures.
2. We show obedience and gain discernment . We act as the disciples did as they let the Holy Spirit guide them.
3. We worship and sacrifice . Sacrifice is always oriented towards worship. As you fast, your entire day becomes a day of worship.
4. We become a co-redeemer with Jesus . St. Paul rejoiced in his sufferings for Jesus' sake. Jesus suffered fully for us in His death on the cross, but we can experience the redemption of the world along with Him. We can unite our suffering with the suffering of Jesus for the salvation of the world.

I would like to finish my reflection by touching upon one of my favorite saints, Saint Therese of Lisieux. Often known as the 'Little Flower of Jesus' she saw herself as simple, and "bloomed where God planted her." As we dive into the season of Lent let us, "Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love." (St. Therese of Lisieux) St. Therese devoted her short time on earth to glorifying God in even the smallest acts. Let us strive to not only make this a great Lenten season, but a way of life as we learn to find joy right where God has planted us.   

Meredith Dreasler
St. Anthony Parishioner (and Eucharistic minister and Lector for Daily Mass)