At Mass yesterday, Father said something in his homily I didn't quite expect. He said, "Lent is a time to think about your own mortality."
I'm not trying to be all morbid on a Monday morning (because Monday's are hard enough!). You also might be thinking, "Well, yeah, of course Lent is a time to think about that. Don't we start off with 'You are dust and to dust you shall return' on Ash Wednesday?"
And we do. But after Father said it, I realized I don't spent much time in Lent reflecting on the end of my days on this earth. To start off with, I think about what I'm giving up (this year, it's cheese). Then there's the remembering not to eat meat on Fridays, of course. Mostly, though, I just go about my day as usual, perhaps with a few extra prayers thrown in. I'm certainly not thinking about death. I have my usual preoccupations with work, daydreams, and errands I need to run.
I don't think Father meant that we're to think about it constantly, though. No one really likes to think about death. We all have things we want to accomplish in life, and the idea that we might not reach certain milestones is frustrating. Death is also a separation from those we love, and as anyone who has lost someone knows, that can be very painful, even if we have faith in the Lord. But for Christians, death is also a journey TO someone we love, to Christ and his love, and that is the reason we should have no fear.
We'll hear it later in Lent during this reading from 1 Corinthians 15: 55-57. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
One day, our life on earth will be through. But we will go to a new life in Heaven, eternal life, won for us by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Lent is part of that journey, about preparing our hearts for both the Resurrection at Easter, and for the day we will meet God face to face.
You might be wondering about my Lenten sacrifice. Why cheese? I hadn't given up a food in a while, and I both love and eat lots of cheese. Although at first I was contemplating doing way too much: going to daily Mass, upping my at-the-moment negligible gym attendance to every day (ha!), giving up buying books, adding more spiritual reading to what I'm already doing, donating extra money to charities.
But we're not supposed to go overboard. Our sacrifice, while supposed to be something we will miss, is also meant to be manageable. And while not eating cheese for 40 days may seem silly, it's making me think consciously about what I'm eating -- something I haven't been too good about lately. Much of my snacking involves cheese, and I use cheese in recipes and on sandwiches without thinking. On Fridays, when we abstain from meat, I'm even more conscious of it now, since I can't just make macaroni and cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich. I came thisclose to eating baked ziti at a baby shower on Saturday, the heaping spoon of cheesy pasta poised over my plate, before I remembered...
As for those other things I mentioned first off, I am trying to do some of them. It's ok to change your Lenten sacrifice if what you decided initially isn't working. And don't beat yourself up if you slip. We're human.
Also, if you're looking to add something to your Lenten journey in the short term, today begins the Novena to St. Joseph. You can join it here: http://www.praymorenovenas.