Although our major celebrations coincide roughly with seasonal changes, we do not necessarily experience this. Christmas, for example, aligns with the start of winter, but we might have been feeling winter weeks before December 21st. Lent roughly coincides with spring, but its start may not feel any different from the cold and chilly weeks before.
Whether spring comes early or late, Lent still takes place. From ancient times, Catholics have set aside these forty days before Easter as a period of growing intensity, of consciously greater concentration on what God calls us to be and do.
Lent is the beginning of the most significant time of the Church’s liturgical year. Lent marks the first part of a focused season that runs from Ash Wednesday through Pentecost Sunday, ninety days in all. The forty days of Lent prepare us for Easter; the fifty days after Easter or the Easter season direct us toward Pentecost, when the Church expands the world changing implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Lent, as it calls us to prepare for Easter through a more concentrated look into our hearts, seems to parallel what happens in the world of sports. Whatever the weather is in a particular city, media outlets there start to carry stories of baseball players in spring training, an intense period of concentration when players get ready for the baseball season. We read about workouts, special training procedures, and the physical condition of the players. We can feel the players’ muscles flex. We can sense the strain as winter’s flabbiness melts under the discipline of spring.
What about our spiritual condition? Our spiritual flabbiness? Our inner strength?
Lent calls us to our own spring training. It’s focused time to advance on the journey God wills for us, a time for concerted personal effort. Fortunately, though, it’s also a time when we Catholics, as a community, help each other grow in replenishing our faith.
It’s spiritual spring training. So let’s get ready.
How are Lent and Easter a significant time in your life? Do you think you’re giving this season the attention it deserves?
Choose one of your favorite figures from sports or the arts. Try to imagine what that person goes through to get ready for working in his or her field. See if that example has anything to say to you.
Lord, help me get ready for this new spiritual season. Help me, with my sister and brother believers, to undertake the changes that you call me to make. Help me focus on your Son, Jesus, as he prepares to guide me through the mysteries of his death and resurrection. Give me the strength to follow his example. Make me aware of the power of your Spirit present in my life.