The privileged season of Lent begins in just a few days with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. Though, perhaps, somewhat rushed, this gives us a small amount of time to prepare ourselves to enter fully into this period of preparation. To do that, however, we need to know what we hope to accomplish during these forty days leading up to Easter.
One of the great gifts of our faith is the promise, not only of salvation, but also of sanctification. We are not merely declared justified by the Blood of the Lamb. His Blood transforms us. God can and, at times, does bring about our salvation in a moment, as when he promised the good thief: “this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.” Yet, we do not look to the good thief as a model of Christian perfection, holiness, and newness of life in Christ. Rather, we look to the lives of Saints who, over weeks, months and years slowly began to shine more and more radiantly with the new life of Christ.
Like the Saints, we are called to an ever-greater transformation of our interior lives. This process is called sanctification – being made holy or God-like. It is a gift of God’s grace in our lives and the fruit of our cooperation with that grace. Though we are called to greater sanctity every day of our lives, in the great season of Lent, we renew our commitment and focus our efforts to grow in that holiness to which we are called. As Christians, our goal in Lent is a deepening experience of sanctification.
As sanctification is the fruit of our cooperation with God’s transforming grace in our lives, it is necessary to know the means by which we are to cooperate. To that end, Christ gives us three tools or means by which we cooperate in the work of sanctification: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Each of these requires further reflection to understand the way in which they lead us upon the path of sanctification; each will be considered in more detail throughout this season. For now, though, it is enough that Christ has given us these as our tools and that the Saints have used them without fail to such great effect throughout the centuries. In the next three days, we each can select and commit to concrete methods in which to pray, fast, and give alms throughout Lent so as to cooperate with God’s grace and experience more fully His sanctification – the transformation of our interior lives as we put on the likeness of Christ.
Stations of the Cross
Every year in Rome, a custom that originated over 15 centuries ago is observed-the visiting of Station Churches. Nowadays, during the 40 Days of Lent, Catholics throughout Rome join together visiting and praying at a different church each day. This is easily done since there are over 400 Catholic Churches! This year, we will be doing something similar by observing a Stational Stations of the Cross. Each Friday during Lent, the priests of Walla Walla will gather at 7PM in one of our parishes for a communal celebration of the Stations of the Cross. The schedule is as follows:
Feb. 12th – St. Francis
Feb. 19th – Assumption
Feb. 26th – St. Patrick
Mar. 4th – St. Francis
Mar. 11th – Assumption
And, as this is Walla Walla, how could we all gather together without food! As such, the Knights of Columbus Fish Fry will also be following the same schedule and open from 4-7PM. Hope to see you there!
P.S. I know I had promised to talk about vocations to the religious life this week, but Lent snuck up on me. I will return to this most blessed of vocations following our Lenten season.