It is a practice in our Benedictine community to read Chapter 49 from the Rule of Benedict on Ash Wednesday. “The Observance of Lent’ is an insightful chapter that sets the Season of Lent into perspective. We read it yesterday as an introduction to Lauds. The first line of C49 can be rather startling ‘The life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent’! Oh no..is usually my first reaction. In my experience Lent can be rather a ‘downer’ when we are focusing on our faults, limitations and repenting for those times we are less than. I am not sure about a life of that!!! But, I admit, that is a small view of Lent.
Reading further in C49 always grounds me in a broader view of reflecting on my daily life and working to improve as Christ calls me to do. Basically, life is a conversion. Lent is that particular time of the year when conversion is the primary focus. Benedict goes on in the Chapter and explains Lent is about ‘refusing to indulge in evil habits’ ; ‘devoting ourselves to prayer’; ‘to reading’; to ‘self-denial’; and ‘to compunction of heart.’ In other words, we are about being positive in our behavior; adding a portion of prayer and reading to our lives that is over and above our regular practice or, perhaps, has a particular focus we need to reflect upon; giving up something of value (food, drink, idle talk, sleep is mentioned) and being regretful of time we have been less than in words, deeds or thoughts. I value Lent because it causes me to open my life up and take a hard look at myself. It is a yearly reflection that forces me to pause, evaluate, set priorities and meditate on the coming Passion of Christ. In other words, I am more conscientious of my conversion.
We often associate Lent with being in the desert – almost like companioning Jesus during his time in the desert. This is a good image and Lent can be a desert experience that serves as a good image of discernment. Jesus, in his desert experience, must grapple with the path He must follow. It is a struggle to resist temptation and listen to the voice of His Father. Perhaps it is a challenge for Him to hear God’s voice in the midst of so many possibilities in life. Of course we know Jesus chooses the true path laid out for Him by His Father. Not an easy path whatsoever..but one He knows is the true way for Him. Jesus’ desert is a conversion experience for Him. It is the time He needs to turn more directly to God and follow His heart. It is God that directs Jesus’ Lent and leads Him in His conversion. Likewise, our world fills us with possibilities that are enticing. In the midst of those voices we must find the One Voice that resonates with our heart. The Lenten practices you embrace can be the conversion experience that allows you the same freedom as Jesus – to listen and choose God’s way above all others.
If you are looking for other Lenten reflections, you might ‘tune in’ to the Creighton University Campus Ministry site. They have some good Lenten reflections that serve as an introduction and then followed by weekly reflections on the Sunday Scriptures. They also have mobile reflections you can download to your phone. The first in the series: Preparing for Lent (11 min.) at onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/Audio-Conversations/Lent-Conversations.html.