How do you view Lent? Is it a long, torturous season, full of sacrifices?
Nineteenth-century writer Frederick Charles Woodhouse perfectly summarizes the prevailing mood of most people in his Manual for Lent.
“There is a shadowy gloom that broods over the whole season, partly the darkness that for those three hours, and ever since, hangs about the Cross; partly the solitary darkness that all penitents instinctively seek, as they hide themselves from the world’s eyes, and all alone gaze down into the forbidding secret places of their own hearts.”
We often view Lent as a painful season of sacrifice, and for this reason, “The season of Lent is to many more or less repulsive and unwelcome.”
However, it doesn’t have to be that way! Instead, we should try to look at Lent as a season of spiritual renewal and freedom. It presents a special opportunity to eliminate from ourselves all that prevents us from an intimate relationship with God, so that we can experience the peace and freedom of a child of God.
We don’t always see the good in suffering or making sacrifices, but when we have a proper perspective, we can look forward to depriving ourselves of a little temporal happiness in order to attain a much greater happiness that endures, as Woodhouse explains.
“Let us look at our sins as so many obstacles and barriers in the way of our happiness; and shall we not hasten to embrace all means that may do away with them, and fit our souls to be with God…Let us pray ever and strive after this faith of God’s saints, so will Lent be to us no more dull and repulsive, but wholesome, welcome, fruitful of peace and joy.”
Or as Pope Francis frequently points out, “You have never heard of a sad or gloomy-faced saint!”