A dying to sin, a new life in Christ.
This is what must be the meaning of anyone's Lent ~ an ending, a death to sin...and a beginning, a rising in life with Him.
As He went into the desert for forty days to meditate, pray, fast and commune with His Father, so we, too, must use the next forty days for the same purpose, if our Easter ~ our rising ~ is to have any value at all.
Every year, on Palm Sunday, we are given a branch from a tree that we "wave" before the Lord, as He rides into our hearts as our King. But at this time, are we really able to understand and believe what He is truly about? Somehow I doubt it.
Would we have been among the elect chosen ones, the ones who recognized Him and believed that He was truly the Lord of all, not just some earthly king, but a Heavenly King, come to do His Father's will and save us all from eternal damnation? Or perhaps we would be among those who wanted to believe that He only came to free us from the slavery of the Roman Empire, to overthrow the Caesars and to raise up the Jewish nation to power and prestige.
Fortunately, this is not how God works, as much as we poor mortals would wish otherwise, and we are the richer for it.
To make sacrifices for our own souls and also for the souls of others ~ requested over and over again by our Blessed Lady ~ this is what He came to teach us how to do. Time and time again Mary points us to Her Son, the Son of God, and the example He showed us by His complete obedience to the will of His Father...even to the Cross itself. If that's what it takes to get us to Heaven, then believe it or not, it is worth every bit of the suffering to get us there!
To smear a bit of ash on one's forehead is not a big deal as far as it goes, if one is not going to follow through and make a real and new beginning at Easter, starting with the first moment of Lent. But to understand what we mean when we do that is an entirely different thing.
From the first instant we believe that we are destined for something so much greater than we can possibly imagine, comparing eternal life to mortal life ~ and Lent becomes more than a mere succession of days to us.
It becomes a way of life.
Even after Lent is over, our Easter is here, and we are back to living our everyday lives, there should be a change in us that is so profound it would take a mountain of demons to budge it! We should be so engrossed in a new spiritual life, a new way of seeing everything and everyone around us that we cannot imagine how we were ever able to stand ourselves before!
We really must take advantage of this new Lent to start fresh, one day at a time, and move our very souls closer to realizing that Jesus Christ is our destination, our Way, our final reward.
And the only way we will ever reach Him is by living our Lent in the best way we possibly can! Let us resolve, therefore, at this very moment in time, even though Lent has already begun, to do better every day, every minute, and place ourselves in the care of the Virgin and Her faithful servants, the Holy Angels themselves, so that we, too, may one day realize our final resting place in the very bosom of the Heavenly Father Himself ~ all glory to Him forever! (Amen.)