Saint Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church, once said: “A beginner must look on himself as one setting out to make a garden for his Lord’s pleasure, on most unfruitful soil which abounds in weeds. His Majesty roots up the weeds and will put in good plants instead.”
What are the weeds in our lives? For some, it may be struggling to find time in their day to set aside for God. For others it’s being consistent, whether in prayer, attending Mass, or other activities.
Lent is a time of sacrifice and preparation. In being honest with ourselves and concrete when setting our intentions, we can dedicate ourselves more fully to this Lenten season.
The first step in preparation for Lent can often be the hardest: choosing what to give up or what we want to add onto our plates. A good place to start is through reflection.
I often find myself getting distracted by classes and homework enough that I end up pushing God to the side. In taking a moment to examine our actions now, we can locate the spots where we could use improvement.
Out of these, what is it that you want to focus on in particular? I tend to go into Lent ready to give up half of the foods in my life and completely rearrange my everyday schedule.
However, while a spirit of readiness is a wonderful aid during the Lenten season, we don’t want to overextend ourselves. Better to have one or two things to focus on well during Lent, rather than four or five that are inconsistent.
Once we locate what it is we want to focus on during the Lenten season, whether it be a spirit of thankfulness or a more intimate connection with God, it becomes easier to decide what exactly to give up for Lent.
Many people give up different foods for Lent. Mortification of the body done through fasting or abstinence can train the spirit alongside the body. By giving up a food, we must resist temptation and strengthen our wills.
In the same way, we must also resist the temptation of sin in our lives. When we strengthen our wills in small things, such as against the desire to eat a specific food, we prepare ourselves for a much greater battle against the forces of sin.
St. Teresa of Avila puts this succinctly as, “Our body has this defect that, the more it is provided care and comforts, the more needs and desires it finds.”
And while Lent is a season of sacrifice, it is just as good to choose to add something to your life during Lent than just practicing abstinence.
This can be going to daily Mass once during the week, attending confession if you don’t usually go regularly, or setting aside time to go to adoration during the week. It can even be as small as spending a minute in prayer every morning after waking up.
When asked about her plans for Lent this year, freshman education major Abbey Garza said: “I am going to start adding time in my schedule to spend in silence in front of the sacrament, starting with at least twice a week. I’m also going to be reading a chapter a day of my book, ‘I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux.’
“[Lent] gives me space to pause and look around and be grateful for my blessings and to spend more time with God. Making the penances and acts of service a part of my daily routine help me stay consistent.”
Any sacrifice or act of service offered up to God is accepted by him, no matter how small.
What matters just as much as our intentions during Lent is that we are concrete when setting them. By first examining ourselves and how we want to improve, we can set our intentions with honesty and dedication toward God.
Make sacrifices and acts of service that can help you grow in the areas you know need improvement. Lastly, find strength in those around you. Pray with friends, attend Mass together and look to God for fortitude when confronted with desire. Lent is full of anticipation. With honesty and intentionality, we too can walk with Jesus in this time of preparation.