Those of you who know me know that I am all about having fun. I love to laugh and often use the phrase, “You have to make your own fun.” I have found throughout my life that laughter lightens the spirit and brings joy to every situation. It does not recognize differences or conflicts, rather it can serve as a bridge over many great divides. I am proud to say I have brought laughter to places it has never been and given people a reason to laugh on more than one occasion. But as I look ahead to Lent it struck me, for the first time, that Lent might be the one exception to my “laughter makes everything better” rule.
The question is this – As Catholics can the season of Lent be fun, be joy-filled, be lighthearted? By definition (from the Oxford dictionary) Lent is the period preceding Easter that in the Christian Church is devoted to fasting, abstinence, and penitence in commemoration of Christ's fasting in the wilderness. In the Western Church it runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday and so includes forty weekdays. Admittedly, on the surface that does not sound like there is any room for fun or spiritual lighthearted joy, but I would like to dig a little deeper.
During Lent we are supposed to be preparing ourselves for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Fasting, abstinence and penance are traditionally ways that we come to ready ourselves for this amazing celebration. But what if we added some new ways to prepare ourselves for Christ’s Easter glory. A lot of what we choose to do during Lent to prepare for Easter, we do alone. Prayer, scripture reading, reconciliation, abstinence are all singular activities that do not have to be so. Why not take our Lenten devotion, whatever it is, and share it with someone else? Why not make some changes during Lent that facilitate our own spiritual enrichment as well as someone else’s?
When we share our spiritual journey with others during Lent, our experiences become enriched, and our preparation enhanced. The joy of living out the gospel message can be seen more clearly, for as Matthew’s Gospel teaches us: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Some ideas for sharing your Lenten practices might include starting a prayer group or Scripture study, sponsoring a service project for your family and friends, or sharing your spiritual preparation with others so that on Easter morning you will be able to celebrate the joy of the resurrection with others.
As Christians, we are communal people, created to live together, work together and worship together. Our lives are enhanced daily by others sharing their gifts and talents with us. This Lent, open your heart and your mind and share your gifts and talents with others to help them better prepare for Easter. If we are all able to do this during Lent, our Christian witness could change the world.
Pope Francis says it best when he speaks about Christian joy rooted in God’s unconditional love for us. He writes, “Joy adapts and changes, but it always endures, even as a flicker of light born of our personal certainty that, when everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved.”
By Andrea D. Hoisl