Keeping Jesus the focus of Lent

This Lent, keep your focus on Jesus

… and your Father who sees … (Mt 6:6)

Lent is almost upon us. Welcome to that time of year when we set out with all our hearts to grow in holiness. For me, it’s easy to look at the road to holiness and feel a little overwhelmed because I get so off track. It’s easy for me to look at Lent as a time to “bear down” and try to do some really hard stuff. My intentions are good, but these words from the Ash Wednesday Gospel hit my heart. Most years I set out to do some crazy long list of stuff in order to “make up” for all my shortcomings the rest of the year. Lent certainly has a penitential feel and purpose, but it’s not a time to lock ourselves in a personal dungeon and be crabby and miserable for six weeks.

I think I wanted to do hard stuff so Jesus would see me and notice all the sacrifice and love and suffering. The Father sees … he sees all the time, and he sees us with such love and mercy. It makes me think of a chubby-cheeked baby and how I just want to kiss their cheeks when I see one! I believe the Father looks at us that way every … single … time! He’s always looking, he doesn’t miss a thing, so that realization changed the way I think about Lent. The point is not to get the Father’s attention; not to get him to look at me and the hard stuff I’m doing. The point is to get me to look at him! What we “give up” this Lent should be something we don’t pick back up! We need to give up those things that take our focus off him so if they are coming between us now, they will probably come between us later, so why not ditch ‘em?

If you’ve ever taken children to the pool, you know how many times they can say “Hey, watch this” in a 30-minute span. That was the way I did Lent; “Hey Jesus, look at me I’m not eating chocolate,” or “Hey Jesus, did you see that I went to an extra daily Mass today, wasn’t that good of me, doesn’t that count for extra?” It was almost like a giant score card, and Lent was the bonus round. Now, I realize it’s about me watching him. It sure takes a lot of the pressure off! My biggest Lenten task is to do the things that help me fix my gaze on him. If I’m looking to him and I know he’s looking at me, that influences my choices and attitudes; that helps me grow in holiness.

Pray: Take some time to pray about your Lenten journey. Ask the Father to show you the things you should “give up” and not “pick back up” – things that will help you look at Jesus the way he looks at you.

Study: Make a commitment to read a book about our Catholic faith this Lent. It could be a book about the Mass, such as A Biblical Walk through the Mass, by Edward Sri. It could be about discipleship, such as Walk in Her Sandals, by Kelly Wahlquist, or The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity, by Matthew Kelly. Just pick up a book and draw closer.

Engage: Join your parish family and participate in Lenten devotions such as the Stations of the Cross, the rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet, or make a commitment to attend an extra Mass each week. In the true spirit of Lent, invite someone to join you.

Serve: Take a look at the “things” that fill your home. Are there things you can offer to those in need? Consider giving up some of the clothes, shoes, toys and things that fill your home. The sacrifice of parting with some of your “extra” could be a great blessing to someone in great need. Consider offering your daily coffee or weekly pizza night money to a shelter or agency that serves those in need. 

Sheri Wohlfert is a Catholic school teacher; speaker; writer and founder of Joyful Words Ministries. Sheri blogs at www.joyfulwords.org