Forty Days of Amazing Grace

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Illustration by Frank Kacmarcik, OblSB, Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. Used with permission.

Well here we are again in the midst of these forty days of penance and prayer, sacrifice and fasting, giving up and almsgiving! We began on Ash Wednesday with the ashes that were placed on our foreheads signifying our repentance and the awareness that we are dust and to dust we will return. 

By this time you may be wondering, as I often do, when it will be over. When will Holy Week run its course replacing the difficulty and drudgery of Lent with the alleluias of Easter? 

If this is the way we are feeling about Lent we need to perform a Lenten makeover! Does Lent rightly include the elements of sacrifice and self-giving I alluded to earlier? Absolutely! But there is a surprise lurking underneath the ashes of this holy time. It is forty days of amazing grace, forty days of new vision and new self-understanding, forty days of newly claimed power over the sins and the inertia that often dominate our lives! Lent invites us to enter into a new focus on that which truly matters and God’s action in our lives. Lent reveals how God can transform us and make us clearer signs of His presence in the world. 

The first Preface of the Mass for Lent says it better than I ever could: 

For by your gracious gift each year 

your faithful await the sacred paschal feasts 

with the joy of minds made pure, 

so that, more eagerly intent on prayer 

and on the works of charity, 

and participating in the mysteries 

by which they have been reborn, 

they may be led to the fullness of grace 

that you bestow on your sons and daughters. 

Did you notice any reference to sorrow and sadness? With such great potential for blessing in our lives Lent should not be seen as a time of woe. Quite the contrary! 

Let’s get after it! Joy awaits! 

Bishop Mark Seitz

The Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz, DD, is bishop of El Paso, Texas.