Happy Mardi Gras!
January 6th marked the traditional celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany; when the three wise men came and presented their gifts to the Christ Child. For us here in New Orleans January 6th is the Feast of Kings, which begins our Mardi Gras Season. The day begins with the traditional arrival of the “King Cake” and the beginning of the Mardi Gras parade season with three parades: The Big Chiefs, Joan of Arc, and Phunny Phellows.
Mardi Gras 2021 will be different for everyone. While there was the celebration of the arrival of the “King Cake,” and the three traditional parades to start our season of Mardi Gras, that is all that remains the same from the previous year. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of our other traditional celebrations for Mardi Gras have been suspended to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. Mardi Gras 2021 will be different for everyone this year.
Yet, for us, this is also that special time of the year to reflect upon our own spiritual life and honestly evaluate our connectedness with God. As in all aspects of our life, it is easy for us to take our life for granted. After all, we have our routines every day which generally do not change. We take for granted that at a certain time we will wake up in the morning and begin our day as usual. We take for granted that relationships with family and friends will always be present in our life. Until recently, some even took for granted that they would have a form of employment. There is also a tendency on our part to take for granted our spiritual life. In all aspects of life, when something is taken for granted, we fail to do what is necessary to keep it alive, vibrant and it eventually dies. Look at your own relationships, which are not as strong as they once were. Why? Look at those with whom you have lost contact. Why? Is it because they were taken for granted, which led to the relationship itself to become stale and ultimately die away? The same is true with our relationship with God.
That is why the Holy Season of Lent is so vital to our spiritual life. It affords us the opportunity to evaluate our relationship with God honestly, and then develop a plan that will help us to strengthen our relationship with Him. Here are some basic questions that might aid us in this self-evaluation.
- Where am I in my relationship with God?
- Would I consider my relationship with God strong, or could it be better?
- How is my prayer life?
- Do I pray to God daily, or is it hit or miss?
- Do I attend Mass/ Church Services regularly, or do I look for excuses not to attend?
- How often do I read the Bible and reflect on God’s word?
- How have I lived out my faith in God by witnessing His presence to those I encounter?
- Do my actions, my speech, always reflect a closeness with God?
Lent is a special time when we pause from all our daily routines to examine our spiritual life and our personal relationship with God. Lent is the opportunity for us to adjust our daily routine, that will enable us to grow spiritually and develop a personal and stronger relationship with God.
Ash Wednesday is February 17th, which marks the beginning of the Holy Season of Lent. Now is the time for us to prepare ourselves for this spiritual season of growth and renewal. As you begin the process of beginning to celebrate this holy season, always remember there are three movements in our Lenten journey. They are prayer, Almsgiving, and Fasting.
To help us grow in our prayer life, one could attend Daily Mass. Besides daily Mass, there are other ways that one can grow spiritually during Lent. Some are: praying the rosary daily or spending time in private prayer. There is the reading of your Bible and spending some time reflecting on God’s word. There is also Praying the Stations of Cross.
Another aspect of Lent is the practice of Almsgiving. This could be a financial offering to the church through the Poor Box or using the Lenten Folders. One can also donate their time in service to the church or to someone in need. Currently, various organizations are always in need of help with the distribution of food.
Finally, there is fasting. Just a reminder that Ash Wednesday is a day of fast and abstinence. If our health allows, we should only have one complete meal on Ash Wednesday, which does not consist of meat: chicken counts as meat. However, one could also choose other days during Lent when they would do a personal fast. Another form of fast, which is a common practice, is to give up something we enjoy for Lent, for example, candy, desserts, or cold drinks. Remember it is a sacrifice that can help us to grow spiritually.
Lent is an important time of the year for us, to grow stronger in our faith and move closer to God. It is a time for us to pray, to practice almsgiving, and to fast so that we’re renewed by God’s grace. It is then that we can truly rejoice in the fullness of the mystery of Jesus’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday.