By Melissa Catherine Fisackerly
Today we begin the holy season of Lent. This is perfect since it is the Year of Mercy. We are asked to be more merciful to our sisters and brothers. Pope Francis tells us in his message for Lent, "God's mercy reminds us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help ourselves and our neighbors in body and spirit."
Growing up as a cradle Catholic, I experienced Lent to its fullest potential with my parents. When I was younger, I treated Lent as a "holiday." At school my friends and I would gather at lunch or recess and asked each other, "what will you give up?" - Broccoli, homework, school lunch, or how about going to school. Looking back, I realize my literal experience of Lent as a turning point in my faith life. I can assure you two things, one is that the seed to know more about Lent was planted inside of me and two, Lent is something I want to be interested in, benefit from, and even value what will be a life-changing experience with God.
So what is Lent? How do we observe Lent? Why do we observe Lent? In the south, some people view Lent as a time to recover from the Mardi Gras week(s), while others truly observe the sacredness of what calls us forth as Catholics. Lent is more than just giving up chocolate, carbs, beer or social media, which is not a bad idea. The externals can get in the way of the focus of fasting, moderation and self denial. A good example is: if I give up my Facebook/computer time, I'm helping my family, friends, and community by being more present. That's a work of mercy. If I give up sweets it doesn't help anyone but me. To "give up" something that helps others not yourself, that's real sacrifice. During these next few weeks of Lent, I hope to go deeper in my relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What can you give up to help someone in need? How will your relationship with God differ 40 days from when you started Lent? Something to ponder...