Youth Speak News' Emily Barber writes about using Lent as a time to improve our lives. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Balaska, Wikimedia Commons

Speaking Out: Lent is a time to reflect and renew

By  Emily Barber, Youth Speak News
  • February 24, 2017

Despite the fasting and the receiving of ashes ceremony that is common to every Catholic on Ash Wednesday, I have always found this day of solemnity to be a very personal experience.

Ash Wednesday is indeed the very beginning the most important season of the Church calendar, yet it never really sinks in for me until I see the ashes on my forehead and have a moment alone to think.

Each person’s journey through Lent is unique and the journey is different each year we observe it. But there will likely be moments of weakness, moments of doubt, moments where it is difficult to keep our resolutions in the face of life’s temptations.

I’ve found that overcoming these obstacles and pushing yourself out of your own comfort zone is really quite helpful in the long run. Denying oneself for a worthy cause is our modern day equivalent of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, a much easier trial than the one He had to face.

I think it can serve as a reminder that everyone has the strength to get through the struggles of daily life, whether it is a trivial problem like a homework assignment looming on the immediate horizon, or what clothes to wear on a date, or a more serious issue.

Regardless of what is happening in a person’s life, the season of Lent emphasizes the importance of being more conscientious in our lives.

It doesn’t necessarily mean a huge change in routine, just enough change that we are reminded of the sacrifice Jesus made for us and how little He asks in return. But it is not merely a solemn time. It is also a hopeful time.

Lent is not just the rituals and Masses we observe. It is also an opportunity to begin again, to wash away all the doubts and fears we may have and to go forward with a renewed outlook on our lives.

Mass and resolutions can help with this, but a large part of changing our perspective is personal.

I am hoping that observing Lent this year will give me the strength and perseverance to get through the rest of this school year, so that come September I can start a new chapter in my life at university.

By restricting some aspects of my life and improving others, I’m hopeful that I will gain a greater appreciation for all the blessings in my life, and go forward with renewed determination to never take any of them for granted.

We all know the story of Lent ends with the Resurrection. That is at the core of our faith. Christianity is no tragedy. Christianity ends with the biggest triumph yet — the conquering of death and the beginning of something greater than life.

Jesus does not end Lent on a low note. He ends on a high note and so should we. We should strive to improve our lives in some significant way all throughout Lent so that by the time Easter is upon us we, too, are reborn in our faith.

(Barber, 17, is a Grade 12 student at Father John Redmond Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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