As Pope Francis has said, “Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy”. Lent is a time when we scrutinize areas of our lives that are facing spiritual death. In recognizing the malnourished state of our spiritual self, we can work on reviving it during this season. Upon reflection, I realized that I have not been consistent in the commitments that I have set for myself during all the Lenten seasons that I have had so far. One of the many reasons for my failure is that I have not given myself adequate time to understand my dead “branches”. The “branches” refer to areas in our lives while the “vine” represents God. Just like how the branches are reliant on the vine to bear fruits and survive, we too require the sustenance that comes from having every area of lives being in harmony with God’s purpose for us (cf John 15:5-6). Therefore, in writing this article, I am given the space to ponder over how I can prepare for lent and to be more intentional in my commitments to Him during this season.
In all the relationships we have with people, we often subconsciously formulate a mental list of things that we should do or avoid doing to grow the relationship. Similarly, in our relationship with God, we know that our relationship with Him will grow when we live a righteous life whereas being disobedient will hinder it. Therefore, as we prepare for lent, we can ask ourselves the following questions, “Which part of my life brings joy to God? Which part of my life brings pain to Him?”
In scrutinizing our lives, we are examining our conscience, looking at areas which hinders our spiritual growth and prevents us from deepening our relationship with God. Upon identifying our “dead branches”, we pray for God’s grace as we reflect about the origins of our sins, asking ourselves questions such as “When did it start?, How did it start?, How did I feel when it happened?” etc. After which, we can be reconciled with God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation before embarking on the journey of change during lent. To enter the state of examination of self, our hearts need to be still and completely turned to Jesus.
However, with noises from the world and temptations that we face daily, it is understandable that turning towards Jesus is difficult. Jesus understands our struggles as He too experienced such struggles during the 40 days in the desert. He showed us the power of God’s Word in silencing the noise and in empowering us to overcome our temptations. Therefore, as we battle the distractions around us as we scrutinize our lives, let us offer up our struggles to focus and seek His Word for directions.
In recognizing the dead branches and identifying the point of disconnection from God, it enables us to be more intentional in our commitments during lent. During this period of preparation, we also look at how we can renew our focus on prayer, almsgiving and fasting. We can consider fasting from things that we are attached to. This is so that the persistent discomfort that we experience from fasting will serve as a reminder for us to follow through with our commitments.