Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Celebrating Lent in 2016

Every year Lent Weekly Reflections booklets are handed out to parishioners and I always make it a point to get one for the family so we can do our own reading and reflections at home.

This year's booklet is titled "Living as one in the community of Jesus Christ" and the page artworks (swirl of colors) represent the priest's adding of water ("humanity") to the wine ("divinity") for consecration during mass. "Once you put water into the wine, it's impossible to take it out again." We are made one in Christ through Jesus, and in this communion we are called upon as one family in Christ.

I would like to share with you the Lent family activities that are listed in the booklet. I believe that these activities can bring families closer together during this Lenten season and pave the way for more fruitful bonding moments with each other. You can do them as instructed or use them as a guide and think of similar related activities for your family to do.

  • This will symbolize our new life in Christ. It can be made of branches arranged in a vase or pot. You can also make a drawing or cutout of a tree and paste it on a paper.
  • Reflect on a passage based on the week's gospel or daily readings and pick a verse to prayerfully linger over as a family then respond as a family.
  • Decide on the simple action you want to do to apply and obediently live out the gospel/scriptures.
  • Choose an artwork based on the scripture and hang or paste on the branches of your tree.You can also think of other creative ways to do this (eg. drawing a picture). Write the scripture at the back of the picture.
  • Other items that can be hung on the tree are actions or sacrifices by each family member (written on the leaves) and specific prayer offerings.
During this Lent, we can reflect as a family on Jesus' love and mercy. "Encourage each other to be more mindful of the relationships they have within the family as well as outside of the family by paying more attention to almsgiving, fasting and praying."

Here is a simple guide to the weekly prayers and reflections with the family as written in the booklet. I have summarized them into a table for easy reference:

Intention and Prayer
Actions for the week
Week 1:
Love’s Invitation
Be with us, Lord, as we pray as a family.

Stay with us as we contemplate the invitation You hold out to us. Be with us. Fill us. Let us feel Your love. Give us the patience to stay with it this week, to pray with it, and to be patient with it. Amen.
Make changes in your lives that will improve relationships - between spouses, siblings, family members and friends.

  • Pray for someone specific this week
  • Make time for each other
  • Visit grandparents
  • Less media distraction and more interaction time
  • Help each other with household chores
Week 2:
Let us pray that we may increase the intensity of our desire for God’s help.

Dear Lord, help us look deep into our hearts, the parts that are very dark, that need to be transformed by your loving graces. Grant us the graces of honesty, sorry and deep gratitude. We ask you now to soften the hardness of our hearts toward others. Amen.
This week let us be conscious of the way we treat others - in our actions and words. Let us do things:

  • Patiently and calmly
  • justly/truthfully
  • Cheerfully

Include the examination of conscience in your daily night prayers.
Week 3:
God of mercy, we feel our heart overflowing with your tenderness. We sense your touch deep within.

We ask for Your help in our weaknesses that we might be faithful to Your word. Thank you, Lord, for this gift of mercy and compassion. We await the joy of Easter with new longing and patience. Amen.
This week we want to be aware of God’s love and mercy by:
  • Making family life more pleasant by: parents - not being irritable or speaking harshly; children - being helpful and obedient.
  • Being less critical
  • Being more charitable - perhaps a jar or box in the center of the table to collect donations for a worthy charity. Give thankfully so others can thankfully live.
Week 4:
Desire to Remain
This week dear Lord, we want to love You more deeply.

Dear Jesus, we want to receive the grace and courage to live our lives the way You did. Please be with us in our struggle to remain with You. We can see the many ways we cling to our pride and arrogance, please help us to accept our limitations, to resist the things in this world that keep us from you. Jesus, we renew our desire, our passion, our choice, to be with You. Yes, this is what we want. To be with You, Jesus. Amen.
This week let us consider how we can use our gifts/talents to respond to God’s invitation:

  • By loving our children/parents
  • In accepting the difficult challenges of our job/school project
  • In acting against a bad habit
  • Fasting from wanting more
Week 5:
Let us sit in silence with forgiveness that is God’s gift to us. God’s love for us is deep and vast despite all our flaws.

Thank you, Lord, for this gift of forgiveness and love. This week we enter into our desire to not only believe in God’s forgiving mercy towards us but also to experience it, accept it, and celebrate it. Help us carry this love throughout our week. Help us to really believe this love and not to listen to the voice inside us that tells us we are not worthy of Your love. Amen.
This week as a family, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

  • As a family, fast from social media for a stipulated time per day. Spend that time reading the Good News or read up about a favourite saint.
  • Make Easter cards for family and friends.
  • Fast from negative words, instead use life-giving words
  • Smile - practice joy
Week 6:
Healing and Reconciliation
“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”

Dear, Jesus, it is our desire that You accompany us along the path to holiness. Please begin Your healing in us. Please let Your healing free us so that we can serve You as You deserve, with more and more of our hearts. Heal us from the many ways we are unable to love and accept others. Heal us from the many ways the pains of our pat hinder our ability to care for others. Teach us how to heal and care for the people with the love we receive from You. Thank You for Your faithful love for us. Amen.
This week we pray for the many who are in need of God’s healing. Be the hands and feet of Christ everywhere you go. With joy, let us give ourselves to nourish others.

  • Fast from procrastination, so that we can be persons of action.
  • Consciously refrain from being angry.

Some actions to practice throughout the season of Lent:
Fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are the three obligations of Lent, with growth in charity their aim.
  • Spirit of fasting - limiting television watching, internet surfing, playing video games, shopping and going out with friends
  • The family can choose main "give-ups" that all will observe (eg. desserts or a favorite TV show).
  • Refrain from complaining, gossiping, grumbling, or losing one's temper.
  • Abstain from favourite drinks, desserts or fast foods, donate the same to charity.
  • Curb forms of entertainment (eg. dining out, watching movies)
  • Give up smoking, caffeine, bar and liquor.
  • Eat less at meals, or no snacking between meals - and while we put up with little hunger pangs from not eating between meals we could offer a prayer for those who are forced to spend their whole day in hunger.
  • Fast or abstain extra days in Lent besides Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
"Lenten practices help us in our daily duties to be more attentive to acquiring and strengthening virtues like obedience, charity, humility, chastity and perseverance. In the process, we improve the quality of our family life as we spend time in family activities and just being together in moments of quiet. We can enjoy being together, talking and sharing events with each other and maybe reading some Lenten reflections. Every member in our family deserves to be treated charitably and patiently. We need to make concerted efforts to be cheerful in our home, and not just save it for strangers. Our family deserves our best."

These prayers, reading of the scriptures and suggested actions have been very helpful in my reflections during the Lenten season. The suggested actions also served as points of discussion where our family reflect on what have been doing, what we can do more of and what we should do less of from this point forward. 

One good deed at a time makes such a difference in our lives which affects our relationships with others. I am grateful for the opportunities like this when I am reminded of the things I may have taken for granted for some reason. These wake up calls I welcome with open heart and mind because with every realization I make I am one step closer to a better me. That is a gift I can give to myself and in turn to my family. 

I hope this can also guide you and your family in your observance of lent.

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