The liturgical calendar is going to be turning colors soon. That just means in the Catholic tradition certain colors are used as vestments and altar clothes to signify a certain season.
Purple is the color used during the Advent and Lent seasons. Lent is a customary time to show remorse for the sins committed against our Lord.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and that day is marked, literally, with the placing of ashes on the faithful’s head. The custom comes from the early tradition of people showing repentance for their sins by placing ashes on their body.
You do not have to be Catholic to participate and it is not a holy day of obligation. It is our reminder that we are all sinners and in need of God’s loving mercy and forgiveness.
The tradition has also held that Ash Wednesday is a day of abstinence, when we eat only one full meal for the day, providing that our health is in order.
In 1966 Pope Paul VI held in the Apostolic Constitution on Penance (Poenitemini). The document states:
“Catholics between the ages of 18 and 59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In addition, all Catholics 14 years old and older must abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all the Fridays of Lent.
“Fasting as explained by the U.S. bishops means partaking of only one full meal. Some food (not equaling another full meal) is permitted at breakfast and around midday or in the evening—depending on when a person chooses to eat the main or full meal.
“Abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, milk products or condiments made of animal fat.
“Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat. Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consommé, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are not forbidden. So it is permissible to use margarine and lard. Even bacon drippings which contain little bits of meat may be poured over lettuce as seasoning.”
I have also found that the practice of adding something to my life is a form of penance. Perhaps taking time to pray more often, saying an extra rosary or attending daily Mass are ways to deepen your spirituality.
That is the focus: deepening our faith by seeing the sacrifice Jesus made for us and the sacrifices we make for each other and Jesus.
If I say that I see Jesus in others then I must also believe that my actions are directed toward Jesus in each other.
So, during Lent if I make a commitment to be kinder to those I am different from and make attempts to bridge that normally uncharted water then I am beginning to change and see the Divine in others.
Perhaps there is a person on my floor who is lonely, outcast or different from the others. I could take time to approach that person and try to be a friend.
Perhaps I am with a group of friends and they are making fun of a lonely student – I could be the one to intervene and stop the bullying, and then to go one step further and befriend them.
The actions of kindness are surely needed in this world that so often excludes others based on some “normalcy” not seen.
Jesus asks us to search out the face of God in the lost sheep, in the leper and the people who are marginalized and find him there. That is not an easy order to fill because we are afraid of what others will think or say about us.
We are concerned that our popularity will decrease as a result of showing favor to someone who may not be so “in” with the popular group.
Christianity is not the popular way. If we profess the Gospel on Sunday and only apply it some then we miss the bar.
Jesus is calling us to a deeper awareness of his presence in every person we meet and that requires penance because we have all missed the bar, yet the bar is achievable because God came as man and overcame the world for us as an example to follow.
Begin this Lenten season with a deep look at life, what it means and how will we live it. Try to focus, not so much on the “who we are” and look toward the “why we are” and then dare to be different.