Seeking a Lenten discipline? Don’t be surprised at what you need.

Man reading in hammock

“O Happy Guilt” today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent.  More often than not, when I served as a busy parish priest a glimpse of Lent right around the corner could fill me with dread.  But occasionally, in my later years, it brought a calmness not unlike reading a book on the spiritual life by Evelyn Underhill; or spying a bud opening on the Early Elberta Peach tree in the backyard; or a glance around a corner to see a long missed friend dropping by with some time to spare and an inclination to get caught up on one another’s lives.

I remember one Shrove Tuesday when a parishioner left a note in my mail slot, “Fr. Mark, when you get the time give me a call.  I need an appointment.  Time for a spiritual checkup.”  The handwriting didn’t look frazzled.  No trace of dreadfulness in the phrasing.  If any mood came from the note, it was anticipation—more akin to a visit with one’s travel agent than an appointment for a root canal.

Time for a spiritual checkup.  That’s what Ash Wednesday is.  And Lent, well, among other things, it is a spiritual shape-up plan for one’s Christian life; a godly housecleaning before a welcome visitor; a spring spading and planting of the garden; or even a long intimate walk with Christ.  Repentance, after all, once you commit yourself to it, usually ends in joy.

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