Every teacher is well acquainted with the habitual clock-watcher. My students, high school seniors, remind me of the countdown to the last day of classes all the time. The students live for the weekend. The only time they seem to come to life is when the weekend is imminent. I speak to my students constantly about living in the moment and getting the most out of life. Even teachers are guilty of wishing away the weeks. We, too, count the long days of March until Easter vacation.
During Lent, our anticipation of Friday evolves into something truly glorious. Each Friday points us in the direction of the grand event when Christ sacrifices Himself on the Sacred Cross for our sake. Lent is full of reminders of self-sacrifice. Meat and potato lovers dread the meatless Fridays that Catholics are called to observe. Many of my students perceive Lent as a time of restriction instead of a time that prepares us for the Eternal freedom that the crucifixion of Jesus actually provides.
Lent is a season that presents each catechist with the opportunity to draw his or her students closer to Jesus. As Lent prompts the Christian to look deep within himself and assess where he must change, the catechist should help their students discern how to become more like Jesus. As our Lord entered the wilderness to fight the temptations of Satan, Lent is our battleground to defeat the evil that obscures our heavenly vision.
Take advantage of the sacraments to point your young friends to Jesus. Many Catholics have removed Reconciliation from their spiritual “to do” list. It has become the forgotten sacrament. The only reason why they have not received this sacrament recently is because the adults in their life avoid it as well. Bring your students to penance and don’t hesitate to lead by example. It will do you a world of good.
Change can be painful. Looking deep within ourselves may cause us to discover the faults that we do not want to see. Lent should not fit like a comfortable old shirt. Rather it should rub against our inner soul like a pair of new shoes. Frank Buechner, an American novelist and Protestant minister, described Lent in this way:
“In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the River Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question of what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves…to answer questions like this is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.”
We enter Lent in the frosty, dim days of February and emerge into Holy Week in the beginning days of spring when the first flowers have broken through the newly thawed soil. We can’t truly experience the glory of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus without enduring the barrenness of Lent. Only through sharing in the pain and suffering of Christ can we find redemption. Lent reminds us that an act of love so incredible requires us to join Jesus in self-sacrifice. There can be Easter without Good Friday. Come to the cross with your students this Lent.