By Virginia Vollmer
Ash Wednesday and Lent are upon us. What are your plans for the season? What will you fast from? Have you considered almsgiving? Are you adding more prayer time or meditation to your Lenten plans? Ideally, what we give up, give, or contemplate during Lent should change us so that we continue the practice for the rest of the year or even the rest of our lives. Has it ever felt that giving up sweets or beer or pizza every Lent feels stale? Been there, done that, now what? The deprivation isn’t manifesting into a deeper relationship with Jesus, and therefore doesn’t seem a worthy choice for this year. Might I suggest honoring the Sabbath as part of your Lenten practice for this year?
The Sabbath was given to us by God as a gift to receive and enjoy. The Sabbath was created for humanity. We get to choose to receive the gift and to enjoy it. The busyness of modern life (work, school, chores, home projects, various activities) can shorten the Sabbath to just an hour or so for Mass. What if our intention this Lent is to honor the Sabbath for a half-day or all of Sunday?
Throughout the weeks of closures and working from home during the year of Covid-19, I realized that it would be very easy to keep the gift of the Sabbath. I spent Saturday cooking and cleaning so that Sunday would be a day of prayer. I prepared for televised Mass by reading the Gospel and any reflections I could find. I would read about saints and spirituality. There was time for crafts, gardening, taking walks, and working on puzzles. And at the end of Sunday, it felt like a full but refreshing day. I was ready for the rest of the week of…more Covid-19.
When the vaccines arrived and the churches and stores and work opened, I wanted to keep honoring the Sabbath, for this time spent with God had been blessed. But how to do it when normality has come back? I had to make Sunday a priority- it really is the First Day of the week. Nowadays, sometimes a good part of my day is at church, or in church activities. Sometimes it’s spent with friends and family. Other times I read, garden, or just sit. There is always a book on spirituality, Bible study, the saints, or religion to read.
Does honoring the Sabbath seem like the Lenten practice for this year? Each family is different, whether single, a couple, with children, young or old. Maybe a half day or all day without electronics is a beginning. Spend some time in the Adoration Chapel before or after Mass (or both!). Remember to pick up the Little Black Book and spend extra time on meditation. All relationships require time (including our relationship with God) if they are to be maintained and to grow. Visit with family and friends in person or on the phone. Play board games or work on jigsaw puzzles. Take a walk together or listen to music. And maybe, one Sabbath day, don’t plan or do anything- just be in the presence of God, Who is always with us.