This is the third in a series of Lenten reflections.
By Paul Kuczynski
Special to The Catholic Weekly
Lent is a change from what I am used to. The transition between Ordinary Time and Lent often seems to happen quickly. The happy, blessed season of Christmas is over and winter brings the responsibilities of life back to full speed. Just when schedules are being once again established, work seems to be piling up and responsibilities begin to occupy my time, the Lenten season sneaks up on me and forces me to readjust once again.
This change of liturgical seasons seems to be especially sudden. The colors in church change, the flowers are gone and the atmosphere is different, as well. The church is quieter, filled with the spirit of reverent prayer and repentance. Time seems to slow down, giving me a break from the hectic life that awaits me outside.
This is Lent. It is the opportunity to gather ourselves, to take time to reflect on our relationship with God and to make a conscious decision to turn back to Him.
In the midst of my responsibilities and my worries, God is pushed to the background much too often. “There’s not enough time,” I say. “My mind is occupied with other things right now.” In my heart, I know that this is not the way things should be, but my mind tells me that, unfortunately, this is the way it is.
I am in awe of people devoted entirely to Christ. When I read about such people as Mother Teresa or Pope John Paul II, or even see my fellow parishioners who visibly love and live their faith, I wonder, “Why can’t I do that? Why is my heart incapable of embracing God 100 percent?”
But my heart IS capable of loving God. Every heart is! It is my mind, too occupied with deadlines, responsibilities and everything going on around me, that stops me from giving myself over to Christ. This is precisely what Lent is for. It is a moment to catch my breath, clear my mind and start anew.
One of my favorite aspects of Lent is Operation Rice Bowl, sponsored by Catholic Relief Services. Every year during Lent, there is at least one of the small cardboard bowls in my family’s home and, together, we fill it with change and small donations throughout the course of the Lenten season. Even as a child, I remember putting nickels and dimes into the bowl and carrying the box in to church on Palm Sunday.
There is a certain aspect of almsgiving that lightens my soul and steers me closer to God. When I realize a small sacrifice on my part makes a positive change in the life of a person in need, that it will give them hope and a brighter future, it gives me hope as well.
This sort of sacrifice, whether it is almsgiving, taking time for prayer, or fasting from a favorite meal, is nothing compared to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, but at the moment we feel a small pang of hunger, we experience a deep connection between ourselves and Jesus. We experience, if only for a moment, what others on this earth go through every day of their lives when they don’t have enough to eat.
This hunger must encourage us to change and to give ourselves to those in need. Perhaps we can volunteer our time at a soup kitchen or donate to Operation Rice Bowl. Whatever we choose to do must make us active in our roles as Christians, so that we may find unity among ourselves, our neighbors, and our God.
As Lent once again comes to a close, I hope I will be able to look back at the person I was before and see the change that has taken place within me. Through this change, I hope I will radiate the joy and peace that comes with the conversion back to God.
I pray I will have the courage to accept the challenge of my faith anew and embrace it throughout this Lenten season, so when Easter finally comes, I will be able to rise with Christ to a new outlook on myself and, most importantly, on God.
Paul Kuczynski is a senior at All Saints Central High School in Bay City. He is the middle of three brothers and enjoys participating in drama and varsity tennis.