You missed the start of Lent and now you are wondering if it’s too late to start. You might be thinking, “What’s the point?” Maybe you’ve talked yourself into believing it doesn’t matter that much or that no one will notice. Maybe you’ve rationalized and think you have a valid excuse for skipping Lent. After all, you are a very busy person and life can get stressful sometimes.
I know how it is. You get caught up in college assignments, kids activities, work projects. Whatever point you are at in life, there always seems to be something that interferes with following through on good intentions. You really meant to pay that bill on time, but you tucked it away and forgot. You wanted to spend those extra minutes before bedtime reading with your children, but their activities ran late, dinner needed to be cleaned up, and you were exhausted. There are excuses for almost anything.
With a billion Catholics in the world, we could probably come up with ten billion excuses, most of them understandable, about why we put things off. Lent could easily be one of them. Maybe you missed the start of Lent and now, a few weeks into the season already, you’re wondering if it’s too late to start. Maybe you made a half-hearted commitment to give up something small and are just now realizing what the season means and what Jesus’ 40 days in the desert were like and what He did for you personally on Good Friday. Maybe your heart is calling to more, but you are held back by “Stinkin’ Thinkin,'” as Matthew Kelly might call it.
Don’t Let the Devil Distract You
Stinking Thinking is what happens when the Devil gets under your skin and crawls into your mind and heart making you think you are not “good enough” and never will be. It’s what happens when you want to do something God is calling you to but don’t believe you have the power to do it. It’s what happens when you forget that power comes through God rather than from yourself. Stinkin’ Thinkin’ eventually blocks out the voice of God so you can’t see Him working in your life and don’t recognize His voice whispering gently to you, calling you back to Love even through suffering and sacrifice.
That is part of what Lent is about. Lent is that call to give up and to do more of value than we do at other times of the year. It is a call for Christians, who are already supposed to be living moral, holy sacrificial lives, to give more in order to align themselves with Christ on the Cross. Many of us would rather give up something that presents occasional denial of desire when Lent is a call to greatness!
The Significance of 40 Days of Lent
Lent has a period of 40 days for a reason. The number 40 is used often in the Bible. 40 is the number of days God sent rain on Noah’s world to start clean and fresh and new again. 40 is the number of days Moses was on the mountain. 40 is the number of days that Goliath, the Giant, came to mock and taunt and terrify the people before he was slain by David. 40 is the number of days the people of Ninevah had to repent and turn to God or face dire consequences. 40 is the number of days Jesus fasted in the wilderness, and 40 is the number of days He walked the earth to be seen and heard by thousands after His Crucifixion.
40 days has significant meaning and value. It is the number of days that it takes for us to begin to turn our lives around and start anew. It is the number of days it takes for us to form new habits that really begin to take root. It is the number of days it takes for a noticeable change in season to occur. It is the number of days that it takes for new life to begin.
The good thing about being a Catholic is that it is never too late to be a better Catholic. Lent gives us that opportunity even if we start late; Jesus always welcomes us and doesn’t hold our tardiness over our heads. He wants us to start living new life today no matter what we did yesterday.
Lent has special meaning because we offer our time and sacrifice up specifically in preparation for Jesus’ time on the Cross. But another good thing about being Catholic is that there are plenty of places throughout the calendar to start anew. While our political calendars begin anew on one day, January 1st, the Church calendar has no limitations. New devotions and new sacrifices can begin at Lent, but they can also begin at Pentacost, Advent, or any Holy Day of Obligation. More than that, new devotions can begin on a beloved Saint’s feast day. Most importantly, Catholics are given the chance to start over any time they seek forgiveness in the Confessional.
But Am I Too Late?
Is it too late to start Lent? Not at all! Jesus Loves you so much and wants nothing more than to have you run to Him, to learn to hear His voice, begin to feel His radiant smile warm your heart, and learn to offer up life’s unpleasantness to His Wisdom and Grace. The time to do that is now. The place to do that is right where you are. If you fall down today and don’t commit as you know you should, remember Jesus fell three times on the way to the Cross. Every time He picked Himself up and moved ahead despite jeering crowds, intense humiliation and physical suffering, and sorrowful confusion and dismay over why Love was being nailed to the Cross.
If you have not begun your Lenten Sacrifice, or have taken it with a grain of salt, now is the time to pick yourself up, face the jeering you may have from Catholics and non-believers who all think you could do better, or you’re “good enough,” and move ahead. The Christian movie Fireproof (Spoiler Alert) also uses the number 40 in its story. In it, the father gives Caleb, the struggling, porn-addicted husband, a 40 day journal with actions to take to save his marriage. Near the end of the movie, Caleb’s wife discovers the journal and asks Caleb about it. He says he is on Day 42 to which she replies, “There are only 40.” His answer? “Who says I have to stop?”
This is the message of Lent. Commit. Where you are now. Commit wholeheartedly. Leave lukewarm faith behind. Choose to Love and sacrifice today. And when Lent is over? Who says you have to stop?