Every year as the season of Lent approaches, Christians begin thinking about Lenten resolutions. These can be anything from introducing more prayer and scripture reading into their lives or fasting from favorite foods. Just as Jesus spent forty days in the desert before his public ministry, Christians spend the forty days of Lent preparing for the Triduum, the summit of the liturgical life of the Church.
But what is the purpose of Lent? Is the purpose of Lent to give up things you enjoy? Is it to simply abstain from meat on Fridays and occasionally attend Stations of the Cross?
Or is there a deeper purpose to Lent?
The God Who Searches for You
Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, “when a man begins looking for God, he will soon discover that God is looking for him.” (Thoughts for Daily Living, 90-91) When we begin our search for God, we realize that God has been searching for us all along.
One of the gifts to come out of the Second Vatican Council is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Promulgated by St. John Paul II in 1997, the Catechism has become a guide for many Catholics on the teachings of the Church.
In the first paragraph of Catechism, the Church reveals something profound about our Creator. The whole paragraph is worth reading in full:
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1)
From the very beginning of the Catechism, the Church proclaims to its reader the good news of salvation. God, who is completely perfect in himself, chose to create man to share his eternal life. This is God’s will for man – that man share in his blessed life for all eternity.
Because of this, at every time and in every place, the creator of the universe seeks to draw close to you. God constantly searches for us so we can come to know and love him with all our strength. This is the wonder of our God – that he loves you and in every moment, seeks to draw close to you.
Man’s response to God’s Searching
As the Catechism points out, God seeks us in everything he does and invites us to draw close to him in return. One of the ways we can respond to God’s search for us is through Sacred Scripture.
Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation from the Second Vatican Council says God comes to talk to his children through Sacred Scripture.
For, since they [Sacred Scripture] are inspired by God and committed to writing once and for all time, they present God’s own work in an unalterable form, and they make the voice of the holy Spirit sound again and again in the words of the prophets and apostles. It follows that all the preaching of the Church, as indeed the entire christian religion, should be nourished and ruled by sacred scripture. In the sacred books the Father who is in heaven comes lovingly to meet his children, and talks with them. (Dei Verbum, 21)
In the Sacred Scriptures, the God who loves us and searches for us, speaks in a way we can understand. When we read Scripture, we respond to God’s search for us.
This Lent, Read More Scripture
What is the purpose of Lent? The purpose of Lent is to draw close to God, who ultimately draws close to us in the most profound way by giving his life for us. This is what we celebrate during the Triduum.
This Lent, strive to respond to God’s search for you by making the resolution to read Sacred Scripture. Lent is a beautiful time to pour into God’s Word.
There are many ways you can incorporate Scripture into your day. The first is to start with the Gospels. If you read two chapters a day beginning on Ash Wednesday, you can read through all four Gospels by Holy Week.
A second way to build the habit of reading Scripture is to read the daily readings provided by the Church. This is a beautiful way to not only immerse yourself in the Word of God, but also unite yourself to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each day.
Finally, to help you dive deeper into Scripture, the St. Philip Institute of Catechesis and Evangelization recently created a Lenten program called “From the Beginning: God’s Search for Man.”
Available in both English and Spanish, this Lenten program will take you through the major events of Salvation History helping you understand the big picture of the Bible. Beginning with the story of Creation on Ash Wednesday and ending with the Road to Emmaus on Holy Saturday, this program focused on Scripture will help prepare you for the great mysteries we celebrate in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
How it Works
Once signed up, you will receive a reading plan beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday. Weekly emails will be sent with a workbook containing short reflections for each of the daily Scripture readings to help you unpack its meanings. This program can help you dive into Sacred Scripture and learn to understand the ways in which God is constantly drawing close to you.
You can sign up here.
Featured Image: “The Light of the World” by William Holman Hunt, 1851-1856.