Fruits of LentApril 25th, 2013
During Easter week my wife and I went out to dinner at our local Mexican restaurant and got to talking with Jose’, the restaurant owner, who happens to be a fellow parishioner. We were all talking about how this past Lent had been our best in many years when Jose’ said that now he’s looking for the “fruits of Lent”. His point was that if the spiritual disciplines we began in Lent were beneficial, it doesn’t make any sense to quit at Easter. Lent should yield good fruit well afterward, and if it doesn’t, then we have wasted an opportunity. If we quit doing the good things we began in Lent, he said, then Lent was about us, and not about Christ. That conversation has really stuck with me because Jose’ was right on the money.
Most Lents I give up something – coffee or TV or some other simple thing. But this past Lent I decided to do something concrete, and so I committed to praying before the Blessed Sacrament twice a week, before school, during my daughter’s early morning choir practice in church. And since I knew I wouldn’t keep it up on my own, I invited all my facebook connections and everyone on my email distribution list to join me. I knew if I told people that I’d have the church doors unlocked by 7:15, I’d better follow through. I was surprised by the number of people who accepted the invitation and who would come for 5, 10 or 20 minutes. Not one single morning all Lent was I ever alone. Jose’ was there just about every time, and he usually had a couple of his young sons with him.
I remember the first morning seemed to last forever. I felt a little awkward –I didn’t know what to do with 45 minutes of silence, and after I finished my rosary I was like, “Okaaayy, now what do I do?” But that awkwardness did not last long; by Holy Week I found myself wishing I could stay longer. I realized over time that I didn’t have to do anything – I just had to be. Christ would do the rest. The first few mornings, I found myself filling the time with a lot of talking, but as Lent sped on I became more and more comfortable with silence, and the more silent I was, the more the Holy Spirit worked; and the more the Spirit worked, the more peace I felt and the faster the time flew.
By Holy Thursday I knew that there was no way I could just go back to my pre-Lenten routine. I knew I had to keep coming back to our Lord. The change in my habit had begun a change in my heart, and I saw that this change in my heart was starting to make a change in my daily thoughts, words, and actions. Jose’ had put it perfectly – I was beginning to see the “fruits of Lent”, and it would be foolishness for me to let those fruits rot on the vine. Fruit is meant to be harvested and consumed – it exists to keep us healthy and whole. But just like apples and peaches and plums, spiritual fruits must be tended, nurtured and cared for if they are to fulfill their purpose.
It may seem sort of silly, but here I am at 46, a cradle Catholic, a 20 year veteran of parish ministry, and I feel like I’m just now really beginning to understand what it means to let the Lord work in my life. And I gotta tell you, this fruit tastes divine!
I’d love to know – what were the fruits of your Lent? How are you harvesting that fruit this Eastertide?