Ash Wednesday is the first day of our six-week journey with Jesus to the Cross and Resurrection. For many of us, this day is a “new beginning” when we recommit ourselves to following Jesus with much more faithfulness and courage.
The church asks us to do three things: Pray, Fast and Give Alms. And in order to do these three things well, the church provides us with scripture readings from the Hebrew Scripture and the Christian Scripture that highlight the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. (If you want a list of the scriptures assigned for Lent, please let me know. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is 414-550-5829.)
Our Lenten observances of fasting, giving alms to the needy, and praying have great power to change us from the inside out. They give us a certain focus that we may have lost. They ground us in such a way that we have more sensitivity to the needs of others.
When I counsel people who ask me about prayer, I begin by saying that there are many forms of prayer and some are communal and others are done privately. Certainly for us Catholics, the weekly gathering around the Welcome Table is the most perfect form of worship. We call this time together “The Source and Summit” of our lives in Christ.
But we also need to pray daily in the privacy of our home. Often, I recommend a type of pray that is called “wordless” prayer or “centering prayer.” This type of prayer forgoes the many words that we like to throw at God hoping for a response. In centering prayer we let God seep into our very souls, as we remain quiet.
The method is simple: find a quiet, comfortable place, sit and close your eyes, begin to breath deeply and evenly. Select a word or phrase that we call our “mantra” such as “Come, Lord Jesus.” Clear your mind and remain still.
As thoughts come to you, just let them flow by and return often to the mantra without concentrating on them. I suggest two sessions each day of only 10 minutes each, as a start. And, as with other important things in your life, never miss the two short periods even though we will come up with a hundred reasons why we need to skip the pray today!
So, begin your centering prayer with a brief prayer using words and then let God take over and bathe you in loving concern. I know that when I do this, my day is different; my responses to people are different. I am calmer, at peace and much more open to the needs of others.
I ask you to pray for me during this sacred time of Lent and I will pray for you.