How to do Lent wrong:
As a self-help program (weight loss, self-perfection) *no reference to God*
From a perspective that enjoying things of earth is bad (Buddhism and Stoicism) *not ordered*
“hold my breath” penances
doing too much. (not sustainable)
doing too little (no growth) (e.g. push-ups, not 1/day, not 500/day)
“winging it” (no plan)
telling no one (no accountability, easy to slack off; no chance to help others)
telling everyone (Pharisees)
LOSING THE CENTER - GOD IS THE CENTER
CCC 1428 Christ's call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, “follows constantly the path of penance and renewal." This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a "contrite heart," drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first. St. Ambrose says of the two conversions that, in the Church, "there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance.”
1432Conversion is first of all a work of the grace of God who makes our hearts return to him: "Restore us to thyself, O LORD, that we may be restored!"26 God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God's love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him.
1434 The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving,31 which express conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to others. Alongside the radical purification brought about by Baptism or martyrdom they cite as means of obtaining forgiveness of sins: effort at reconciliation with one's neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one's neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and the practice of charity "which covers a multitude of sins."32
1439 The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father.
Focus is relationship. Prodigal Son.
Prayer and Mass have a priority. From this flows the other two practices of fasting and almsgiving. Encountering God helps us to realize that these things of the world will not satisfy, and almsgiving is to be like God who is generous, self-giving love. So God must be at the center.
Deification - GOD WANTS TO MAKE YOU LIKE HIMSELF. He created you that way, but our sins have covered over it, just like the ashes on our forehead will be a small sign of the mess we have thrown over our souls. Lent is a time of taking that stuff away.
How do you make and shape glass? How do you make steel armor or a sword? You place it in a fire. And it becomes like that fire: it becomes hot and it gives light.
God is the fire, and prayer is drawing close to him. The fire burns away our imperfections, but only if we put our selves into it, just like the glass and steel will never be purified, strengthened, and transformed unless it is put in the fire and becomes that fire.
From afar, a blazing fire is only a light that shines on us, and we are “safe” but unchanged when we keep our distance, left out in the cold. Draw near to the fire of God’s love this Lent, and you will lose your false “safety” but gain your true self and become the fulness of what you were always made to be as a son and daughter of God.