Chocolate eggs and jelly beans! Growing up, Easter meant candy. The Easter Bunny delightfully left behind a treasure of treats for my little brother and me. In recent years, however, I have come to understand the spiritual importance of the celebration and the period leading up to it.
I am Roman Catholic -- always have been and probably, always will be. As a Catholic, Lent is a meaningful season of sacrifice. It is the 40-day period before Easter, symbolizing Jesus' withdrawal and fasting in the desert for 40 days. Following Christ's example, Lent is a period of self-discipline, fasting, and reflection for each of us. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, and culminates on Good Friday, the day Jesus' crucifixion is commemorated. Good Friday also begins the Triduum, three holy days leading up to Easter Sunday. Easter is the celebration of Jesus rising from the dead—a miracle on Earth.
In simpler days, making a Lenten sacrifice was about giving up something I loved—whether it was pasta or chocolate. I never really committed to it and my parents were pretty loose about rules. They just cared about whether I understood the concept of Lent and Easter and tried my best to be mindful of sacrifice. Only this year, I started a different type of Lenten tradition that has been successful, thus far. I believe my personal triumph is because I will be confirmed in my Catholic faith at the end of April, and I am growing stronger as a person because of it.
Instead of giving up something for Lent, I decided to add an activity to my weekly routine: Scripture reading and reflection writing. Just like we read for school, I am reading for my spiritual self. We learn history, life lessons, and more about ourselves from reading, interpreting, and writing. I have committed to reading a devotional almost every day and examining the corresponding Biblical passages. From there, I write. It is one-hundred percent reflection writing, but I notice myself becoming open and having clearer thoughts.
It also helps that my grandfather runs a blog called "Celebrate the Psalms." On this blog, contributors around the world reflect on the week's Responsorial Psalm, which is featured in the upcoming Mass. Reflection questions are included in the blog and followers send in their answers as it pertains to their lives. My once-a-week commitment, while not a lot, becomes very therapeutic for me. I ponder and count my blessings.
While such reading and writing activities are not sacrificial in nature, they are adding so much to my Lenten journey. The added reflection I enjoy nurtures my soul. By the time Easter comes around, I am hoping my Lenten commitments will feel even more natural and integrated into everyday life. This way, I can enjoy those Easter chocolate candies without the guilt and with a knowing that God sees my dedication to Him and my willingness to learn.