“And they devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers…. All who believed were together and had all things in common.” Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 2 gives us this insight into the early Christian community.

This description of the early Christian community is among those the church uses during the Easter season. I love this season of resurrection, new life and community, but what does it have to do with our beginning Lent?

Looking toward Easter season goals when Lent is concluded can give us insights on how to live our “lent” today. Working to build a Christ-centered life and Christian community is what we’re about. Looking toward Easter can make this Lent more productive.

Once again, we look to the importance of connecting with our local parish. This is a busy time for all of us, but as Catholics we want to be more attentive to our spiritual lives and want to make Lent special.

What we are going to “do” can be more important than what we are “not going to do.” More effort to “do” prayer, celebrating sacraments and “involvement” is what’s needed to make this Lent special. It’s not just a time to simply “give up candy” or “eat fish.” It is a time for positive action that makes a difference in our spiritual lives. 

Lent is a journey we all take and taking it in the context of the local parish can make it a special journey. Look for local opportunities for prayer and worship. There are numerous opportunities for daily Masses as well as Sunday Masses. Look for a convenient time before or after work or during lunch.

Look for opportunities for a visit to your church in the afternoon or spend some time at a parish offering Eucharistic Adoration. Check out your parish confession times and take the opportunity to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation. 

Lent is a journey taken together. Community (relationship) is built through dialogue. As we spend time with God in prayer, so spending time in a class or in a parish faith discussion group is also important in building that relationship with Jesus and with his Body, the church.

So many parishes offer parish “missions,” retreats, or evening education opportunities this time of year. Most parish bulletins are available online. Search for something that will make Lent different for you and that will help you connect to the family of Jesus in a significant way.

There are many who have left the church and no longer participate in the community of Jesus. Lent is a perfect time to reconnect. It’s another opportunity to encounter Jesus in his special community, the parish.

If you’ve been away, come back; give your spiritual life another opportunity for growth. If you have a relative, friend or neighbor who has been away, invite them to join you in a Lenten parish event.

One of the deacons tells the moving story of how he brought a parish bulletin to a “non-participating” Catholic neighbor each week for years. When he visited, they talked about church and religion. He and his family were moving out of town and he went to say goodbye to this neighbor. As he was walking away, the neighbor called him back and asked, “All these years you brought me the church bulletin. Why didn’t you invite me to come to church with you?”

It’s easy to miss even the most obvious opportunities to welcome people back to Jesus and his church. Keep your eyes and ears open. Happy Lent to all!