Our Lenten Journeys and Splinters of the Cross

James Tissot's: Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness

This blessed season has come a little earlier than usual this year, but here we are again readying ourselves to enter into the desert with Our Lord. I know I have said this before, but I really do enjoy the season of Lent; it is like spiritual boot camp for me. By entering that desert with Jesus, I have the opportunity to draw closer to Him.
As Lent approaches every year, I listen to people talk about what they are giving up. Giving up chocolate, coffee, social networking is all good, but what this season really calls us to do is to give up sin. The way to do that is to turn to the Cross. By dying to ourselves, which is what all that giving up is really about, we find ourselves drawing closer to Christ. It is only through Him that we can turn from sin with any measure of success.
The Gospel for today tells us just that. Jesus tells us to pick up our cross and follow Him; to lose our lives so that we can gain life in Him. The priest who said Mass today spoke about "accepting the splinters" of the Cross. Meaning that our everyday lives give us many small crosses to pick up, or splinters. Sitting in traffic, the person at work who loves to get under your skin, living with a cold or flu for a week~ you get the idea. All of these things are crosses we can pick up and offer to Jesus. I always pray the prayer "Thank you Jesus for giving me something to offer you." when one of those little annoying splinters finds it way into my day. For on my own I would probably not choose to accept suffering, even minor suffering. Accepting the splinters helps us to accept the bigger wooden beams when they come, and all of this can help us as we begin our Lenten journey and continue our lives as Christians.
As for my own Lenten formula, I am giving up television because it is my biggest distraction, especially at night. I plan to use the extra time for prayer (praying evening and night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours more regularly), spiritual reading, and writing here on this blog with a little more regularity. I also use the reflections from The Spiritual Exercises Blog. I discovered this blog about 4 years ago and find it that helps keep me on track. I use the reflections and the questions as journal prompts. My journal entries are always "letters to Jesus" so it makes journaling feel more like a conversation with Him. The reflections are based on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. This happens to pair well with my main source of reading this year which is Consoling the Heart of Jesus by Fr. Michael Gaitley.
May we all have a blessed and fruitful Lent so to rejoice even more deeply at Easter.