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Reflection: 40 Days to a Better You this Lent Feb 16, 2024

First Sunday of Lent
LENT_Fr Francis
LENT_Fr Francis

40 Days to a Better You

There is a famous inscription above the door to a monastery, on Mt Athos in Greece, which reads, “If you die before you die, you will not die when you die”.  The quote essentially means that if we die to ourselves – our instincts, habits, inclinations, etc. while we are still alive, then when we die for good, we will not wind up in hell.


Lent is our time of the year when we get to focus on “dying before we die”.


The practice strikes me as hard to do wrong provided we do it consistently: if we pick a physical penance, our suffering reminds us to not get too cushy in the fleeting moment we are on this earth. If we pick something internal, such as destructive behaviours, we resume our journey towards being “perfect like my heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48).


In this regard Lent, if anything, is a permission and space given to us to go on an accelerated program of change. I am reminded here of the infomercials between noontime movies during school holidays which I was subjected to growing up. A frequent theme was exercise machines, which promised “NOTICEABLE RESULTS IN JUST WEEKS! NOT MONTHS!” if you did “ONLY 3 MINUTES A DAY!”.

So confident were the companies of their product that you needed to pay “ONLY $14.95 FOR A ONE-MONTH TRIAL”. The low price for a trial period, the novelty, the promise of a short turn around with results and only needing to invest a few minutes daily all made for a tempting offer to create a “better you”.


Similarly, different figures float around about how long it takes to form better habits within us: some claim it takes as little as 21 days, others say 42. Research from 2012 placed the time needed at about 10 weeks (70 days). The research also named other factors in forming habits – such as triggers around us – places and times of the day which keep our habits alive.


In today’s gospel, Jesus sees beasts when he fasts in the wilderness. Perhaps these 40 days are an excellent time to name one of the ‘beasts’ in our ‘wilderness’ and do something about them. By virtue of focusing on one ‘beast’, we too can name the triggers that draw them forth – the places that cue them, the times of day, perhaps the people around whom our beasts come out and so on. The promise of being able to end our fasts in 40 days ought to offer some motivation to keep going. Then like those infomercials – if we have kept the discipline, the ball will lie in our court to keep with the “better you” change or return to the old lifestyles.

God Bless

    Fr Francis     

See you in the week! 🙂























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