As we approach the great celebration of Christ’s resurrection, it’s important to recognize the way our Lenten observances help us to understand the full meaning of Christ’s sacrifice so that we grow in our appreciation of all he has accomplished for us. And just like Christ carried the strength of spirit he cultivated in his 40 days in the desert into all he did to win our salvation, so too must we carry the detachment we practice during our 40 days of Lent into the celebration of Easter and the entirety of our lives going forward.

We walk in the footsteps of Christ at this time of year, especially as it pertains to his suffering, as a matter of the ritual practice of our faith. It is enriching to observe this practice every year because we progress incrementally in the spiritual life in such a way that new fruits await us as we grow closer to Christ.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote daily meditations for Lent that many like to follow or at least reference. Aquinas begins one meditation by first quoting St. Paul in his letter to the Romans, where he wrote, “Be not conformed to this world.”

Interpreting that sentiment, Aquinas adds, “that is, to the things which pass away with time.”

It’s an idea that gets to the heart of the very purpose of our Lenten observances because we detach from the things of this world in order to be in tune with the things of God and that which is lasting and will not pass away with time. Aquinas points out that the things of God are marked by wisdom and charity, and encourages us to immerse ourselves in good works in order to grow closer to God.

There are many great readings like Aquinas’ meditations to incorporate into our Lenten observance, and the fast and abstinence days are important reminders of the detachment from worldly things that we should strive for daily. Another great practice during Lent is to follow the Stations of the Cross. The Little Sisters of the Poor have promulgated a Way of the Cross with Mary, wherein we are invited to experience the Stations of the Cross as seen through the eyes of our Blessed Mother. It’s such a beautiful way to meditate upon the Passion of our Lord, to walk with Mary in her sorrow over all Christ endured for our salvation.

Whatever observances we practice during any given Lenten season, it’s important to focus on the end goal of getting ourselves to Easter with greater love in our hearts for Jesus. So, as that glorious day approaches, let’s not get caught up in overly analyzing how austere a Lent we are undertaking. Even for those we know who don’t seem to have been observing Lent at all, let’s remember how much Christ wants to gather us all in and most especially those who go astray.

After the good thief proclaimed Christ’s divinity while hanging beside him on the cross, Christ said, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Let’s remember these words await anyone who comes to Christ, no matter how late in life or in Lent. And regardless of where we stand in our spiritual journey, when Easter comes, let’s run to him with joy over the mercy of God realized for us in the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

For a free copy of the Christopher News Note FINDING HOPE IN CHRIST’S RESURRECTION, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or email . Fr. Dougherty is a member of the Christophers’ Board of Directors.

Maryknoll Fr. Edward M. Dougherty (CNS photo)