By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

“Could you not stay awake one hour?”

As Lent quickly comes to a close, some may find themselves in the same perplexing situation as the disciples, when Jesus invites them to watch and pray with him in the Garden of Gethsemane and admonishes them when he returns from prayer to find them asleep. People may find they have been on autopilot during Lent and are now receiving a startling “wake up” call, according to clergy of the Diocese of Baton Rouge.

One of the reasons people may not be fully ready to celebrate Easter is that they have gone “by the same program” they do each Lent without thinking about how prayer, almsgiving and fasting should lead to spiritual growth. They believe they are “doing okay” by sticking with the familiar, according to Father Jerry Martin, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Prairieville.

“When abstaining from meat, for example, for a lot of people it’s not painful, not difficult, maybe even pleasurable,” said Father Martin.

Sacrifices should be more than an exercise in self-control, it should be a way of finding unity and relationship with believers around the world, Father Martin emphasized.

A good practice to mark spiritual progress is through an evening self-examination of conscience and asking, “What did I do today, and why?” according to Father Martin,

“Especially during Lent, make sure you are not going through the motions so that you will reap the spiritual benefits,” said Martin.

If one discovers they have taken the easy way, they can look to Jesus, who modeled on the way to his crucifixion that when one falls down they get up and start again.

“The only failure is when we don’t get back up and try again,” Father Martin said.

A good way people can avoid the pitfall of being in the same place spiritually as before they started Lent is “to appreciate the progress I’ve already made and not be discouraged by the progress I have yet to make,” stressed Father Martin.

Deacon Pete Walsh, deacon assistant at St. Patrick Church in Baton Rouge, said during Lent, “Each of us needs to introduce something that will re-orientate our thinking. We need a ‘discontinuing in life.’ ”

Sometimes that “discontinuing in life” is handed to people, such as during the Flood of 2016, or when one loses a loved one or faces some other life change.

Deacon Walsh, whose home and cars were flooded during 2016, said he was blessed by the assistance from his family and church family of St. Patrick and heard many people say, “I really don’t need all that stuff.”

Deacon Walsh, whose wife, Joan, died in January, said loss causes one to be more introspective and draw closer to God. He pointed out that during Lent people can encounter God more deeply through the Stations of the Cross, Taize services, praying the Divine Mercy chaplet, participating in a retreat –  away or at home – or having a technology-free day.

“It’s a good time to recalibrate. A recalibration where we check where we are and where we are going,” said Deacon Walsh.

During those periods, “time really slows down,” and people can hear God’s promises of love, faithfulness and protection, Deacon Walsh emphasized.

“It’s Jesus calling, saying, ‘I will protect you. I’ll take care of that,’ ” said Deacon Walsh.

And that can lead to the realization that heaven, not Earth, are home.

Deacon Walsh recalled a trip to Europe and Medjugorje with family and friends.

“I remember thinking (in Europe) this is not my home and when I get back to the United States, that’s still not my home.”

To be renewed spiritually during Lent, people should ask Mary to teach them how to pray and take her with them. He said Mary was in deep sorrow and distress as she accompanied Jesus to his death and rejoiced at his resurrection.

Deacon Walsh emphasized if you want to “get at the heart” of who Jesus is, you have to let him into your heart.

To do so, one must be humble, said Deacon Walsh. He noted that Jesus observed the Pharisees and taught his followers not to do what they do if they want to enter the kingdom of heaven.

“The minute I start feeling so good about all the things I do, I better watch out,” chuckled Deacon Walsh.

The Holy Spirit calls people to make changes that will result in spiritual growth beyond Lent, said Deacon Walsh.

“But he’s doing the work, you just have to show up,” said Deacon Walsh. “Say, ‘Thank you Jesus, I can only do it because of your help.’ ”