Enkindling the World Before Lent

candle flame close-upThis short period of Ordinary Time after the Christmas season is a great time to prepare ourselves for the season of Lent, leading to Christ’s Passion. We can spend time getting to know Jesus, encountering him, growing in friendship, witnessing his way of proceeding, and coming to know his heart. The Sunday readings in these weeks move from stories of calling, in which the disciples make a commitment to follow Jesus, to stories of Christ’s teaching and healing. It’s a movement from call to commitment to action. This is very fitting to the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises, when one hears the Call of the King, chooses to follow Jesus, and begins praying with the stories of his ministry. But one also prays to understand the depth of one’s own commitment to Jesus.

Jesus said that he came to enkindle the earth (Luke 12:49). St. Ignatius said that we should set the world on fire. Louis Savary says, “Fire is a symbol of passionate commitment. It is the kind of holy fire and commitment we desire to feel in our hearts in order to move from the Second to the Third Week of the Exercises.” We can’t face the eventual horror of the Cross without first walking alongside Jesus in his work, committed to never leaving his side. That comes from true, intimate friendship.

Here are three ways you can spend these remaining days before Lent walking with Jesus in his friendship and ministry.

  1. Read the Gospel. The best way to come to know Jesus more is by reading his words and about his actions. Start with the daily readings, and immerse yourself in the stories. Use Ignatian contemplation as a way to walk by Jesus’ side and watch how he lives, what he says, and how he loves.
  2. Make a daily commitment to follow Jesus. Start your day with a simple prayer of commitment: “Jesus, I choose to walk with you today and give myself to your mission.”
  3. Spend some time serving others. We tend to consider Lent as a time of service and almsgiving, but this is the time when our Church shares the Scripture stories of Jesus’ close ministry to the poor and vulnerable—a primary part of Jesus’ ministry. The “poor” is really everyone we encounter. We’re called to love and care for anyone who may be lacking something materially or spiritually; that’s all of us.

Only once we’ve lived the Way of Jesus Christ through commitment and action can we live out the Passion and Resurrection in our daily lives. The death and new life that pattern all our lives come only from Jesus’ enkindling ministry of transformation and the work of those who partake in his mission—those who stay committed to it even to the cross.

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Andy Otto
Andy Otto is an Ignatian blogger and spiritual director. He currently works in adult faith formation and retreat direction at a Jesuit parish and retreat center in Atlanta, GA, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Andy is the author of God Moments and holds a master’s degree in theology and ministry from Boston College.


  1. GPS and Google Maps have nothing on you Andy. Thank you for the beautiful and simple road map for us to follow. A map that will truly bring us closer to the One we love.

  2. This period of Ordinary Time certainly is short. I’ve noticed a few too many attempts to encourage the faithful to begin thinking about our Lenten observances, as though the here and now doesn’t much matter. I need to be grounded in the present and this blog post clarifies why it’s important to make the most of Ordinary Time.
    On another note I’m halfway through Fr. Joseph Tetlow SJ “Always Discerning An Ignatian Spirituality for the New Millennium” – very helpful guidebook for journeying with Christ. Thanks for the recommendation.


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