That's right: we're just one week away from Ash Wednesday! (And I haven't had a single piece of King Cake yet.)
Today's first reading (from Hebrews) is actually very appropriate as we begin to look forward to the "discipline" of Lent. In fact, "discipline" is the key word in that first reading. The author tells us to look at our attitude toward discipline--and by this he includes all manner of trials. It is not something we submit to or take on for its own sake; it is for the sake of "the peaceful fruit of righteousness" that it brings about in us when we undertake it or accept it within the framework of divine Providence.
Discipline is not a dirty word; it is an essential practice in any area worth developing. The trick is to direct the "struggle" against the right enemy, the "capital sin" that trips us up the most--and not some lesser, more manageable, area.
This week before Lent begins can be the time to discern the area of discipline that could help us the most, to make the Lent of this Year of Faith a time of real spiritual renewal and reinvigoration.
Here's an interesting look at the shape of Lent in the past, from a back issue of the local Franciscans' newsletter.