Earlier this week, I wrote about what I believe to be an unfortunate trend: frowning.

It started with a woman sitting on the plane next to me who, instead of returning my chipper greeting, frowned, gazed down at her tablet, and ignored me for the entire flight. She’s not the only one. When I’m out in public, I feel as though I pass frowns just about all day long. Sometimes I can get the folks to smile back; oftentimes not.

Let’s change that this Lent, shall we?

Of course, Lent is meant to be a somber time in which we pray, fast, give alms, and do other penance in order to become more holy and follow Christ more closely. The goal, spiritually speaking, is to come out of Lent a better Christian than you were when you went in.

Yes, Lent is meant to be a somber time. But it doesn’t have to be an angry, rude, or standoffish one.

St, Philip Neri is often called the “Happy Saint" because he always managed to be cheerful no matter what.

“A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one,” he once said.

I think it’s especially important to heed Saint Philip Neri’s advice during Lent. A downcast heart – one that is reflected with frowns, ignoring, grumbles, shrugs, and self-centeredness – get in the way of our opening our hearts to others and to Christ himself. Part of our calling as Christians is to lead others to our Lord. How in the world can we lead anyone anywhere if our faces aren’t welcoming when we encounter them?

This is something to think about and take seriously in your Lenten striving.

They say that the mere act of smiling can change someone’s disposition even if that disposition was initially negative. If we dump the frowning, we’ll be a grace-filled force in changing the dispositions of ourselves and others.

There’s so much in the media right now about welcoming refugees. How can we welcome anyone, whether refugee or the person right next to us, if our faces are set to repel? And, aren’t we all refugees, in a way? Aren’t we all on a journey to (hopefully) Eternity?

“Turn your frown the other way around” is a funny saying, but it holds a vital message. If we want the Light of Christ to shine forth from us, let’s begin with our faces.

This Lent, I’m committed to fasting from frowning and I’m encouraging you to do the same.

To some, this may seem trite, but I think in reality it could be a far more difficult penance than some of the others we’d choose for ourselves. If you’re like me, you habitually lapse into a serious and often frowning face without even realizing it. (I swear it’s because I’m concentrating; my kids swear it’s because I’m mad all the time). Making sure we turn those frowns the other way around will take diligence, concentration, and attentiveness but it will be worth it to ourselves and everyone around us.

This Lent, let’s challenge each other to pray, fast, give alms, and do penance with a smile and the Light of Christ shining forth from our eyes.

Let’s turn those frowns the other way around.