Historically, Lent began as a time to prepare oneself for the renewal of our Baptismal promises at Easter. Coupled with the image of Jesus in the desert, which we read in the first part of Lent, the season is an invitation to introspection and emptying ourselves of that which keeps us away from a close relationship with Christ.
|Prayer is something we all would like to do more often, and Lent is a good time to begin a daily practice of prayer. Prayer grounds us in the presence of God, it helps us to build our relationship with Jesus and it opens us to the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. A daily rendezvous with God is a habit that can persist long after Lent is complete. There are many options for daily prayer – here are a few ideas:|
– To start, make the sign of the cross and then ask God to open your mind and heart to hear his word and let it transform you.
– Then, take a few minutes to do spiritual reading of some sort, such as:
– Read the daily scripture readings, available online at the website of the US Catholic Bishops: usccb.org, or use a devotional booklet such as Give us This Day, Magnificat or The Word Among us – all three have print and on-line versions.
– Use other online services, such as “Pray as you Go,” the Apostleship of Prayer, “Sacred Space,” “daily meditations from America Media,” or Bishop Barron’s daily scripture reflections, at wordonfire.org
– Read a gospel, either Mark or Matthew (which we are currently hearing at mass), or another book of the bible. Read one chapter a day, ponder it, and think about what it means in your life.
– Choose a spiritual book to read daily during Lent. There are free books available in the parish office.
– Consider keeping a lenten prayer journal. Write down a brief thought or two about your prayer that day – what you did, what you read or listened to, and what it meant to you.
There are many ways to pray, and many books on the subject. The most important thing is to just DO IT!
|Fasting is a time-honored spiritual practice, which helps focus our minds on our prayer and our efforts to detach from worldly pleasures. I have always tried to pick one thing to fast from during Lent – in the past, it’s been something like evening television, or alcohol, or eating at restaurants, or some food item that I really like, such as a morning bagel.|
It’s not dieting to lose weight, but an intention to give up some aspect of our life as a sacrifice to God, and a way to bring our minds back to God when we struggle to do without.Others have suggested that it’s good to fast from a bad behavior, such as gossiping, or some pursuit that we enjoy, such as social media. The practice of fasting reminds us every day that we are in a special time of year, and can be an opportunity to pray for grace, perseverance, and strength in our spiritual journey.
|Giving money or time to the poor is also a long-standing spiritual practice during Lent. If you are fasting from some indulgence that you normally enjoy, it’s a good practice to save the money you would have spent and give it to the poor. Visiting the sick or elderly or other works of mercy are also meaningful ways to give alms. You might put aside a certain amount of money for the needy each week, the equivalent of a meal, and make a donation to a charity each week or at the end of Lent. Almsgiving is a way of demonstrating solidarity with all God’s people as we journey through this season.|
The most important aspect of our Lenten practice is being aware every day that we are in Lent. Daily practices such as these cultivate a sense of gratitude and humility before God. We are preparing to observe the events of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, and Lent helps us to deepen our awareness of the presence of God in our midst. Through daily prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we acknowledge that God is truly the center of our lives, that our faith informs all that we do, and we may find ourselves slowly moving closer to the source of all Love.