How are we doing with the whole “prayer, fasting and almsgiving” thing of Lent? I must confess, I am doing poorly, but I am trying to jumpstart it – better late than never. Truly. It’s better to push the restart button midway through Lent than to write it off. There is still time to focus on the three pillars of Lent and get ourselves in shape for a joyful Easter.
Lent is about detaching ourselves from the distractions of this world and focusing on our relationship with Christ. We all know we have to make time for work and for family. We crave “me” time and try to arrange at least a little of that. We also need to set aside time for prayer – quality time that doesn’t involve dozing off mid-Hail Mary. It really should be a first priority, at least ten or fifteen minutes, free from distraction.
Fasting includes more than just giving up chocolate or skipping meat on Fridays. These days, we may need to fast from smartphones and social media. Detachment. A total fast may be more than we can manage because we rely on our devices for news and information as well as entertainment. However, we could commit to ten minutes of prayer before checking messages in the morning, or retire all devices after dinner to focus on family. What is keeping us from a deeper relationship with God?
One of the most important ways we show our love for Christ is by caring for His people. Look around. Who can we help? Giving to charity is one way to help, and necessary. But what about one-on-one help? Not just financial, but personal help is often a godsend to people. Who might like a trip to Costco or the local mall? Maybe someone needs a little pick-me-up like a restaurant brunch or a manicure? Elderly people, especially, tend to be cooped up over the winter and would appreciate just about any change of scene. We should think about giving of ourselves generously as a form of almsgiving.
These small efforts will help to put us in the right frame of mind (and spirit) for Lent. We also need to address other attachments, especially grudges and other issues we have with one another, things we cling to that make us feel morally superior. In other words, we need to forgive those who have wronged us. That doesn’t mean that what they may have done is alright; it means that we choose to move beyond that without demanding “justice” or having the last word. In fact, we make peace with them, at least insofar as we genuinely wish them well. From there, all that is left is for us to ask for forgiveness through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Through the experience of Christ’s healing forgiveness, we are made whole.
Living Lent well really makes a difference. So if, like me, you haven’t had the best start, don’t give up. Let us make our Lenten resolutions again and have a big finish! Let us pray for each other.