Dear Friends in Christ,
We again embark on our annual spiritual journey to Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus, which is part of our life-long journey to heaven. A principle of Catholic life and culture is that we fast before we feast. Prior to celebrating our two greatest feasts, Easter and Christmas, we prepare ourselves spiritually, mentally and physically by periods of penitence marked by fasting, praying and almsgiving. These actions are disciplines that we undertake personally and communally. We discipline our thoughts and our appetites so that we may rid ourselves of sinful habits and tendencies and increase virtue and holiness in order to more fully experience the joy of the feast. The way to have a happy Easter is to have a holy Lent! The three disciplines of Lent (fasting, praying and almsgiving) each require sacrifice. The word “sacrifice” does not mean to give up as most would say, but rather it means to make holy (sacra –holy, facere – to make). Through the disciplines of fasting, prayer and almsgiving we learn about God, ourselves and others. By fasting we can reflect on how delicate we are. Deprive us of a little food and we can quickly become weak or obsessed with thinking about food. People who seldom eat hamburgers get huge cravings for hamburgers on Lenten Fridays! What does this tell us about ourselves and God’s bountiful goodness to us? Communally, we fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent. It is a good practice to fast or abstain from other foods or pleasures during this season as well as a daily reminder. This Lent, consider abstaining or fasting from technology. Put the cell phone down, stay away from the computer or turn off the TV and instead spend the time in prayer, spiritual reading or having one on one time with a family member.
Through the discipline of prayer, we can see how we strengthen our relationship with God. Prayer is the oxygen to our souls. Getting up early to pray, taking up a few extra minutes in prayer each day rearranges our lives. Praying more focuses our attention on God and increases our awareness of our desire for God. In prayer, offer prayers of adoration, expressing to God how much you love Him, prayers of contrition – tell God that you are sorry for your sins. Confession is perfect for this. Offer thanks to God for the multitude of blessings in your life and humbly place your needs and those of others before Him. Praying for others before ourselves strengthens our faith and our love. A beautiful way to pray is praying with the scriptures. Pick up your Bible and pray using the Psalms or meditate on a passage from the gospels. When we don’t have the words, the Lord will often provide them in Scripture.
Almsgiving stretches us. Giving away money and time disciplines our attitudes and enrichens our perspective. Giving away from what we have allows us to appreciate how much we do have. It allows us to discover a new appreciation of our own blessedness, and to recognize our abundance of blessings. Generosity can aid us with humility and help us in overcoming pride. As we let go of money, time and stuff, we can also let go of self. It can be a struggle, but it is one that stretches us. Like all good disciplines, it has to be practiced with repetition and deliberation. Practicing generosity over time changes us to where we do not think first about pleasing ourselves but others.
These spiritual disciplines of Lent, fasting, prayer and almsgiving are not just for Lent. These disciplines help us remember our true goal in this life is a perfect union with God in the next life!
Have a holy Lent!
In Pace Christi,