What are you Giving for Lent? — By Fr. Rich, OP
Those of you who keep track might recognize this column. I confess that it is the opening column from Lent 2015. I had actually almost completed the column for Lent 2017, but wanted to check on something. As the opening line suggests, I think that the ideas and concepts are “OK” to think about anew. So, with humility I submit for your consideration.
It’s time for the age old question, “What am I giving up for Lent?” As Lent is a season of penitential practice, it can be a legitimate question. I’ve some suggestions for your consideration.
Why not give up the randomness of your prayer life, and chose to be INTENTIONAL about how you pray? Commit to a CONSISTENT time for personal prayer, even arrange a place in which you can be prayerful; a comfortable chair, a Bible, candles, favorite saint, music. With a committed time and space, the idea of regular prayer is an ATTAINABLE practice for Lent. I offer to you that a prayer life grounded in this manner will bring into your life the POSITIVE presence of serenity and grace and a closer relationship with God. A prayer life that is CONSISTENT and INTENTIONAL is the best defense against the stresses and strains of daily life. It is a source of grace, and reminds us that we are always enfolded in God’s love.
Why not give up being concerned with the size of our treasure? A second penitential theme for Lent is almsgiving. Making a decision to support one of the many programs that rely on gifts for their existence requires thoughtful, prayerful consideration. Starting with Ash Wednesday, in the Gathering Space, there will be options. They include raising funds for youth empowerment programs at our sister parish in El Salvador which is a part of our Lenten project. There will be others. Any of the options that you choose to exercise will result in the King’s reply in Matthew’s Gospel, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Why not give up some of the time we spend indulging ourselves in _________ (fill in the blank)? For me the most challenging of the Lenten practices is fasting. Perhaps because it requires more discipline than I possess. One way to support our discipline is through a commitment to set ATTAINABLE, short-term goals. And quite frankly, sometimes the “one day at a time” approach can be best. The interest- ing thing about fasting from something that absorbs our time is that we have time to dedicate to our prayer life perhaps, or another aspect of our emotional, physical, mental life that we’ve been neglecting.
So there you have it; the three Lenten disciplines: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. When we engage them with INTENTIONAL and CONSISTENT energy, we run the risk of experiencing a Lent that truly challenges us to prepare ourselves for the Son rise of Easter. We run the risk of giving up old habits or routines that interfere with the grace that Jesus died to surround us with. We run the risk of beginning to live as a Child of God grounded in the Gospel message of love. We run the risk of living more fully for Jesus, our brother and redeemer. Opportunities in the Gathering Space that we can engage. Spiritual reading made available for us, either as individuals or in small groups. Perhaps one of the first things that we need to decide to give up is compliancy? Perhaps there is another question that we can ask?
I offer this for your consideration, “What are you GIVING for Lent?”