When I was a kid my dad made me give up candy for Lent every year. He was trying to teach me the importance of the sacrifice, while also making it difficult, which was a great thing. When I grew older, I realized that in Lent we are setting out on a spiritual journey. A kind of purification where we turn away from the pleasures of life and enter into this serious and solemn season in the Church. Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving the faithful have been given the tools necessary to grow in love for the Lord. Spiritual growth begins with a desire to expand the heart and mind toward God. Lent is the time of year to delve deeper into all things spiritual. To shut out the world and pursue our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Consciously deciding to enter into prayer has the power to greatly change a person. I remember years ago when I was at the very beginning of my conversion. I went to a conference and noticed a booklet on the 15 prayers of Saint Bridget of Sweden. I didn’t know anything about her or about the prayers, but I was drawn to them. I had no idea what the Lord had in store for me at the time, but I was about to find out. As I sat alone one night in my room and began to pray those prayers, my heart was filled with sorrow and I was able to see the excruciating pain the Lord suffered because of my sins. It was an encounter with the Lord that profoundly changed me and brought me to love God in a much deeper way. Prayer has the power to do so much within a soul, to truly change the very essence of who a person is and bring them to become something more. The more we pray the more we will experience Christ, and it is in that act of prayer that we are opening ourselves to be more fully Christ to others.
Lent is a time to more intimately enter into the suffering of Jesus and to mourn with Mary. To place ourselves in their midst and walk well these 40 days. Fasting and giving something up during Lent creates an empty space within us that hopes to be filled with God. Whatever it is that we choose to give up becomes our daily reminder that Lent is about sacrifice, penance, self-reflection, and change. The hunger of fasting brings us to think of those people who do not have food. You can put yourself in their position because you now feel what they experience every day. This produces empathy which can only come from God. Jesus exudes empathy. If we are to become more like Jesus in this life, then empathy is something to strive for.
Almsgiving seems to be the least remembered part of our Lenten duties. I think that is because it isn’t structured like fasting from meat on Fridays and giving something up daily throughout Lent. It is easy to forget, but it is an important aspect because it brings to mind the poor and the hungry. It helps us to think of those who are less fortunate than we are. Some people have the means to help monetarily and so they should, but others don’t. To pray for others is an act of mercy and its power reaches beyond this world. When we call on God to provide for the needs of others, He answers that call in the most perfect way. In whatever way you give, the Lord will receive that with joy and repay you with an abundance of grace. Mathew 25:21
“Well done my good and faithful servant.”Math 25:21
Lent is a spiritual battle. Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert, and we will be tempted too. Denying self, praying and fasting strengthens a person’s will and helps them to overcome sin and weakness, and these are all ways to defeat the enemy. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but Jesus is very generous with His grace when we put in the effort. Lent is an invitation. Jesus wants us to enter into the desert with Him so we can be filled with God. If we are willing to suffer with Jesus then in the end, we will be more like Him. I believe that is the real gift of Lent. On Easter Sunday I want to hear Jesus say “Well done my good and faithful servant.” Jesus has a plan for you this Lent, will you say yes.