From today through Easter Sunday on April 16th, Christians all over the world will be observing the season of Lent. In the early church, those contemplating baptism into Christianity observed a three year period of preparation which involved the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving or acts of charity and service before being baptized. Those first followers of Jesus took their commitment very seriously! Fast forward 2000 plus years and Christians today continue the Lenten tradition by practicing the same spiritual disciplines, though certainly not to the extent of our foremothers and forefathers in faith.
Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are a bit like New Year’s resolutions. If we take on too much, we are likely to end up disappointed and disgruntled when we fall short of the spiritual goals we have set. And ultimately the goal is not for us to be frustrated and upset with ourselves. The ultimate goal is for each of us to draw nearer to God. The more we allow ourselves to feel and experience the unconditional, loving embrace of God, the more we will be enabled to extend that same love and grace to those around us.
My wish for each of us this Lent is that we might keep it simple. In prayer, perhaps speak less to God and listen more. In almsgiving, seek out one person or one organization that needs your time, talent, and treasure. Focus your energy in one place over these forty days rather than spreading yourself too thin. And in fasting, choose one theme adapted from Pope Francis to guide you on your spiritual path.
- Fast from hurting words and say kind words.
- Fast from frustration and be filled with patience.
- Fast from pessimisms and be filled with hope.
- Fast from worries and have trust in God.
- Fast from complaints and be filled with gratitude.
- Fast from pressures and be prayerful.
- Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others.
- Fast from grudges and be reconciled.
- Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.
May you find this season to be blessed with a renewed sense of God’s amazing and overflowing love for you and for all of creation as we await the Easter celebration that is to come.