The season of Lent gives us an opportunity to deepen our faith and relationship with God. In our hectic lives, Lent gives us a chance to pause and reflect. When we take time for reflection, we move closer to God through prayer and giving to others. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the three spiritual practices of Lent. The Lenten message of Pope Francis inspires us on our path of reflection. “The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift.” The Word of God is always at the center of our journey. We are invited to listen, reflect, and act.
Jesus taught us that prayer is powerful. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours,” (Mark 11:24). Prayer is the best place to begin our spiritual practices of Lent. It is through prayer that fasting and almsgiving grow. Prayer is simply a conversation with God. As with any conversation, prayer involves talking, but more importantly prayer involves listening. It is easy for us to find things to talk about with God. Prayer is easy when we are asking God for something we need or thanking Him for our many gifts. The harder part of prayer comes when we must be quiet and listen. “Be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46). During Lent, we are reminded to be still and listen.
Fasting is a spiritual practice in most religious traditions. Our prayer life is strengthened and our compassion for those in need is deepened through the practice of fasting. The Church requires fasting and abstinence for Catholics, ages 18-59, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Only one full meal and two small meals, with no meat, are allowed on these days. The Church also requires Catholics, ages 14 and older, to abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent. Jesus taught us about fasting in the Gospel of Matthew. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do…so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father…who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18). There are many ways you can add to your practice of fasting during Lent. It is a time to fast from whatever may be turning you away from God and others.
Many Catholics choose to “give up” something they desire in Lent. The idea of giving up something you enjoy for the 40 days of Lent keeps with the penitential nature of the season. During Lent, the Holy Child community will shift our focus from “giving up” something to “giving to” others. It is in giving to others that we can turn our hearts back to God. On Ash Wednesday, an empty jar was placed in each classroom and in several other prominent locations around the School. The idea is to write a note each time someone receives or witnesses a Holy Child student or community member “giving to” another. This shift in focus will allow our community to recognize that each person is a gift from God.
As Pope Francis stated, “Other persons are a gift.” It is through others that we meet God. “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12) Lent calls us to not only put God in the center of our lives but others as well. We are called to a life of kindness and compassion, of forgiveness, and accepting of differences. We are called to truly put ourselves in the shoes of others and walk with them on their journey. “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) In understanding the path of our brothers and sisters, we see the face of God in each other and hear the call to discipleship.
Lent calls us to put God and others at the center of our life. During the 40 days of Lent, may your reflection bring you closer to God and may you find a path to “give up, take up, and lift up” during this Holy season.
“I wish you every blessing and a holy Lent full of good works.” – Cornelia Connelly
Kim Trinacria is the Liturgist and Middle School Religion Teacher at Holy Child School at Rosemont. She has a B.A. from Holy Family University in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Religion. She received her M.A. from Seton Hall University in Catholic School Leadership.