Friday, March 24, 2017 - Updated: 8:00 am
QUESTION: Every Lent, I have the best intentions but never really get off the ground. I guess it’s too late for this year, but what are some concrete, realistic ideas for a fruitful Lent?
ANSWER: Lent is not just for 40 days. Lent is for life! Our Lenten practices are not a temporary adjustment. They are meant to make real changes in our lives. As such, it is never too late to begin Lent.
Lent really is a time of grace for each of us. In addition to the communal aspect that applies to the entire community, there has to be a deeply personal side as well.
The personal aspect begins with an honest estimation of our own life. Most of us have thought that there is “something missing in my life.” Lent might begin there. What is that missing piece that can restore the balance and calm that we want so much for our lives? It strikes me that finding what is missing and recovering it is an excellent way of utilizing this wonderful season.
In addition, the Catholic Lenten “triad” is a great perspective. Prayer, fasting and works of charity are the traditional foundation of our Lenten observance.
Most of us try to stay current in our fields. Physicians, auto mechanics and teachers all spend time updating their skills to be of better service to others. How much time do we spend perfecting our ability to pray? When was the last time you read a book or pamphlet on prayer? The ability to pray well, like the ability to establish good friendships, is something that can be improved and developed. Many resources are available, but honest discussions with trusted friends can also help. When was the last time you had a conversation about prayer?
The second part of the triad is fasting. Most of us would automatically associate that with food, but it need not end there. Perhaps our spiritual nutrition needs radical treatment. Are we eating the wrong things and starving for the right ones? Is a steady diet of such things as gossip, jealousy, anger, laziness and lust robbing us of the spiritual vitality God gave us in baptism? How sadly these things find a permanent place in our lives, and yet their destruction is so hidden that even we do not realize how devastating they have become. A spiritual fast that eliminates such things can reap a lifetime of reward.
Finally, what about the works of charity? Save your money for a moment. Let’s begin with what really costs — your time. What do we do for the aged or homebound in our neighborhoods? Why not ask your parish priests about how that could take place? What about going to funerals in your parish, not because you know the person but because they are fellow members of the body of Christ?
Lent is really about more than just food. As we celebrate the great feast of Easter, the important questions will involve how much we gained, not how much we lost. Lent is really more about making changes for life, not just for Lent.
Father Bober is pastor of St. Kilian Parish in Adams and Cranberry townships.