|Jesus on the Cross|
Unsplash by Christop Schmid
During this year's Ash Wednesday mass, Pope Francis "summoned Christians to slow down in a fast-paced and often directionless life and fast from the unnecessary things that distract us, to heed Lent that he described as 'wake-up call for the soul'." (See "Pope at Ash Wednesday Mass: 'focus on what is essential.'": article by Linda Bordoni in Vatican News.)
"Waking up our souls" can be accomplished by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. While delving into information on Lent to find something quick and easy to write, I discovered several instructive and inspirational YouTube videos with Fr. Mike Schmitz. Sorry, but this topic isn't quick, easy or brief to write about. For example, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5zL2U4p5SY
Taking Time for Prayer and Devotions
This requires stillness, silence and solitude. I know I can't soul search when I'm rushing about or when the TV is blaring. Mornings work best for me when the house is quiet and there are fewer distractions. Getting up early can be a Lenten offering.
Unsplash - Ahna Ziegler
Prayer and Repentance
Although God called David "a man after his own heart," he wasn't perfect and he couldn't always resist temptation. After David's transgression with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan spoke to him about matters of the soul. Psalm 51 is the Psalmists touching repentance.
Throughout this Psalm, which you may want to read for yourself, David pleads with God for forgiveness, mercy, and cleansing.
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love . . . , your abundant mercy,
blot out my transgressions. . . Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me."
David prays for restoration of the joy of salvation and asks God to sustain a willing spirit in him. He prays that the Lord will open his lips, so that his mouth would declare God's praise. This speaks to my efforts in writing, speaking and living. How well and how often do I share the joy of my salvation and declare praise to God's name?
As practicing Christians, salvation is not for us alone. Christ's Great Commission is that we share the Good News with our fellow humans.
What about fasting?
For Catholics and others who observe Lent, fasting is a no feasting day. Canadian Catholics between 14 and 59 are commanded to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent." Fish is allowed. This isn't a huge requirement.
Some Catholics and other Christians do more fasting for the 40 days of Lent in the sense of "giving up" things that are too dear to their hearts. Sacrifice is made in commemoration of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. Sacrifice is also made in memory of the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made by dying on the cross for our sins.
To learn more about discerning what we should "give up" for Lent, I recommend Fr. Mike Schmitz's YouTube video, "Picking a Thing for Lent."
Giving up a favourite food can be a start. In his March 3 column in The Catholic Register, Fr. Scott Lewis S.J. writes of how we are inundated and even "assaulted" with words on news media, talk shows, and in social gatherings where gossip is the norm.
|Cake with Fruit Topping|
Unsplash by Alona Alona
Fr. Lewis concludes his column saying, "Jesus ended His teaching by reaffirming that what comes out of us in the form of words and deeds reflects who we really are within. As Lent approaches, perhaps paying attention to our words and actions each day would be a more useful discipline than giving up candy."
Whether we are praying, fasting or giving alms, we are to do it secretly. No trumpets please! Our left hand should not know what the right hand is doing. If we do our praying, fasting and praying for others to see, that will be our reward. (Matthew 6:1-6) There are many needy people and worthy causes to support. Sometimes it is good to meet the poor in person and address them by name.
|40 Days of Lent|
Almsgiving can also be a kindness, hospitality, recognition for good deeds, a note of encouragement, or spending time with the ill, the elderly, broken hearted, or lonely. I saw the following words posted on Facebook and it reminded me that is time to give up more of the treasures I hang onto "for where (my) treasure is there will (my) heart be also." (Matthew 6:21)
40 DAYS - 40 ITEMS
Instead of giving up something for Lent this year,
why not try the 40 days - 40 items challenge?
Each day of Lent, remove one item from your house,
which you don't use or wear anymore and place it in a
bag. At the end of Lent, donate these items to a
charity shop or to a homeless shelter.
They'll be shared with those who really need them!
Prayer: May we have an awakening of the soul this Lenten Season and prepare ourselves and others, through Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving for a Joyous Easter.