I pray that you have and experience a holy and blessed Lent.
During my years of ministry, I have encountered and have been questioned for my advice concerning Lent. Many are quick to inform me of their giving up. Often times this includes everything from soda to candy to ice cream or alcohol. I admit and accept the fact that the lack of indulgences during Lent is a sacrifice, however, the idea that your lack of soda during the 40 days of Lent (Sundays being excluded) is somehow honoring Christ can be misleading.
I offer to you an alternative in order that you come out of the 40 days of Lent, changed. Your relationship with Christ, changed. Your relationship with others and how you treat your neighbor, changed. So, in essence, your focus for should be to change.
Many of you may say that your relationship with Christ is “fine”. Maybe your prayer life is the best it has ever been. Maybe you are attending Mass, reading scripture and helping those in need. That is great, however, maybe it could be better. I offer the following as way to take some extra self-evaluation and still come out of Lent, changed.
Prayer – Remember that prayer is 40% talking and 60% listening. How many times do you pray, then get up and go onto the next task. In order to hear God speak to us, we must keep not only our ears but our eyes open. Jesus desires to have a relationship with us. Relationships take back and forth, open communiction. So yes, pray. Begin by giving God the Honor and praise that is due His name, thank Him for your blessings and this day, then pour out what is on your heart.
Reading – Scripture, Scripture, Scripture. If you read Scipture once a week, add a day. If you regulary read an hour, read for two. Grab a Lenten Bible Study. Pick up any book by some of my favorites (Not any heavy, non-understandable stuff) like Max Lucado, Timothy Keller or Kyle Idleman. Add some sort of reading to your Lenten discipline.
Almsgiving – A simple definition for Almsgiving is the act of giving charity to another. Almsgiving has been around for thousands of years and is referred to as charity, philanthropy, or giving to the poor. If you are already regularly called to do so, give a little extra. Instead of that $5 cup of frothy coffee, spend that money on those in need. Start a discipline of giving a little extra time, talent and treasure to those in need.
Sacrifice – This is where giving things up can be of benefit but only if what you are giving up and sacrificing brings you closer to Christ. I know alot of skinny Atheists who don’t eat candy, ice cream or soda. Only sacrifice these indulgences if, in it’s place, you are growing closer to Christ through the sacrifice.
Fasting – First let me clarify what an acceptable fast is. A meal in the morning then two snacks through the rest of the day (that don’t equal the size of a meal combined). The idea is that when your body and mind start thinking about food, take that as a reminder to stop and pray. Give God the sacrifice that you are making and continuing growing your relationship with Him. Some people, do to dietary restrictions, certain medications and blood sugars, are not able to fast. That’s ok. God knows the restrictions you have and never wants you to harm yourself in any way.
The last bit of advice I can give you (and that is what all of this is, my advice) would be to not talk about it. God knows what you are doing and why you are doing it. Social Media and the rest of the world doesn’t need to know. If you are giving what you are adding to God in order to grow closer to Him, then tell Him not everyone else.
May God bless you and have a blessed and Holy Lent, Father Jason Bowden