Does Lent Matter?
Yes. I think it does. Lent, is a valuable time for Christians. The word “Lent” comes from a variety of Anglo-Saxon and Germanic words meaning “spring”, a time budding with new life and hope. For Christians, Lent is not a celebration of nature; rather, it is a process of prayer and spiritual renewal looking to a time budding with new spiritual life and hope. The Lenten season is an opportunity to cultivate the interior life through spiritual exercises and practices. Rather than being seen as a forty day endurance test, or a bleak and restricted time, Lent is a quality season. It is a time of rediscovery, a valuable chance to open ourselves more deeply to the beauty and power of the dying and rising to new life in Jesus. It is a time to ponder the reality of the death and resurrection and to allow it to soak into our deepest parts. Lent is the time for new life and hope. In the Lenten season, self-examination is crucial. An individual’s response to the call for purposeful reflection on one’s need for God is an important factor in choosing how one will observe Lent. Through the centuries, Lent became characterized by practices which typify the meaning of this season.
Prayer. Lent invites us to step aside from the busyness of our daily life, with the many things that clutter and crowd our time, in order to get in touch with the self and at a deeper level, with the Spirit of God within. Prayer is attention to God; it places us in a posture of listening. Amidst all the noise and tumult of our daily life, Lent encourages us to experience a new depth, an authentic attentiveness to God through which we learn to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his spirit. Take a daily “Time Out” for God. Go to a quiet place, light a candle and: Read the Bible – take time each day to read the Scripture, contemplate on what it says, what it means and how it applies to your life; spend time listening to God, rather than speaking to Him; read a Christian book; and/or write a thankfulness journal.
Fasting. Fasting signifies a willingness to free ourselves from the desires, ambitions and pursuits that center on the demands of the self. It points to a willingness to be freed from the self-centeredness that drives so much of our life in order to experience more fully the liberating power of Christ. Fasting reminds us of the truth that the deepest hunger in our lives must be the hunger for God. Set aside one day a week on which you will go without one meal, and spend an equivalent time intentionally seeking God’s presence with you. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, from sunrise to sunset, refrain from eating solid foods and only drink water or juice. Every time you feel hunger pangs, think of God and pray.
Almsgiving. True hunger for God leads to the giving of ourselves to others. Lent calls us to a greater compassion for others, especially the poor and needy. It invites us to examine ourselves honestly on how subtly we have accepted society’s addiction to possessions, to affluence. Through the days of Lent we are encouraged to focus our eyes on Jesus who gave his whole life in faithfulness to God, giving his life totally out of love for all. As we keep that clear focus we join our life in the loving intention of Jesus to give himself for all by: giving up eating/drinking something that you like and/or give up watching television or some other activity and donate the money saved and time saved; bringing non-perishable food items to a place where they will be taken to the Food Banks for the needy; giving money to Lenten outreach projects of your parish; donating money to the Primates World Relief and Development Fund or other Christian relief efforts; visiting someone who is a shut-in, ill, alone, or otherwise needs a friendly visit; inviting someone who lives alone to have a meal with you and your family, or cook and deliver a meal to someone who is ill or grieving or alone.
Let God Work. Lent is a marvellous time for experiencing “the unsearchable riches of Christ”. It can be a time for spiritual growth enabling us to walk in a newness of life. Lent provides several special days that are available to provide us experiences that deepen our relationship with God: Ash Wednesday; Palm Sunday; Maundy; Thursday; Good Friday; and the Easter Vigil. This year, let us all take the opportunity that Lent offers to renew our spiritual life and come closer to God, through Jesus Christ.