Many people get a yearly physical to see how healthy they are or how they can improve their health.
Lent is a good time for a yearly spiritual checkup and to do those things that will deepen our relationship with God.
Traditionally the church recommends three exercises during Lent to renew our spiritual life. These disciplines of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Of course they are not just exercises for Lent but are an integral part of our spiritual lives.
First of all, prayer should be a part of the life of every Christian, all year long. Prayer is an important way to communicate with God.
In Lent we are called to examine our prayer life. We might discover that we don’t really pray or our prayer amounts to an Our Father or Hail Mary once in a while.
Lent is a good time to look at our prayer life and find ways that will help us deepen it. It can be as simple as setting a daily time for prayer, even 15 minutes, and sticking to it, not just during Lent but after the season is over.
Those who already pray regularly can look for new ways to enhance their prayer life. Try going to Mass an extra day a week, read Scripture each day to learn more about Jesus, or make a retreat or day of reflection.
Even better, join a faith-sharing group or start one. One way a group can begin is to share the Mass readings for the following Sunday.
The second discipline of Lent is fasting. We can fast from food or meat, but there are other ways to fast that might benefit our spiritual lives even more.
I had a prayer that I gave out to students when I was a campus minister. It was about fasting and feasting during Lent. One suggestion was to fast from judging others and feast on Christ dwelling in them. Other ideas:
- fast from pessimism and feast on optimism;
- fast from complaining and feast on appreciation;
- fast from bitterness and feast on forgiveness;
- fast from self-concern and feast on concern and compassion for others;
- fast from discontent and feast on gratitude.
During Lent we should focus on almsgiving.
Traditionally, almsgiving is to give food or money to those less fortunate than we are. Some of us don’t have money or food to share, but that does not let us off the hook.
Another, and sometimes more meaningful way to give alms is to give of our time and love to the poor and needy. We can volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen or visit lonely people in nursing homes. Think about other ways you can serve others, and hopefully our service won’t end on Easter Sunday.
Lent is a time of metanoia, a Greek word that means to turn our lives around. It is to change what needs to be changed to make us a better disciple of Christ. Lent gives us another chance for change and growth — let’s take the opportunity.Sister Margie Lavonis is a Sister of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Ind. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.