Prayer, Fast and Almsgiving: Three Pillars of Lent

Training for the journey

Lent is a time at which the Church invites us to reflect on how we are making that journey. In this way we also prepare to celebrate Easter, Holy Week, and the remembrance of the Passion and death of Christ.

In a certain sense, this can be compared to an athlete who trains by exercising, watching his weight, taking care of his nourishment, and avoiding anything that might have an adverse effect on the body. This is the way in which a Christian should enter Lent. During Lent God invites the whole Christian family to do penance and to fast from all those things that prevent us from walking our journey in harmony with those around us.

Abstinence and fasting help us to control our appetites. So, for instance, children can make the sacrifice of giving up sweets. Young people and adults could try to pray more and avoid excesses and too many distractions. Fasting and abstinence can be liberating experiences because they free us from slavery to material things. But that is not enough.

Sometimes we start Lent making many sacrifices and giving up many things. But sometimes we don’t realize that perhaps we are omitting some work of charity toward someone in need, whether it be a family member, a neighbor, or a friend.”

How will we have time to do good works if we are too busy thinking of the chocolate or the beer we will take at the end of Lent? What is the point of giving up smoking during Lent if at moments of impatience we are furious to the point of sending up sparks through our eyes? What is the point of giving up sweets if we embitter the lives of those around us?
While we spend so much energy in fasting, perhaps we are not seeing that our neighbor needs our help. Perhaps it is a matter of taking care of a child, taking some food to somebody in need, or visiting a sick person. What would be the point of abstaining from material things if we are then so impatient with the rest of our family members that we shout and lose control at the slightest provocation?

Loving the family means showing love and concern. Loving the family means being very careful with our words and gestures, which sometimes are almost impossible to redress.
In sum, Lent is a time when the love we feel for our family should blossom. Each member of the family should feel the joy of those who walk together, supporting one another throughout the arduous journey.

All should live a true conversion. So prayer and penance will not be useless exercises! When we reach out to those who are suffering or in pain, especially those who are closest to us, we are giving them life, we are building love. Only then will Lenten sacrifices have meaning. Lent is the ideal time to examine our lives as members of a family and as human beings.

Text from: El Momento Católico, This Lent, let’s recommit to love. CP 402
Nuestra Parroquia, January 2012


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