Lent: Fasting, Prayer & Almsgiving in the 21st Century

A conversation that fellow parishioners had with their two daughters a few years back made a big impression on me.

Lent was approaching, and they began talking about what they might undertake as a family for the Lenten season. They discussed options that would be meaningful, prayerful, and really help them discover more deeply the Lord in their lives. The homily that Sunday suggested families do something EXTRA for Lent rather than simply giving up candy, desserts, TV, or things that aren’t good for us anyway.

The two girls were excited. They started naming really wonderful ideas: organize a clothing drive; assist weekly at the neighborhood food pantry; help out younger students at school with their reading skills; and various other ideas.

The parents could have “jumped on the bandwagon” and tapped into that enthusiasm. But Dad, showing a great amount of wisdom, challenged, “These are great ideas, but what are you going to give up in order to fit these new activities into your spring schedule?” Being very involved in sports, music, and clubs at school, not to mention homework, chores, and friendships, the girls were suddenly reluctant to give up any of these things. Homework was suggested, but Dad just smiled!

I imagine many of our schedules are like those of the two girls. In our 21st century lives we are presented with great ideas and options for taking an active part in outreach efforts, all intended to make this world a better place. Thanks to modern technology, social media, and ongoing access to world news, such opportunities come to us from every direction and at every minute of the day.

But our Church continues to invite us to remember that we need to regularly declutter and create quiet time so we can simply “let go and let God.” Let God speak to our hearts. Let God guide us in our efforts. Even our Lord, who could have spent the 40 days doing more teaching, more healing, more feeding of the multitudes, instead went to the desert to pray and fast. He needed such uncluttered, unscheduled, quiet time in order to have the spiritual strength to be about his Father’s will.

So, what might help us at this point in history to more faithfully follow the Lenten practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving in order to be about our Father’s will? Here are three practical suggestions:

Fasting Simplify, simplify, simplify! Is it possible to take your family schedule and clear it out a bit? If, for example, you are being pulled in too many directions at once, how can the demands on your time be simplified or reduced?

Prayer RCL Benziger’s free reproducible resources for Lent can be prayed with any age students or even on one’s own.

Almsgiving Intentionally look for opportunities to give money to those in need. My Dad has a $5 or $10 bill tucked into his wallet at all times. Its only purpose is to be given to the person he WILL meet who will need it more than he.

Going back to those two sisters, I really don’t know what they chose to do. All I do know is that they were going to put a lot of prayer and sharing into the decision-making process, which, in itself, is a great way to start Lent!

Do have a blessed Lent. Declutter the schedule, and create the quiet time that will nourish and strengthen you to be about your Father’s will.

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