Lent is that time in the Church season when we really focus on the three pronged meaning of sacrifice which is prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. Things in 3’s are so easy to remember. That is why when they made phone numbers it was 3, 3, and 4 digits, i.e. 856-555-xxxx, etc. The Church has made it easy for us to remember the numbers, if you will.
Each of those has great importance and during Lent the notion of sacrifice is intensified, like the final preparations of athletes before they take the court or field. We simply don’t just add more prayer, or give more, or take more stuff away, but we try to interiorize these three rules. When we pray we should look to go deeper into God with more reflection done in silence, our vocalized prayers should be more centered on the benefit of others, and our giving in alms should take on more meaning because when we give we satisfy the heart, our own and the hearts of others.
When Lent arrives we rush into thinking what can we give up these forty + days, maybe chocolate, maybe coffee, etc. That’s nice as I say, but for those of us maturing in the faith it has to go beyond that and take on a very deep spiritual meaning, a journey of continuing discovery, discovering and delving deeper into who God is and who I am. In doing so I crucify the things that keep me from the Lord, from the light and all that is good. I nail those vices and drive them away when I pray the Stations of the Cross, when I pray the rosary, when I reflect and meditate and in my prayer I embrace the virtues of faith, hope, love, courage, temperance, prudence, and fortitude. In all of those we find freedom, true freedom, one that is wrapped in joy because we know how precious we are to God and how deeply we are loved and how deeply we can love.
All of the above happens through prayer which then enables us to fast and to give. Fasting and alms-giving cannot just be arbitrary; they have to mean something very personal, because good works must come from the heart and with no expectations – that is true sacrifice, just like Jesus’ on the Cross. He did all of that work only expecting love in return.
As you prepare for this Lenten season open your hearts to God and talk to Him, open your hearts and give up those things that hold you back, open your hearts to giving in order to keep others fed, clothed, cared for, and hoped for. The opportunities are all around us, I pray you take them. Remember we need to keep each other in prayer this Lent that all of us will be blessed and truly invest ourselves in prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. God bless you this Lenten Season, Fr. John