Lent is just around the corner. It’s a time of spiritual preparation for Easter, highlighted by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Below are a few suggestions on the “ins and outs” of making the most of Lent.
Tune in: Lent is a time to tune in to God’s word through prayer and reflection. We can do this by reading the daily Scriptures published each week in The Compass. (See the Sunday Readings on page 28.) They are also available online at usccb.org/bible/readings. Another idea is to read something inspirational. For example, Loyola Press offers a downloadable handout called “Lent with the Saints,” a 40-day journey with one saint each day. It’s a free resource found at catechistsjourney.loyolapress.com/2019/02/lent-with-the-saints.
Tune out: By turning off the TV and social media, we can tune out the distractions that often impede our Lenten journey. Tuning out the buzz also allows us to put our focus on family and friends. When on the road, we can also tune out talk or sports radio and instead listen to Relevant Radio or simply meditate in silence.
Give in: By fasting, we can give in to the reality that our brothers and sisters don’t have a choice. Hunger is a way of life for them. Fasting is an act of solidarity with the poor. “On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure,” Pope Francis said in his 2018 Lenten message. “On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. … It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.”
Give out: A friendly gesture, like a smile or handshake, takes little effort to give out. However, it can make someone’s day. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that when we fast, “anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden.” Giving out a positive vibe to folks around us while fasting will surely find favor with the Lord.
Reach in: Yes, Lent is a time of almsgiving. It’s a time we can reach into our pockets and donate to charitable causes. Catholic Relief Services, for example, sponsors many projects that benefit needy people around the world. Pick up a CRS Rice Bowl at church, fill it with change during Lent and return it to your parish. Twenty-five percent of funds collected actually benefit local causes. Pope Francis also reminds us that almsgiving can “set us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbor as a brother or sister.”
Reach out: Invite someone back to church, to confession or to Stations of the Cross. It’s always a bit intimidating to invite someone to a religious service, but that’s what makes Lent so special. It’s like our ticket to being bold: “Hey, it’s the season of Lent and I thought you might like to join me for Ash Wednesday.”
Put in: Find time to volunteer in your community. Put in hours that will benefit someone else. Whether it’s a food pantry, library, nursing home or any other charitable or community program, time given to others is a treasure that is never wasted.
Put out: We can curb our culture of excess by putting out gently used clothes and bedding items for donation to St. Vincent de Paul or other charitable organizations. By “putting out,” Pope Francis says, we can “escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us.”
Check in: Spend 30 minutes or an hour in eucharistic adoration and check in with Jesus. Last week’s Compass featured a listing of churches in the diocese that offer adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Check out: If you need more ideas for Lent, check out “40 Ideas for 40 Days” at Joe Paprocki’s Catechist’s Journey website, catechistsjourney.loyolapress.com/resources/40-ideas-for-40-days.