Lent is the time for spiritual preparation to celebrate the passion, death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday, is a period of 40 days. This sacred time is an invitation for a deep conversion to get closer to God; prayer, almsgiving and fasting are essential observances to have a fruitful Lent.
Prayer is the way we communicate with God, to develop a deep relationship with Him. The season of Lent invites us to a deep personal conversion, a change of life; therefore, the practice of daily prayer is absolute necessary not only to confess our sins and ask forgiveness but also to give thanks, praise and glorify God.
A soul who prays with joy and thanksgiving pleases God, who invites us to remain in communion with Him day and night. “16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.)
Father Pio of Pietrelchina says “prayer is the best weapon we possess. It is the key that opens the heart of God.”(2) Taking the time to have a daily conversation with God will definitely help us to realize how much He loves us.
To pray during Lent we can do the following:
Almsgiving is another necessary Lenten observance because it is throughout the acts of charity that we show our love for God, so that, giving alms to the poor is like saying: “I love you God”.
This Lent we can respond to God ‘s call by making use of the gifts that we have received from Him, especially of the gift of mercy, and give to the poor beyond our material things, give our amazing talents and precious time . We can visit the sick, offer our friendship to the elderly, give a word of wisdom to the hopeless, forgive those who have offended us and teach the children to love God with all their heart, mind and strength.
As children of God we have to honor Him and be me merciful to other as the Scripture says “36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Luke 6: 36-38)
It is crucial to give to the poor whenever we have the opportunity to do it, in order to be rewarded as the scripture says: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”(Mathew 25: 34-36)
God has loves us very much, that He gave us His only beloved son who die for us in the cross.
Fasting is an essential Lenten observance because it helps us to focus all our attention on God, and listen attentively to His voice. Jesus Christ taught us that thorough fasting and prayer we can overcome temptation; this is the reason why we must be confident that fasting and prayer can help us to resist the desires of our flesh.
Fasting is the way not only to show God that we are sorry for our sins and that we repent but also that we need His mercy and forgiveness. The Scripture says: 16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Mathew 6: 16-18)
God will listen us if we humble our heart before Him with prayer and fasting .13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered.” (Psalm 35: 13-14)
Saint John Chrysostom talked about fasting; and his message can help us to have a better understanding on the practice of fasting. Let us take a moment to reflect on what he considers important and valuable to have efficacious fasting.
“The value of fasting consists not only in avoiding certain foods, but in giving up of sinful practices. The person who limits his fast only to abstaining from meat is the one who especially lowers the value of it. Do you fast? Prove it by doing good works. If you see someone in need, take pity on them. If you see a friend being honored, don't get jealous of him. For a true fast, you cannot fast only with your mouth. You must fast with your eye, your ear, your feet, your hands, and all parts of your body. You fast with your hands by keeping them pure from doing greedy things. You fast with your feet by not going to see forbidden shows or plays. You fast with your eyes by not letting them look upon impure pictures. Because if this is forbidden or unlawful, it mars your fast and threatens the safety of your soul. But if you look at things which are lawful and save you increase your fast, for what you see with your eye influences your conduct. It would be very stupid to eliminate or give up meat and other foods because of the fast but feed with your eyes upon other things which are forbidden. You don't eat meat, you say. But you allow yourself to listen to lewd things. You must fast with your ears, too. Another way of fasting with your ears is not to listen to those who speak evil or untrue things about others. "Thou shalt not receive an idle report. "This is especially true of rumors, gossip, untruths which are spoken to harm another. Besides fasting with your mouth by not eating certain foods, your mouth should also fast from foul language or telling lies about others. For what good is it if you don't eat meat or poultry, and yet you bite and devour your fellow man?” (10) (Webpage EWTN).
Praying and fasting with love and joy will help us to successfully overcome any temptation that we face in our life. Jesus defeated temptation through prayer and fasting and he taught us the way to be ready to do God’s will.
To enrich our spiritual Lenten journey we must walk with the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, Saint Joseph, our Guardian Angel, Saint Michael the Archangel and the Saints.
May this Lent be a blessed and fruitful one for all of us!