Lent is a time to make faith real in practices which are a source of growth, life and even joy. Growth and new life are possible. It is possible to move beyond earning religious credits or spiritual merit badges to freedom, joy, justice, peace and new life. It is possible to move beyond a spirituality of showing off to a spirituality of awareness and new life for the whole community. It is possible for the whole community to be renewed with a spirit committed to the common good of all God’s people – a spirit dedicated to justice and peace. It is possible to live a spirituality which is in touch with the real world and its problems – especially the poor. The prophet Joel calls the whole community to renewal and writes: “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart…”
It is possible to move from “a superficial sort of prayer” or “a show off type of religious practice” to something that is genuine and life giving and transforming. Prayer can be connected to life. Prayer can be rooted in an awareness of oneself and the world as it is. Prayer can move us toward concern for others. Prayer can move us toward a concern for justice and peace. Contact with those who are poor or need can nourish this prayer.
It is possible to move from fasting as a “burden” or “painful giving up” to a religious exercise that makes us aware and alive. Fasting can move us to solidarity with the poor and the hungry and can also put us in touch with our own self and our own desires. Our Christian spirituality reminds us that from “awareness without judgment” can come freedom and life – a whole new way of looking at things – a way of looking at things that is less self-absorbed and more sensitive to others, especially the poor.
It is possible to move from a “painless almsgiving out of our surplus” or a “showing-off kind of almsgiving” or an “almsgiving that make us feel superior to others” to a practice that makes us aware of the needs of others and leads us to a deep and real solidarity with those who are otherwise separate from ourselves. It might even to be possible to move through acts of charity toward acts for justice in solidarity with those who experience injustice.
For Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group
What kind of fasting will help you get your values in order this Lent?
What kind of prayer will help you be more aware of those in need?
What kind of almsgiving and good works will help you move away from selfishness?