Preparing for Lent 2014: Praying, Fasting, and Giving Alms
By Ken Richard, RCL Benziger Sales Representative
Lent is upon us! It's time to recharge our batteries as followers of Christ and jump-start our discipleship. How do we do this? We spend 40 days praying, fasting, and giving alms as we prepare ourselves for the great feast of Easter. We spend time discussing and pondering its deeper meanings. Innovative people help us discover ways we can creatively pray for greater meaning, fast from things other than food, and give alms with the greatest of love. If I were to send you forth this Lent with more of the same, you may not even bat an eye, but what are we really doing when we perform those three important Lenten tasks of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving?
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the Gospel in microcosm. When asked about the greatest Commandment, Christ bid us to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, and your mind and to love your neighbor as yourselves" (see Matthew 20:37). Isn't that what prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is, after all? We recognize that we are wholly reliant on God and that we need to engage in a lifelong relationship with him. We recognize that our actions and consciences should be examined, so that as we continue to grow in Christ, we are able to love ourselves. Contrary to what the prevailing culture tells us, we also have a responsibility for the well-being of others.
The problem is that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving can easily become a list with little boxes to be checked off as we go through the season. We can do all of these things without effecting a single change within ourselves. Pope Francis recently had stern words for those who follow this path:
"The Lord speaks about fasting, about prayer, about almsgiving: the three pillars of Christian piety, of interior conversion, that the Church proposes to us all in Lent. There are even hypocrites along this path, who make a show of fasting, of giving alms, of praying. I think that when hypocrisy reaches this point in the relation with God, we are coming very close to the sin against the Holy Spirit. These do not know beauty, they do not know love, these do not know the truth: they are small, cowardly."
(Read more on the Vatican Radio Web site.)
The interior conversion is most critical. One way we are called to conversion is by keeping the Lenten fast. The road to conversion cannot be measured by the total number of minutes, hours, or days we spend on our knees, or by the chocolate we give up, or even by the dollars we donate. True conversion is the effect it has on us, on others, and on our commitment to discipleship. That effect is only measured in Easter joy.
is a Sales Representative for RCL Benziger