Lent is a time when the Church works to grow in holiness as we prepare for the celebration of Easter. We make commitments to prayer, fasting and almsgiving (showing mercy). Traditionally, prayer, fasting and mercy have been interconnected.
“Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them; they cannot be separated” as St. Peter Chrysologus wrote. “When you fast, see the fasting of others. If you want God to know that you are hungry, know that another is hungry. If you hope for mercy, show mercy. If you look for kindness, show kindness. If you want to receive, give. If you ask for yourself what you deny to others, your asking is a mockery.”
People often do not know how best to live out these Lenten commitments. Some people give up shopping or eating chocolate. Lent is also a time to deeper our relationship with God and with each other through these practices. We can think of it as paying it forward.
For example, a person may fast from eating large meals on a particular day in Lent. As a result of that fasting, they contribute the money they would have spent on food and give it to the poor, so their fasting and almsgiving are connected. While fasting, they experience the hunger that so many people around the world experience every day. This experience draws them into a closer relationship to the suffering of the world, which deepens their prayer. It can also remind them that God’s mercy has spared them from this suffering. We are then called to give to others not out of guilt, but out of sheer thankfulness for all the abundance that God has brought to our lives. Out of gratitude, we are called to share with others the mercy God has shown us.
The ministries of this parish will offer a guide for people who want that. There will be Lenten Trees placed in the Stewardship Center, Community Center, The Franciscan School and the Preschool. These trees will start off bare. In baskets around those trees will be paper leaves. You are invited to take leaves and write down your Lenten commitments on them and hang them on the trees. Ministries of this parish will have prayers to handout and ideas for fasting and service available on tables and the bulletin board. Stop by to pick up prayers you can share with your family or for special causes. Get ideas for service—perhaps you could:
- Donate a pint of blood
- Drive a local man to a dialysis appointment
- Give up commercial chocolate and instead choose only fair trade
- Spend an evening with a homeless family
- Promise to audit your family’s carbon footprint
Those are just a few examples. As the season progresses, this will be a wonderful opportunity to share as a whole community your Lenten promises and give witness to all that the parish is doing.