During Lent, we are asked to devote ourselves to seek the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture, to serve by giving alms, and to sacrifice and self-control through fasting. We must abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, but we are also called to practice self-discipline and fast in other ways throughout the season.
Pope Francis points out that by devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. “He is our Father and He wants us to live life well,” Pope Francis states.
Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbor as a brother or sister, Pope Francis explains. “How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church,” the Holy Father wrote in an address for Lent last year.
The giving of alms is one way to share God’s gifts — not only through the distribution of money, but through the sharing of our time and talents. We need to pay attention to all those in need and recognize in them the face of Christ.
Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. “On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure,” Pope Francis explained. “On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbor. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.”
Catholics are also encouraged to make going to confession a significant part of their spiritual lives during Lent.
In Lent, the baptized are called to renew their baptismal commitment as others prepare to be baptized through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, a period of learning and discernment for individuals who have declared their desire to become Catholics.
Materials from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on Lent state that the key to fruitful observance of these practices is to recognize their link to baptismal renewal. We are called in Lent to true conversion of our hearts and minds as followers of Christ.
Lent often is touted as joyful, even though that’s far from the popular perception of it. But think about it; Lent means we may have to do some work on our life, but it’s a time to connect deeper with our faith and our Savior. That’s worth plenty of joy.