Visiting the sick or homebound is an art of virtue that deepens your Lenten experience.
It's just one of the many ways we can use Lent to refocus and brush away what may have been preventing us from following Jesus. It's neither easy to hear the message of discipleship nor to experience a Christian life amid the clamor of consumerism and the duties of daily life.
The Living Our Faith section of the Review this week includes several suggestions for Lenten discipline that recognize God's presence more readily in our daily lives. A few years ago, the late Jesuit Father John Kavanaugh, a St. Louis University professor, offered the following ideas in an article in the Review:
• Commit to solitude each day, even if it is just 10 minutes. The solitude may include reading Scripture or just quiet time.
• Commit to spending at least an extra half hour each day with your family. Take a walk together, sit and talk or enjoy a simple activity together.
• Tithe your time, as little as an hour a week, to people outside your normal contacts, perhaps the elderly, someone who is ill or in prison or the poor. You don't have to go too far to find a relative or acquaintance in a nursing home, for example. You could volunteer somewhere just to be with someone in need.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson wrote in a letter to pastors Feb. 7 that Lent is a time for reflection and repentance, a time to pray with renewed fervor for ourselves, our families and the Church. He also asks us to pray for the transformation of our world and that we become agents of the Father's mercy.
In his Lenten message for 2018, Pope Francis writes that Lent summons us to come back to the Lord wholeheartedly and in every aspect of our life. Pope Francis cites "the most evident signs of this lack of love: selfishness and spiritual sloth, sterile pessimism, the temptation to self-absorption, constant warring among ourselves, and the worldly mentality that makes us concerned only for appearances, and thus lessens our missionary zeal."
The Lenten season, he states, offers the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Prayer cleanses our heart and helps us find consolation, almsgiving "sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbor as a brother and sister" and fasting "revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger," he explains.
Surely there's something you don't enjoy that you're required to do. This Lent, offer it up to Jesus, who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Even simple acts of self-denial are a witness to others that our faith is important to us. And it unites us with Him.
So, again, it's time to refocus. Be open to hearing God's voice. Commit to prayer, almsgiving and penance this Lent. Remove what Pope Francis so eloquently calls "the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions."