The liturgical season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. The 40 days of Lent is our attempt to strengthen ourselves against temptations and to overcome sinfulness. It mirrors Jesus time in the desert where for 40 days He faced temptations and trials – but He did not give in. In the desert, there is nowhere to hide. In Lent we enter into our own desert, so to speak, to focus on the things that tempt us from the straight and narrow, and to strengthen ourselves spiritually that we may live good and holy lives.
Since early times the church has a simple and effective formula for this; It involves three things, prayer, fasting and almsgiving (or charity, helping the poor).
Prayer is an activity we should re-evaluate in our lives during Lent. We live busy lives and there is much emphasis on enjoying life but a life without prayer is a life without the joy of the presence of God. If we do not pray we are not proper Christians. Lent is a time to hear the again the voice of God through encountering Him in prayer. Collectively, in this parish, we also do the Stations of the Cross on Friday evenings that we may not only pray together, but meditate on the Passion of Jesus.
Fasting is often associated with food, but there are many other things one can fast from or ‘give up” (e.g smoking and drinking alcohol). The Bible tells us that fasting (from food) in itself is not what is important, but the spirit and intention behind it that really matters. The Bible tells us that fasting from food must go together with fasting from violence and fasting from oppressing people. In other words, when we fast from food it is no use unless we also have a loving and forgiving attitude towards others. So if we take the example of Jesus in the desert seriously, we make also extend ‘fasting’ to include fasting from negativities towards others, or making an effort to forgive those who have hurt us and not harbour resentment any longer etc..
When it comes to almsgiving we can use the Caritas Lenten appeal as a means of collectively being involved in organised projects to help the poor. Of course, we can do our own charitable work or contribute to what ever charity, but sometimes it is helpful to have a communitarian approach – hence the Caritas envelopes.
After the 40 days of Lent, may we be strengthen to fight against the temptation to sin, and may be we well prepared to celebrate Easter.