The season of Lent is here! And with Lent comes prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Note that pouting, grumbling, and complaining are not part of our Lenten trio. In fact in yesterday’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray, fast,and give alms in private so that only our Heavenly Father will see. During this time of year we are called to focus on our weaknesses, repent of our sins, build ourselves up through our various Lenten practices, and rejoice that God gives us this opportunity to improve ourselves.
True rejoicing in God’s mercy, even as we contemplate and prepare ourselves for the Triduum, is certainly not an excuse to pull out the “I’m holier than you” card. If you talk about what you’re sacrificing or doing for Lent, don’t try to one-up another person, or put down another’s goals. Let Our Heavenly Father see what we give Him in the private space of our hearts. As we look to our Saint-models, they certainly don’t boast (except in the Lord!) or take credit for their good works on their own merit, but humbly admit that it is not them but God who works through them. Rejoice in all the Lenten seasons that have built you up to the person you are today, and rejoice in the onset of another opportunity for growth!
Pope Benedict’s message for this Lent is titled “Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (Heb 10:24). In it, he states that “we should never be incapable of ‘showing mercy’ towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor.” Let us, even in this time of personal sacrifice and slowing, rejoice in God’s blessings on us. Can your Lenten increase in prayer and almsgiving go to benefit the least fortunate in our midst? Pope Benedict also discusses the need to not just be physically concerned, but also spiritually concerned with others, to correct and encourage others “in a spirit of humility and charity.” If you have a great grasp of our Catholic faith, rejoice in the wisdom that the Holy Spirit has given you, and see if there’s a way you can share that knowledge this Lent! If you have a lot more to learn about our great faith, look up some educational opportunities available at your parish or nearby parishes, and invite others to come with you, or read a book on our faith.
This Lent let us build God’s flame in us and let that flame ignite others as well. Let us rejoice, even as we are praying, fasting, and giving alms, because our Heavenly Father chose to create us from dust. Let us rejoice, for at the end of this season of Lent is the cross, but also, the empty tomb.
Halo Tip #1: Learn more about the almsgiving aspect of Lent (with Joy!)
Halo Tip #2: OK this is not exactly Lent-related but does point out how joy is such a wonderful part of our faith. So the Pope created some new Cardinals this week, including Cardinal Dolan of New York. Cardinal Dolan is awesome for many reasons. But here are two of my favorites from this week. First, he pointed out that while it is a great honor to be a Cardinal, what he’s really aspiring to is to be a saint. In this way we are no different from this new prince of the Church.
Secondly, Cardinal Dolan was allowed to bring two people to the consistory ceremony and one of the people he brought was his mother. He jokingly asked the Pope if his mom could be the “first lady” of the College of Cardinals. The Pope replied that his mom looked “too young to be the mother of a Cardinal”! This conversation is a great example of how even in a ceremony and meeting of great significance, our humor can allow us to share joy, a smile, and ultimately resonate with the Spirit of Christ in our hearts.