Lent’s Big Three

March 5th, 2019 Posted in writing

The “big three” practices of Lent are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The three are straightforward and easily understood. Still, as Lent begins, we might benefit from trying to figure out what lies behind them and what each one points to.

Look at prayer. We can pray any number of ways, from reciting traditional prayers like the Our Father or Hail Mary, to quiet personal prayer in a church or even when enjoying a peaceful cup of tea or coffee. But all prayer comes out of some experience or belief that God wishes to speak to us and wants us to speak to him. Prayer during Lent should remind us of the truth that God not only says to us, “I love you” but also, “Let’s talk.”

Then there is fasting, when we normally feel hunger in some form. Our daily experience of Lenten hunger — for sweets, meat, cookies, cake, ice cream or alcohol — might remind us that we have other hungers, too. We might discover we are hungry for love, purposeful work, reconciliation, respect, or that we might have that “hunger and thirst for righteousness” Jesus referred to in the Sermon on the Mount.

Giving alms also seems simple enough. Almsgiving is about sharing something we have with people who need it. We can give money to individuals in need, either directly or through charitable organizations, or we can give our time and talents to help improve the lot of others. But behind the practice of almsgiving lies the truth that we are all one human family. And one of the most important lessons any family member can learn is that, in a family, we must learn to share.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are not matters of rocket science or super-human effort. But forty days of practicing them, understanding where they come from and what they point to, can make for a very rich Lent.

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