Do you like the season of Lent? The way I see it, the answer to this question can go two ways. Do I like the idea of a season to grow closer to the Lord? Of course I do. Do I like the idea of doing penance? Well, if I liked it, it wouldn’t be penance. The idea of penance is that I don’t like it, but I do it anyway because it’s the right thing to do.
The three classic practices for Lent, based on Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt. 6:1-6, 16-18) are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Extra prayer can take many forms: weekday Mass, spending time in the Eucharistic Chapel, coming to Stations of the Cross, gathering with a prayer group, or quiet time at home. Fasting includes the mandated practices of limiting our eating on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstaining from meat on the Fridays of Lent, but may also include giving up some favorite food or dessert, giving up (or limiting) our time on the phone or computer, or doing without something else that we don’t really need. Almsgiving may include contributing to some cause that provides for the poor, donating clothes and food, or giving our time to a charitable work.
In carrying out these Lenten practices, we must remember their purpose: to return to the Lord with our whole heart (see Joel 2:12). It’s about the Lord, not about us. May we truly draw closer to Jesus, our Lord and Savior, during this special season of grace.