Each year, Lent invites us to stop consuming whatever it is that is keeping us in the desert, and face the personal demons that are keeping us from growing spiritually.
I was shocked recently when it occurred to me how quickly Lent 2023 was approaching. A few months ago, the troubles of the world and the church began to overwhelm me. For a while now, I have been hibernating at home, hiding from reality. I disengaged from the daily news. Unable to tolerate the blow-by-blow of one disaster after another, I wait to hear about them second hand without all the gory details of breaking news.
I’ve become a house cat…only going out and engaging the world when necessary. This situation, while cozy and safe, has allowed me to keep my purse, my calendar, and my prejudices intact.
The approach of Lent has shaken me. I feel an urgency not to let it slip by me. For some reason (grace?) Lent is beaconing to me to expand my horizons.
Lent’s three traditional action steps are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I’ve looked at each of them and asked myself how I might align prayer, fasting and almsgiving with where I find myself spiritually. Here’s the plan so far:
Prayer: I feel a desire to delve more deeply into scripture. For years I have been saying that I’d love to take a class on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah.
This Lent I am going to read a passage of Isaiah every other day (every day sounds like a recipe for failure at this point). I am also going to read a book on Isaiah that I have owned for years and have never gotten around to reading...that is unless I find an audio book, which I am more likely to finish.
Fasting: I know for some it is valuable to give up chocolate or alcohol during Lent. For me, fasting does not have to be about food. Fasting is a letting go, a decluttering of whatever is getting in the way of my relationship with God, with other people and with God’s creation. I know many people who are suffering from some kind of distress, and I pray for them, and will continue to do so.
But this Lent I need to fast from my comfortable seclusion (remember the house cat) and reach out more directly to people I know who are suffering from some kind of distress. That may include meeting for coffee, stopping by for a visit, or sending a card or a surprise gift.
Almsgiving: I’m eager for a synodal church that embraces God’s extraordinary variety. During Lent I will make financial donations to organizations that are moving us closer to that inclusive synodal reality - organizations that advocate for: the voices of women preaching in the church, LGBTQ+ accompaniment in Catholic schools, transgender crisis centers, and the Catholic Worker to name a few.
I believe that if I follow this plan, I am putting myself in God’s way and will be changed for the good. I wish the same for you this Lent. To quote the poet, Mary Oliver:
We do one thing or another;
we stay the same,
or we change.
you have changed.