Fr Leonard E Dollentas
Once again, we are in the penitential season of Lent. Our thoughts turn to the usual question: what will I do this year? What offering will I make? What will I give up? What might be my biggest obstacles to growing closer to Him? What might be my greatest opportunities to do so? Since most of us find that we’ve wandered from God’s path, Lent becomes that second chance, or do-over, to “return to God with our whole heart.” Perhaps we can make this season of Lent a meaningful time of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. As we journey through this annual second chance, remember that each step brings you closer to the welcoming arms of our God.
We begin by recalling the temptation of Jesus. His encounter with the devil in the desert is clearly an example that happens in our everyday life. Often, we are tempted to misuse material things: “Turn these stones into bread. You’re the Son of God. Have all you want — everything. It’s all yours.” Sometimes we act that way too. We want more and more things. We live in a society where we’re constantly given that message: You need this; you need that — the newest gadget, the best car, the most expensive bag. Do we really need all those things? Jesus says to the devil, “You don’t live by bread alone.” Thus, in addition to food items, fasting in Lent might include limiting or giving up for a time: cell phone, social media, news/entertainments, criticism of self/others. Or try early bedtime, drinking only water. Yes, fasting during this time of the pandemic would mean changing our life patterns to some extent, having less so others can have enough.
Another simple and practical example of returning back to God in Lent is prayer and how we should all pray every day. Jesus said, “When you pray, go apart, by yourself. Don’t be like the rabbis who like to stand in a public place, so everyone sees them pray. Pray with God alone and that prayer will truly affect and change you.” Hence, making a nightly appointment with Jesus, reading a spiritual book or through a book of the Bible, picking a saint to be your Lenten prayer partner/helper, praying a 40-day novena for someone in your life, incorporate a gratitude practice by thanking God morning and evening for the daily blessings can be meaningful this Lent.
Lent inspires us to do corporal works of mercy through financial donations. But we should not assume our almsgiving must stop there. Our reaching out to others should grow and must become more regular parts of our lives once Lent is gone. Aside from giving financial help or alms we give to the needy. This Lenten season we should find an opportunity to find God by forgiving someone, giving the gift of a spiritual book, writing to old friends, making quality time for someone neglected, visiting a nursing home, volunteering, smiling, and being cheerful all the time.
Lenten season is another opportunity to be trained for battle against temptations and to be working together to transform our world from a world where evil seems so rampant, into a world that God intends it to be, a world where there’s peace, forgiveness, and love. Faithful participation in Lent will help us to bring that into our lives and into the world around us.