A Lenten Journey

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By: Isa Pardino 

Lent is a season for reflection, repentance, and prayer. In the words of the Holy Father, Pope Francis himself, “Lent is a favourable time for personal and community renewal, as it leads us to the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For our Lenten journey in 2022, we will do well to reflect on Saint Paul’s exhortation to the Galatians: “Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all” (Gal 6:9-10).

In recent years, the Lenten season has been perceived as a time to re-start one’s New Year’s Resolutions. It has been a time for people to give up sweets, stop drinking coffee, pick up a new book, or even hit the gym a few times a week While these are all admirable things to do, it is not living to the full mission of the Lenten journey. This begs the question: what is the real meaning of this beautiful and solemn season?

The lenten challenge is prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Fasting means to give something up, to suffer in order to be able to gain even a glimpse of what it was like for Jesus to fast from all food and drink for forty days in the desert. 

Prayer refers to talking to God in order to foster the relationship with Him that He so desires to have with us. Prayer during lent also means asking God for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. To ask for the strength and courage to be as Jesus was and do as Jesus did. 

Finally, we look at almsgiving. This one is simpler than many think: it means to be charitable. God does not ask us to give what we do not have; charity does not always mean giving money or food. Charity can mean giving of your time or of your presence. We are all living in a very difficult time in history. Each of us knows someone who could use a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on or even just a friend. Almsgiving can be just that, being present for those in our communities who need to see God in another person. 

In line with the idea of almsgiving, in late March, Pope Francis asked for all bishops and priests around the world to join in the consecration of Ukraine and Russia. Within the bounds of this consecration, Pope Francis asked that Catholics around the world participate in a day of fasting and prayer for peace. According to Vatican News, Pope Francis said the following about the war Russia is waging against Ukraine: “In the name of God, let the cries of those who suffer be heard and let the bombings and attacks cease! Let there be a real and decisive focus on negotiation, and let the humanitarian corridors be effective and safe. In the name of God, I ask you: stop this massacre!” As we near the end of this Lenten season, remember to continue to be kinder, more loving and give people the grace that is needed to get through this difficult time in human history. 

This is the true meaning of the Lenten journey: to first try to understand what it was like for Jesus to suffer for those forty days, knowing that His death was coming at the end of them, to pray for the perseverance to have the strength and fortitude that Jesus had, and finally to give a little bit of oneself, be that time, presence or love. 

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