Lent calls us not only to refrain from doing things but also to do things. To pray more often, to give more often and to fast more often. It also calls us to get to the bottom of why we do these things.
A few weeks ago, someone called the office to say how confused he was with the rules on abstinence on Fridays. We explained to him the Bishops’ position on this but he still insisted that these practices are so confusing. Every time we gave an explanation, he had another question. It was quite a lengthy volleyball of emails.
Sometimes, in our eagerness to follow the rules, especially during lent, we can get bogged down by the inconsistencies we see in outward practices. We tend to forget the reason for these practices. Instead of looking inward and focus on our own weakness in communicating with the Lord, or our defensive rationalisation of giving or our unwillingness to skip a meal or two, we are tempted to focus on something outside of ourselves and then blame others for that. It seems easier for us to blame the law givers.
During these last few days of lent, we need to allow ourselves to take the time to appreciate God's gifts to us. We do take time to appreciate a fine meal, work of art or music recital. The word of God is a precious gift. If we take the time to listen, read and reflect, there is no need to rush. It is often better to read a few verses, reflect on their meaning, prayerfully consider their relevance in your life and allow it to nourish you than to rush through a whole chapter. Or, if you are comfortable with digital devices, you can listen to podcasts of the daily scripture readings, spend some time of silence and just feel the love of God enveloping you.
We can give not only our money but our time to those who need us. We can also be more patient with those around us. We are also called to give up something that takes us away from focusing on Jesus.
So, how have you responded to the Lenten call?