Each year I focus on the three practices of Lent, prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. Needless to say, because I will be preaching on one or all throughout the season but also the challenge, they offer me to practice what I preach. I have listed them here in the order of easiest to hardest, what enriches me, to what tests me.
Each morning my day begins with the liturgical hours and silence. In Lent I focus on maybe my parish’s theme or a need I just encountered. When, not if, I fail to start my day this way, it is evident to me, as if I had not had my morning coffee. I cannot focus or am able to prioritize as to how my response in faith to whatever is before is not my first thought, and I am stymied in finding a faith-filled answer. Throughout Lent I find that each day I need to be silent a little longer, listening more intently, and becoming more hopeful.
Almsgiving often takes the effort to make a decision. What time do I have to offer to another, it is a busier time; what my need is rather than my want and how do I truly serve, rather than work. Patience especially with myself is confronted, and when in doubt, my response needs to be simply put the other person first. Paying attention to another’s need rather than my tasks is the effort, but throughout Lent it seems more purposeful.
Fasting. I am pleasantly plump, and have worked hard to get into this shape, round. I also have serious dietary issues; unfortunately, I have developed the pattern of eating what and when I can, as if in this first-world-nation I do not know when my next meal will be available. I relish, often with relish, what I do eat. I often fail to make a good sacrifice, and that is exactly what I have asked people to do this year. Give up nothing! Instead, choose what sacrifice you are going to make. I struggle, until I put it into that exact context. I am old enough now that fasting is not required, which to me is making the sacrifice that much more rewarding. Next to me at this moment I have a bag of Hershey Nuggets. It is nice not to open them.
Prayer, almsgiving, and fasting or prayer, simplicity, community, and service. I guess the Lenten practices have never been foreign to me. All call each of us to a greater understanding of our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. Silence refreshes me, knowing the difference between want and need is a daily decision, putting the needs of others before my own is what community is about, as well as serving one another. We make sacrifices in our lives and are asked to be aware how those sacrifices are about others, not “what do I get of it.”
Although I have never been to the Farm for Holy week, I have experienced numerous holy weeks there, many even during Lent. Be it Lent or late August I am reminded, the way I live my life is a response of faith. Prayer, almsgiving, fasting; prayer, simplicity, community and service each is an important aspect to the journey we take.
Written by Rev. John P. Donovan. JCL, “JD”. A priest of the Diocese of Syracuse, volunteer since pre-1979, former staff, and an ex-officio board member.