Lent about more than what you give up
The Rev. Paul McLain, curate, Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt.:
Lent is a season of preparing our hearts for the coming of Holy Week, the days when we commemorate the events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and celebrate his resurrection at Easter. Part of our preparation is through introspection by confessing our sins and devoting more time to intentional prayer and Bible study. But Lent also is a time to look beyond ourselves and to focus on serving God and other people. While Lent may be a time to “give up” something, such as gossiping, it is more importantly a time to give something.
What can we give? We can give our time as volunteers in opportunities to serve others around the city. Trinity Episcopal and other churches offer an interfaith food pantry that feeds thousands of people. Volunteers and donations of food are always welcome. Similar opportunities to serve others include the Lawrence Interdenominational Nutrition Kitchen (LINK), which serves hot meals, and Lawrence Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes.
But there are opportunities to do good works each moment. We can resolve to show kindness to and encourage people we meet each day. We can do a chore at our home, dormitory or neighborhood that is usually done by someone else. We can recycle. We can think of someone else and do some little thing that would make life easier for that person. We can take time to visit with someone, perhaps an elderly person at a retirement home. We can give a person in need a gift card for a meal at a restaurant. We can become fit to better serve by getting involved in an exercise program. We can graciously receive the hospitality of others.
Lent is a time when we especially follow Jesus. He leads us as a servant, calling us to serve him and one another.
— Send e-mail to Paul McLain at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Season of Lent calls for a change of heart
The Rev. Earl Meyer, assistant pastor, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 1234 Ky.:
In Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” an angry Fyodor attacks the sincerity of a pious old monk, telling him, “You cannot bribe God with a fish!” There is a hidden wisdom in his anger. A monk’s austere diet is not sufficient to assure him of God’s grace. Self-denial is necessary, but it is not sufficient.
The traditional Lenten practices of Christians, as proposed by the Lord himself (Matthew 6:1-18), are prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Each is necessary, and no one is sufficient.
The popular question “what is something good to do for Lent?” can be misleading, even a trick question. We can easily adopt a simplistic view of this penitential season, where we look for a quick fix. We can try to bribe God with a fish, or a $5 donation, or a fervent prayer.
But Lent calls for a change of heart. Since the human heart is so complex, the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are varied, comprehensive and mutually enriching.
Self-denial should awaken me to the needs of others, hence almsgiving.
Almsgiving should conquer selfishness and open me to a higher spirit, to prayer.
And prayer, in turn, should foster humility and the need to improve myself, to deny myself.
In concrete terms, giving up chocolate for Lent should make me more charitable.
Daily prayer, should temper my pride. Donating to charity should deepen my devotion in prayer.
You cannot bribe God with a fish. But you can draw closer to God and to others by prayer, fasting and almsgiving — where prayer is fishing within my own soul, fasting is the limited diet symbolized by fish, and almsgiving is casting bread on the water to feed the hungry fish.
After all, Jesus of Nazareth called his disciples to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).
— Send e-mail to Earl Meyer at email@example.com.