Home Commentary Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving.

Prayer. Fasting. Almsgiving.

At the end of Lent, we all should be able to say that we have strengthened our prayer life, we have departed from negative thoughts and practices, and we have helped somebody one way or another

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken with it some of our weak or elderly people and added to our vulnerabilities. It has made us more conscious of our limitations and has prevented many of the movements and the activities we wanted to carry out. It has been a kind of prolonged Lenten season of good thinking and purification. It has forced us to cut down in travels and meetings proving that many of them may not be necessary.

Further review of our life should take place during the liturgical time of Lent we just entered on Ash Wednesday. Let us focus on the spiritual dimension and the main options we have, such as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Prayer ensures our closeness to God, the source of all strength. Absence of prayer means exclusive trust in our human resources, which may be relevant and consistent, but still limited and defined. We may be intelligent and of good character, nicely projecting ourselves, like a fancy car, colorful and fast, but useless and powerless without fuel. It is our eyes fixed in God and our trust in his words that give us inspiration, direction, and inner strength to face what comes our way and see the challenges and the meaning of it. Prayers keeps our heart open and our mind honest.

Fasting takes many meanings and many ways nowadays. Abstaining from food can only be an external sign of a deeper engagement against all poisonous nourishment. It’s not much what comes from outside that we need to fast from, but what comes from the inside. It’s already there and it’s damaging: lack of interest, laziness, hatred, jealousy, greed. This horrible mixture translates into alcoholism, neglect of children, violence against women, sorcery practices and false accusations, absenteeism from duties, financial and political corruption, and other evils. Either fasting from food is a sign and a means of detachment from evil practices or it just remains the show of hypocrites.

All needs to translate into almsgiving. Not dole outs. Not a once-in-a-while donation. But an attitude of constant charity with solidarity and justice. It means open arms for families without food, children with no school fees, people in hospital or in jail especially with no relatives visiting and supporting them, displaced people and refugees.

We have wonderful examples of individuals, youth and students, groups, parishes practicing all this in our midst not only during the Lenten season but for the rest of the year.

As we journey towards Easter and the celebration of the risen Lord, it is our duty to make this attitude sink in our minds and hearts. At the end of Lent, we all should be able to say that we have strengthened our prayer life, we have departed from negative thoughts and practices, and we have helped somebody one way or another. That would be a true sign of conversion leading to life and resurrection!

- Newsletter -

Father Giorgio Licini, PIME, is general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. This reflection appeared on the official publication of the bishops’ conference.

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