We know that change is difficult—especially a change of heart! This change or conversion of heart is what the upcoming Lenten season is all about. In the Collect, or opening prayer, on Ash Wednesday, we will pray: “…that as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.” Every Christian knows that each day involves one spiritual battle or another, and sometimes several. We need the three pillars of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving—to help us combat the powers of evil.
Prayer unites us to the heart of God. The Scriptures say that David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). Would that we were all men and women after God’s own heart! Prayer is simply that—letting our heart yearn for God, speak to God, and encounter God anew. It is the most vulnerable position in which we can place ourselves. Here the creature and the Creator meet—the one who knows us even better than we know ourselves. The one who knows our sins before we speak them and who knows what tomorrow will hold even before the first rays of the dawn appear. Prayer brings us before our Father who reminds us of His goodness and ours, his promise of presence, and his loving concern. It grounds our understanding that the spiritual battle we are asked to undertake is not just for a good cause, but rather for a person, his kingdom, and the eternal life that he desires to share with us.
Fasting helps us to gain clarity into the areas of our life where we find pleasure in the material world to the detriment of our relationship with God. Of course, God wants us to take delight in the world that he has created and shared, but we must be cognizant of those things that we use to fill voids of happiness, relationship, and love. Fasting helps us to identify temptations just as they are—temptations! We become more alert to what is lurking on the battlefield and God helps us to see the conversions that need to take place so that the enemy does not creep up from behind.
Almsgiving makes us other-centered and helps us to realize that life is only fully lived when it is given away. In the reading of the Passion on Palm Sunday, we heard of the soldiers who jeered at Jesus and said, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself” (Lk 23:37). They did not understand the nature and mission of Jesus as he goes to his death—that he was born so that he could ultimately lay his life down for the salvation of the world. Almsgiving helps us to live this mystery and experience the graces of a life lived for the sake of the other. What an army we are when we are so united in faith and willing to defend the Promised Land at all costs.
Will you join me in the fight?