Tag Archives: Lent

sacrificial giving for Lent

Today, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the season of Lent. Christians around the world observe Lent as a time of introspection, sacrifice and preparation for the coming of Holy Week and Easter.

Traditionally, it’s a time when Christians “sacrifice” by giving up something during this period. Fasting from favorite food or drink has always been high on the list, as has abstaining from enjoyable activities like books or movies.

But Lent can also be a season of service, as well. What if Christians “sacrificed” personal time and gave that time to working with the poor in their communities? What if Lent became a season of joyful giving of ourselves to those needing a friend or companionship? Why couldn’t Lent become a time when Christians daily shared the love of Christ with those most in need?

The season of Lent can be observed in a variety of ways. For me, however, there’s no better way to prepare myself for the observation of Christ’s sacrificial love than to practice that love with the poor, the hungry and those most in need.

the globalization of indifference

The following piece is an article by Christopher Hale. He is a senior fellow at Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and is also the co-founder of Millennial. Ash Wednesday was last week, and marked the beginning of Lent.

Christians around the world mark the beginning of Lent with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. This ancient day and season has a surprising modern appeal. Priests and pastors often tell you that outside of Christmas, more people show up to church on Ash Wednesday than any other day of the year—including Easter. But this mystique isn’t reserved for Christians alone. The customs that surround the season have a quality to them that transcend religion.

Perhaps most notable is the act of fasting. While Catholics fast on Ash Wednesday and on Fridays during the Lenten season, many people—religious or not—take up this increasingly popular discipline during the year.

But Pope Francis has asked us to reconsider the heart of this activity this Lenten season. According to Francis, fasting must never become superficial. He often quotes the early Christian mystic John Chrysostom who said: “No act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others. So, no matter how much time you spend fasting, no matter how much you sleep on a hard floor and eat ashes and sigh continually, if you do no good to others, you do nothing great.”

But this isn’t to downplay the role of sacrifice during the Lenten season. Lent is a good time for penance and self-denial. But once again, Francis reminds us that these activities must truly enrich others: “I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”

So, if we’re going to fast from anything this Lent, Francis suggests that even more than candy or alcohol, we fast from indifference towards others.

In his annual Lenten message, the pope writes, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”

Describing this phenomenon he calls the globalization of indifference, Francis writes that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades.” He continues that, “We end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own.”

But when we fast from this indifference, we can began to feast on love. In fact, Lent is the perfect time to learn how to love again. Jesus—the great protagonist of this holy season—certainly showed us the way. In him, God descends all the way down to bring everyone up. In his life and his ministry, no one is excluded.

“What are you giving up for Lent?” It’s a question a lot of people will get these next few days. If you want to change your body, perhaps alcohol and candy is the way to go. But if you want to change your heart, a harder fast is needed. This narrow road is gritty, but it isn’t sterile. It will make room in ourselves to experience a love that can make us whole and set us free.

Now that’s something worth fasting for.

on elephants and mice

What side are you on? There is no middle.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it quite plainly. He stated it both forcefully and succinctly.

“If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has his foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

And this is really at the heart of the matter, isn’t it? Where do we stand? What side are we on when it comes to the issue of justice for all?

We live in a world unbelievably blessed, a world with enough food for every one of our human family. Justice demands that all of us have access to those life-sustaining resources. The fact that over a billion people on the planet live in extreme poverty without access to sufficient food is morally unacceptable.

Knowing that we live in a world where injustice holds a billion of our family hostage to hunger demands action. And that demand for action brings us back to that original question.  What side are we on?

We can say we are neutral if we want. But, as the good Archbishop has pointed out, that clearly places us with those who are the oppressors. That’s not where I want to be. We have to make that elephant move.

I am on the side of the poor and hungry. There’s enough food for all of us. Isn’t it time that we learn to share? Isn’t it time that we start living more faithfully, and actually start practicing a lifestyle more reflective of God’s love and care for all of creation?

Lent is just around the corner. I, for one, think that will be a perfect time to take some positive steps toward living more justly. Maybe if I deny myself just a little I will have a little more I can share with those who need it far more than I do. At least then I can demonstrate a little more clearly that I am trying to get that damned elephant to move his foot.