Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father, who is in Heaven.Matthew 6:1
How’s your Lent going now that it’s about halfway over? If it’s not going as well as you hoped, a good way to get back on track is remembering the three pillars of Lent. It isn’t enough to start Lent strong. To see the fruits of this penitential season, we have to finish Lent strong too. If we really want to deepen our faith and make the most out of Lent, we can’t give up half way through. During this season of spiritual renewal, we have to stay strong and keep choosing Christ.
This is the foundation of our relationship with God. If we want to be Christ’s disciples, we have to have a profound prayer life. Ideally, our prayer life would be rooted in the Sacraments. Going to Confession and Mass to receive the Eucharist gives us the grace to grow closer to God and fall deeper in love with him. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, many dioceses have cancelled public Masses. A chapel or oratory might be open to the public near you. These are perfect places for private prayer where you could stop in for a few minutes or for a holy hour. If these spaces aren’t available, you can make a home altar or designate a space in our home for prayer. Decide when you’ll pray, what you’ll pray, and where you’re going to pray, and stick to these logistics to establish a routine.
You have to fast from something that hurts at least a little to give up, and you shouldn’t fast from anything obscure or from something you don’t care about. Fasts like these aren’t very meaningful. When deciding what to fast from, think of what distracts you from your relationship with God. Fasting helps us to practice detachment, which involves forsaking materials things and turning to God. It allows us to rely less on things of this world so that we can focus on Heaven and prepare for our eternal life.
You might think that donating money is the only form of almsgiving, but this Pillar of Lent involves offering our time, talent, and treasure. Almsgiving really helps us grow in the virtue of humility as we put aside our own interests to help those around us. I might not always want to give alms, but its necessary for the wellbeing of others and for my own salvation. After practicing this Pillar of Lent enough, you’ll see how fruitful and rewarding it can be. Sooner or later, you’ll happily donate money that you would have spent on coffee to your favorite charity. You’ll take time to call a friend or pick up a neighbor’s groceries. The gift of ourselves is the most meaningful one that we can offer, especially when we do little things with great love.
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Lent isn’t Lent without these three pillars. In Matthew 6, which contains the Gospel reading from Ash Wednesday, Jesus gives His disciples tips for praying fasting, and almsgiving. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say if, but when. He says “when you pray,” “when you fast,” and “when you give alms.” This important word choice implies that Jesus expects us to pray, fast, and give alms, especially during Lent. Because we’re His disciples as well, we have to follow His commands.
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