The Lent That Changed my Life
My senior year of college, I wanted to do something for Lent that would make a difference in my life. I had reached a low point and needed a spiritual lifeline. Through a miraculous turn of events, I stumbled upon a Buzzfeed quiz on Facebook titled “What to Give up for Lent.” Now for those who are familiar with Buzzfeed know that it never pertains to anything serious. To my surprise, my results came back pretty serious! The quiz challenged me to pray a Holy Hour each day for Lent. I quickly Googled what a Holy Hour was and saw that it is an hour set a side in your day, preferably in Adoration, to spend time in prayer, growing in relationship with the Lord.
I then made a deal with the Lord to commit to a Holy Hour Monday-Friday for my Lenten Promise. Being aware of my lack of follow-through, I invited my best friend Clint along for accountability. Each day, Clint and I would carve out the same hour of our day and meet at the church to pray on our own. Without a doubt, this one life decision changed the rest of my life!
Very much like Paul, my eyes were opened, and the scales fell off my own eyes. I gained this spiritual insight; I had been a good devout Catholic my whole life. I was a good person, went to Mass each Sunday, and confession regularly when in mortal sin. Yet I was still not happy. The Lord revealed to me that wasn’t enough! He showed me that deep down there was something missing. Talking to Jesus about this I realized that my entire life I knew about Jesus, but I did not have a personal relationship with Him.
We all know the actor Mark Wahlberg right, but do you have a deep relationship with him? Mostly likely no… I realized that this was how it was with my relationship with Jesus, I knew about Him but deep down I did not know Him intimately. This daily appointment with Jesus allowed for me to intimately know Him for the first time in my life! Each day I would pray Lectio Divina with scripture, pray my rosary, and read about the saint of the day. It has been five years since I have been praying daily and I am forever changed because of it.
Lent is a time of repentance, prayer and fasting that signifies Christ’s 40 days of prayer and fasting in the desert, prior to his public ministry. To become closer to Jesus, we as Christians are called to commit to three Lenten promises. Yes, I said “three.” This may come to a surprise if you have been taught to give up something for Lent. By taking up three good practices the impact of this holy time can go much deeper than simply giving up something for 40 days. We are invited by the Church to pick three things, one in each of the areas of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
Here’s some suggestions:
Prayer is essential to our relationship with God. Without it, we actually don’t have a relationship with Him. Some things you could do this lent to cultivate a habit of prayer:
- Pray a daily Rosary.
- Pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet each day.
- Set daily goal of mental prayer: 15-30 minutes or more in the chapel talking to the Lord
- Join your parish each Friday for stations of the cross
- Set an alarm for 3pm each day to silently ponder Jesus’ death on the cross and to thank Him for dying for you
- Start praying with Scripture daily: Lectio Divina is a great place to start. Lectio Divina is an ancient technique of praying with scripture that dates back to the 3rd Century. It literally translates to “Divine Reading” and is a great way to spend your time with the Lord.
We often confuse this one. Fasting is primarily associated with food, while abstinence is when we choose a specific food or indulgence not to partake in. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, we are invited to fast from food and abstain from meat, while every Friday of Lent and every Friday outside of Lent the Church asks us to abstain from meat.
Fasting has become a lost practice in the Church. We see in scripture that fasting was a regular practice that brought about tremendous graces from the Lord. It was a vital part of both the Old Testament Jews and the early Christians.
“‘ Even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning’” Joel 2:12
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” Isiah 58:6
“.…I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions….So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” Ezra 8:21-23
“So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” – Acts 13:13
Fasting is necessary for us to incorporate regularly to be transformed, to experience freedom from the grip of sin, and to enter into a deep abiding relationship with our Lord. I challenge you to pick up the habit of regular fasting. Here are some ways to incorporate fasting into your life:
- Intentionally choose a meal to skip as a way of fasting
- Many do a bread and water fast meaning they only eat bread and drink water for one or more days
- In addition to abstaining from meat on Friday, you could do a 6,12, or even a 24 hour fast, where you only drink water
Typically with almsgiving many think of donating money, but it is considered giving your time, money, or the talents/gifts the Lord has given you.
- Give the Lord your time by joining a Bible Study
- If you are musically gifted, join your parish choir
- Write a letter or call one or two people each week to thank them for how they have helped you grow in your faith or made you a better person
- Set a goal to call your family more regularly each week
- Volunteer at Catholic Charities. We go every other week on Thursday from 1-3 if you would like to join
- If you typically spend money weekly on take out or coffee, consider abstaining from it and donating the money you would have spent to your parish or a charitable organization
Let this Lent That Changes Your Life
This Lent, I challenge each of you to allow Lent to change your life by preparing well! Spend time looking at these three areas and choose what will allow you to be transformed by the Lord. Start with daily prayer, I promise it will forever change your life! I recommend giving the Lord 30 minutes of your day, so He can transform you into the Saint He is calling you to be! We often want the rewards of labor without the sacrifice, but we must embrace the cross to reap the rewards of the resurrection. By digging deep into the cross through sacrifice and prayer, Jesus can transform us and make us likened to Him. Lent isn’t meant to be easy, but every sacrifice bears an abundance of fruit, I hope the springtime of Lent bears much fruit in your lives as we await the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.
-Matt Moseley, FOCUS Missionary