Are you ready? Our Lenten journey begins this Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – and how do you plan to traverse the desert that is these 40 days? I like to change things up every once in a while, ever since my husband laughed at me for giving up chocolate for the umpteenth time. I’m a chocoholic and I felt this was a tremendous penance, but really, for what gain? Did my abstaining from chocolate benefit anyone else? Sadly, no. In Isaiah 58.5-7, we read: Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. There are so many fruitful ways to travel through Lent, we need only look around us for ways in which we can be helpful; giving, kind and loving.
Jesus says, Beware of practising your piety before people in order to be seen by them, for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. So I will not share my Lenten intentions, but I have become ever mindful that prayer, fasting and almsgiving must be for the benefit of others or there is not purpose to it. If we pray ceaselessly, if we fast from gossip and angry words and if we give to those around us who are in need we will be on the right path. Let’s take some time today to map out that path – just so we don’t get lost en route. Margery Frisch