“Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness….He fasted forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:1-2)”

What is Lent? In the Catholic liturgical calendar, Lent is a 40-days period of fasting, prayer and penance. It begins with the Ash Wednesday and goes up till the Easter Triduum namely, the Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday and culminates with the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord or Easter. It is a sacred time of the year for all Christians which reminds us about the 40 days when Jesus was in the wilderness before he undertook his public ministry. The Lenten season is a time to focus on our relationship with God and to repent of our sins which also the message of all of the readings during the Holy Mass in this season. This period helps us to reflect on our lives as Christians to see how well we are doing in our Christian life. It is also a time to seek forgiveness and to make amends for the ways we have fallen short, it is a time to pray for guidance as we journey through life.

There are many ways to observe Lent. Some people choose to fast from certain foods or activities. Others choose to spend more time in prayer or meditation. Still others choose to perform acts of charity or service. No matter what we choose to observe during lent, the important thing is to do them with a sincere heart and a desire to grow closer to God.

Jesus’ life was marked by sacrifice and suffering through which he bestowed his perfect love for humankind thus, during this season we are called to reflect in a special way about the Paschal mystery of Christ who gave his life for our sake and our redemption. We are reminded every time during this season about the love of God the Father had for us that He gave up His only Son to die for our sins and redeem us (Jn 3:16).

Imitating Christ who Prayed, fasted and did good works during his mission, the Catholic Church teaches us the three important tools to use as we prepare to celebrate this Paschal Mystery namely; Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. These three tools are the expression of conversion in relation to oneself, to God and to others.

Prayer is none other but my personal encounter with God. It is a two ways communication where I listen to His attentively and respond to Him generously and willingly. It is an antidote to our ego and to our selfish self, because it is in prayer that we contemplate God and his ways rather our own selfish ways and will.

Fasting has nothing to do with despising material goods, food or luxury. It is a physical discipline that we can help ourselves to focus on our spiritual lives. When we fast, we deny ourselves something that we enjoy in order to focus on God and helps to deepen our awareness of God. Thus, it is an antidote to sensuality and desires, because we intentionally set aside everything that we find pleasurable in our lives for that ultimate fulfillment that is awaiting for us in heaven.

Almsgiving is the practice of giving to those in need. It is the reaching out to the needy and sharing with what we have. It is a way of sharing not only the material goods but it is also the sharing of our blessings with others and of showing our love for God. We need to keep in mind however, that what matters the most is not what we give or how we give, the important thing is to do so with a cheerful heart because God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) and a desire to help others. When we give to others, we not only helping them but we are actually storing treasures in heaven. Hence, it is an antidote to vanity, because it teaches us to be thoughtful about others, to be more other-centered rather than self-centered, to think more about others and their good rather than remaining focused only on ourselves.

To conclude, the Lenten season is a time to focus on our relationship with God and to prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection. It is a time to repent of our sins, to pray, fast and give alms. It is not a time where we sit idle and wait for God to act. It is actually a time of spiritual urgency. As we journey in this Lent, we can be confident that God is with us, guiding and supporting us. He himself had taken the initiative to call us to return to him but it is up to each one of us to respond to this invitation. May God help us during these 40 days of grace and grant to all of us the grace, to learn to be like him, to reflect the image and likeness that we are being created to the world. May this Lenten season be a fruitful and a transformative journey with the Lord through the forty days of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.