I hope I can do justice to the homily, I heard this morning. Since today is Ash Wednesday the priest spoke about alms, fasting and prayer. But he spoke from a different perspective. The entire talk was not about what we were going to do without, or give up, but rather what, in our lives, needed to be in better focus, and, how to achieve it.

With respect to alms (money, food, or other donations given to the poor or needy) he delineated these ideas. Whenever we give something, especially during Lent, we tend to focus on that which is donated. How often, we have clothes that we don’t need and so we clear out our closets and give them to charity. Feeling good about ourselves, we reward ourselves and buy some more, to take the place of the ones just donated. But what we are losing sight of is the person, the person in need. No, I am not talking about the person receiving the gifts. I am talking about us. We are in need. I will come back to this shortly.

With respect to fasting, the same holds true. We give up food, or candy, and things that we like to eat. This also becomes the focal point of our Lent.” I am not eating this or that for Lent.” But why? What is the reason for this sacrifice? This too, we will revisit.

Our prayer life, what do we do differently during Lent? Maybe we will attend Mass more regularly during the week. Maybe we will say the rosary a few times each week. All of these are excellent, but where is our focus? Is it on the saying of the rosary? Is it our attendance at Mass? Though these are good actions, on our part, they can also be traps for us. The performance of these actions can subtly make us focus on the action, itself, rather than the reason why we are doing it, in the first place.

Let’s examine the purpose of all three: Alms, Fasting and Prayer. When we do any of them we cannot, must not, allow our focus to be on the action itself. We don’t fast, give to, or pray for people so that we will be noticed. In Matthew 6:5, we read: And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, (so) that they may be seen by men. The point, here, is that the purpose of the action is not to come back to us in any form.

So why do we talk about these three actions every Lent? It was mentioned earlier that “We are in need”. How so? We are constantly trying to improve our relationship with God. Lent is a time to put that relationship in better focus. In Matthew 6:6, we read: But you, when you pray, enter into your chamber, and having shut the door, pray to your Father in secret: and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. So with this thought in mind of establishing a better relationship with God, we must focus on our need, on what is lacking in us.

Father asked the question, “What is taking us away from God”? What is preventing us from establishing a better, fuller relationship with Him? In short, what is our need? What things have we gotten so attached to, that our heart clamors for them? And, because of this attachment, this turmoil, we invest hours with them. This is time we could spend with God. Free up that time, at least during Lent. Make space for God. Let Him fill up that need. The same can be said of food which we eat. Cut back on the amount of food you eat. Do this, not because of a need to lose weight, or it is the fashionable thing to do, but rather, it frees up time for you to say, “thank you” for what was just eaten. Even fasting should be used in this way. We eat less, and fill up the time with a quiet time with God. We must begin to see the need to talk with Him, more personally. We must begin to see the need to listen to Him, in the quiet of our hearts.

This Lent focus on that need, your need. What is it that is filling up that space inside you that could be, should be God’s space? We, all, need to grow closer to our God. In growing closer to Him, we will see ourselves in a different perspective. Maybe, we will understand our fears, and our worries. Maybe we will learn to see them as pathways to God. We will begin to question why we do the things that we do. We will strive to understand our motives, our underlying motives. It is so very easy to act on instinct, and to overlook the “whys”. May you have a prayerful, thoughtful and happy Lent.

Here are some other Posts that have a similar theme. Click on any one of them:

1) Alms, Fasting and Prayer
2) The Focus of Lent