Essential Ingredients

25 Feb

“There are three elements that are almost always part of Lent: prayer, giving something up, and giving something back.”  ~ Elizabeth Hyndman

If you ask a number of people what they are doing for Lent, you will be inundated by many responses.  All of the responses will be unique to the people involved but all of the responses, gathered together, could be placed into one of three bins:  prayer, giving something up, and doing some positive good.

Those truly are the essential ingredients to Lent and, in my opinion, all three need to be present in a person’s Lenten journey in order for that person to get as much out of the season as possible.  Some might argue and say that any one of those three is enough but I would humbly disagree.

Is prayer important in a person’s life?  Absolutely.  Prayer is that nourishing of the relationship one has with God.  But prayer by itself?  Prayer not only nurtures our relationship with God but, by its very nature, it not only draws us within but also takes us out of ourselves.  If our prayer does not have a component of regard for others, we are missing something

Is giving something up a sign of penitence?  Yes.  However, if our entire focus is on what we are giving up for Lent, we, again, are missing something important.  Our acts of penance should focus ourselves on just how selfish we can be in life.  That realization should take us out of ourselves and direct energy to others.

Is doing something positive for others a noble thing?  It sure is.  However, without a basis in prayer and a realization that we need to serve others in humility, our doing positive good can be warped into doing things for the sake of the adulation of others.  If we garner praise for our good works, our good works are meaningless.  They must be performed for the sake of others out of our love for God.

Hence, all three components are important, indeed necessary, for our Lent to be as fruitful as possible.  Make sure that your prayer fuels your day, your acts of penitence are honest, and your good works to and for others is directed by a desire to help them and not benefit yourself.  All three help us to balance ourselves and all three will draw us closer to God day by day.

FAITH ACTION:  Ask God for the grace to hold firm to your Lenten resolutions this season.