Usually I write about the readings of the day but this is our last Sunday before Lent, and it's time we started to plan how we are going to live this Lenten Season. First some basic info.
The length of Lent has varied widely over the centuries. The number 40 is used in the biblical sense to mean a long time. In actuality, Lent is 44 days long. It is a myth that Sunday's don't count. It runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday.
There are three practices associated with Lent that come from the gospel of the day, Mt. 6:1-18. They are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
The misconception that Sundays during Lent don't count comes from the ancient prohibition against fasting on Sunday. But just because we don't fast doesn't mean we shouldn't continue our Lenten prayer, and almsgiving. The Sundays are still The First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent.
So now we have three days to decide what we are going to do each day during Lent. Whatever we pick should be things that touch our daily lives.
For prayer, I would like to recommend 40 days for life. My birth mother was a 16 year old high school student. I often think that if abortion had been available in Danville in 1960, I probably wouldn't be here. But whatever form of prayer you choose, make it every day.
With regard to almsgiving, while I usually do Operation Rice Bowl, and that is still a great idea, this year I am doing something more personal. I am putting a box in my tv room and every day at least one thing needs to go into the box. To get through the 44 days of Lent I may need more than one box. My guess is that every one of us has at least 44 things we could give away.
Lastly, the one we most associate with Lent, fasting, more commonly phrased as "What are giving up for Lent?" Isaiah puts before us that question,
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.
So this year I am giving up everything that is not what I call real food (snack food, fast food, etc.), it also serves as a reminder to consider what we consume not only with our mouth, but with our eyes, and ears as well. How much of what we consume is junk that does not nourish us?
Lent is not about loosing weight, getting in shape, it is a season of penance. It is a time of acknowledging our sin and our need for God's transforming grace. In today's opening prayer we prayed,
grant that we may be so fashioned by your grace
as to become a dwelling pleasing to you.
We have three days to plan how we are going to live Lent and through our prayer, fasting and almsgiving prepare ourselves to be transformed by the power of God's grace.