Lent is a time all about fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. At the beginning of Lent, I always struggle with what I want to give up or start doing more of. Do I want to give up sweets or social media? I can always add prayer to my day and help the poor more. The ideas of what I am going to give up for Lent always distract me from the whole reason behind why we do fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. The whole point of Lent is to deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ. The disciplines of Lent help us to focus on growing in our faith, but sometimes they do distract us from this.
We heard in the Gospel from the Friday after Ash Wednesday, "The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast." (MT 9:15) There is a time and place to fast. I really like to think about this passage because it offers many layers of meaning. When is a good time to fast? For example, Sundays throughout Lent are always feast days, they are a "mini Easter," so they are not good times to fast. Fridays during Lent are the best times to fast because we remember the day Jesus Christ died for us, and the fasting is a little something we do to draw closer to that sacrifice. When I fast from something during Lent, my tiny suffering is always lifted up and given back to God. The tiny sufferings are always moments when we remember Christ's suffering as we walk on this journey of faith together. Fasting should never distract us from the path we are walking with Christ during this Lenten Season.
Prayer is the foundation for everything we do during Lent. From adding a few minutes of prayer a day in the morning or night, we can build off of this and it can make our Lenten observances more meaningful. Those few moments of extra prayer throughout the day always help me to focus on the reason why I am fasting, doing something extra, or helping the poor during Lent. These disciplines are to help Christians prepare for Easter, and open our hearts to the love that God shared with everyone on that day. While Lent is a time to break our "stony hearts," Easter is an exciting time of rebirth and feasting! Lent prepares our minds and hearts to deepen our understanding of Easter so that we may always give glory to God. Lent is not a time for our observances to distract us from this. Lent is a time to grow in faith; a time to get the most out of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We dive right into the observances of Lent because Easter is a time of great celebration!
Mr. Hunter Ostapowicz is a freshman at the Old College undergraduate seminary of the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Hunter and his brother seminarians often share their thoughts and reflections through the Spes Unica Blog published by the Holy Cross Office of Vocations. Hunter is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan.