You snuck up on me early this year, old friend. I wasn’t quite ready for you! But here you are again, and this year, you’re asking me an important question: how well do I really know you?
I admit, you aren’t everyone’s favorite season. You don’t have a reputation for being cheerful, after all. But the more I get to know you, the more I realized that you aren’t all about sinfulness and sacrifice, though those are realities you speak.
The practices you invite us to embrace – prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – are really about mercy! If we embrace them well, they can nourish us, bring us outside of ourselves, and help us be more merciful with ourselves and others.
Through fasting you invite me to take a break – either temporary or permanent – from the non-essentials. This can help me to root out the parts of myself that get caught up in destructive habits or selfish behavior. It can nurture gratitude and encourage me to focus on what really matters.
This can hopefully leave room for THE essential: prayer. Prayer is food; it’s the root of all that nourishes us. It’s the primary relationship that helps all our other relationships thrive.
And almsgiving, well, that’s what flows outward. Sometimes it’s a conscious choice to move beyond myself, which can be a sacrifice. But sometimes it’s a spontaneous overflowing of what fills me when I’ve made some extra room and time (maybe by fasting and prayer) for the expansive love of God.
So thanks again, old friend. Thanks for coming back each year whether I’m ready for you or not and asking me to get to know you a little better. Thanks for inviting me through your tough love to re-focus on what really matters, to let go of what doesn’t, and to open my heart a little wider.