Fr. Jose Thayil, SJ
The season of Lent extends from Ash Wednesday up to the eve of Easter Sunday. It is a time of purification and introspection in preparation for Easter. The forty days before Easter is a time for us to examine ourselves and work on overcoming our weakness, a time to die to the old self and to be born again in a new way. Introspective self-examination helps to bring the contents of the unconscious into consciousness and make the necessary changes so that we can live according to the will of God. Lent helps us to give up our evil habits and adopt good habits.
The religious practice of fasting is universal and not a phenomenon of Christianity alone. In medieval times, Lent was a period of bitter fasting and self-mortification. Self-punishment and intentional suffering was considered an act of piety pleasing to God. The medieval idea of penance was that, if we took it into our hands to punish ourselves, we could escape the punishment of God in the life after death. Now we believe that self-mortification is not done with the intention to appease an angry God, but to grow in our holiness and to help those who are in need of our help.
Lent is a time to do something that hurts. We can make it a point to give up something or start doing something that is difficult for us. Self-denial has always the dimension of penance. Lent is a time to become sensitive to the plight of the poor and the marginalized. We cannot be indifferent to the sufferings of the people around us. As part of this concern, can we think of reducing 10% of our spending and share that with the needy around us? Almsgiving has been a normal practice among Christians during lent.
Instead of simply fasting from food we can also fast from anger and hatred. This will definitely improve our relationship with those whom we deal with. We can also fast from our judgmental attitude and develop a compassionate attitude towards others.
It is also a time of prayer. We need to pray for our needs as well as the needs of our brothers and sisters. Prayer makes us dependent on God and others.