Lent Calls us to ‘Come Back to God with All Our Heart’

Bread, water, a religious icon and a cross

Lent calls us to ‘come back to God with all our heart’ and the practices of prayer, fasting and giving to charity are a way of making real our return to God.  Ashes (this year sprinkled on our heads) remind us of our human frailty and our dependence on God.

For our parishioners who, during this period of dispensation from attending Mass in church, would like to partake in Lent’s calling at home, you can connect with:  Catholic Daily Reflections

Or if you would like to receive daily reflections from Bishop Robert Barron straight to your Inbox, try: Lenten Reflections

We can also look upon fasting, prayer and almsgiving in less traditional ways.  For example, here are three ways to give our relationships a Lenten make-over based on these three practices –

1:  Fast… from criticism

We might not get fat from criticism, but a steady diet of criticism is just as bad for our health and it is toxic for our relationships. Fasting from criticism isn’t just good for our relationships, it’s also good for us as individuals. Believe it or not, it’s actually liberating! When we surrender our need to criticise, we stop looking for someone to blame.

If we take criticism out of our life, when things go wrong we’re more likely to approach it coolly and less likely to get uptight about who is at fault. We can calmly look for solutions, resiliently shrug off mishaps, and find the blessing in the mess.

2: Pray… for our relationship daily

Prayer has always been a fundamental part of Lenten practice.  Most people opt for traditional expressions like the Rosary, Daily Mass, Stations of the Cross or, more recently, The Divine Mercy chaplet.  But if we’re looking for something that will more directly impact on our relationship, the simple practice of praying daily for our loved ones is a winner.  We can use these traditional ways of praying but we can also for instance pray for the other’s intentions, or pray blessing and protection over our close friends as they go about their day.

If married, we can renew our wedding vows as a prayer, or pray to be a better spouse, that God might transform us into a more effective messenger of his love.  Here’s a link to such a prayer you can download as a prayer card:  Prayer card

3: Give… without expecting a return

Almsgiving is the third Lenten obligation. When we donate to a charity, we don’t expect to benefit – it’s a gift not a trade.  Similarly, our wedding vows call us to approach our marriage in the spirit of self-giving service. Yet for many of us, there is an unspoken expectation of repayment when we give of ourselves in service to our spouse – at the very least, we may expect gratitude!  As a spiritual discipline this Lent, daily or at least once a week give some service to your spouse without expectation of pay back or acknowledgement. Do it graciously, in secret if possible.

As a spiritual exercise for Lent the point is not so much about those we care for feeling loved by our act, but about the spiritual discipline of giving without expectation. It’s about detaching from our need for appreciation.

(Adapted from the parish Marriage Preparation providers at www.smartloving.org)