When we begin to pray, a thousand labors or cares thought to be urgent vie for priority;
Once again, it is the moment of truth for the heart: what is its real love?
Sometimes we turn to the Lord as a last resort, but do we really believe he is?
Sometimes we enlist the Lord as an ally, but our heart remains presumptuous.
In each case, our lack of faith reveals that we do not yet share in the disposition of a humble heart:
“Apart from me, you can do nothing” – Catechism of the Catholic Church (2732)
Most of us associate Lent with a giving up.
Some are moved to forego sweets.
Others will attempt to become more mindful of their all too quick tempers, which – for many of us during this election year – will require nothing short of abandoning all forms of social media (and, perhaps most especially, Catholic blog comboxes).
Almost all of us will try to find that difficult balance between making some meaningful enough sacrifice without really much altering our day-to-day lives.
But Lent is not only about a giving up.
It’s also a time for a gathering up.
We can use this time of preparation before Easter to gather up – with love – new habits, new ways of looking out at our world, and a renewed sense of wonder.
We can in, in short, seek to forge a better path to help connect us to each other, to our greater selves, and to our faith.
So how do we start?
I think that the Catechism is on to something.
We need, first, to gather up the disposition of the humble heart.
Now, let’s be clear on that and understand that we are not seeking to become something less.
Rather, as C.S. Lewis once said:
Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.
So we need to be open, we need to be mindful, we need to become aware of the presence of God in the world – and in each other. We should strive to see the world as God does.
Bishop Barron’s excellent 2011 video on the three Practices of Lent, embedded below, helps to clue us in on how to develop these traits – traits which can directly lead us to that humble heart and which may well cause us to begin experiencing Lent as a time of great joy, liveliness, and spiritual fulfillment, rather than as a period of relinquishment and decrease.
Those three Lenten practices are:
1) Prayer – setting aside more time for friendship and conversation with God throughout the day;
2) Fasting – developing the discipline of suppressing, for a time, our dominant sensual desires (food, sex) so that we can experience – and fully immerse ourselves in – the deeper, spiritual hungers; and
3) Alms giving – directly connecting us, one to the other, fully and completely, with the foremost recognition that our riches do not belong to us alone.
I hope that you can take a few minutes now to hear Bishop Barron more fully explain these three essential Lenten practices as we begin, today, this wondrous time of gathering up.
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