The Fruits of Our Lenten Labors
By: Andy Rivas
In his recent 2019 Lenten message, Pope Francis reflected on how fasting, prayer and almsgiving can lead us to a profound conversion. Each of us has our favorite Lenten traditions and practices that help us examine our own personal journey towards the promise of the Resurrection. The Holy Father, in his exhortation, is simply asking us to take a closer look at how those traditions and practices can be expanded and shared.
“Fasting,” says His Holiness, “that is, learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to “devour” everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts.”
Before any miracles or healings, Jesus always establishes a relationship with those who come to him. Too often, we see people as a means to an end and do not get to know the person before us at all.
During Lent, can we fast from that temptation and instead learn the names of the people we meet? Can we make an effort to explore their fears, their anxieties and their hopes? Establishing better relationship like this will not only make us better people throughout the year, but ripple beyond our circle into the larger world.
“Prayer,” continues the Pope, “teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy.”
Admittedly, relating well to everyone we meet is not a simple task. Frankly, we cannot do it without some high-power assistance. But who better to turn to in asking for help than Jesus? In his ministry, our Lord and Savior must have been tired, hungry, and maybe even a little aggravated when he had to explain a parable to the Apostles one more time. His response: we find him going off to prayer, sometimes alone and sometimes communally with the Apostles. That example illustrates that prayer time is essential to refresh ourselves, to check in on our relationship with God and to share the difficulties and joys of the journey with our companions.
Finally, Pope Francis turns to almsgiving, “whereby we escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us.”
The fruits of our Lenten labors must be shared with others or we have completely missed the point. Only through sharing do the fruits of our Lenten efforts make a difference in the world. We will exhibit a renewed sense of community and help advance the Kingdom further in our world through solidarity, compassion and friendship.
Now that, would be a truly worthwhile Lenten practice.
Andy Rivas is the Executive Director for the California Catholic Conference of Bishops. Previously, he served as Director of the Office of Government & Community Relations for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Andy has also held roles at the Texas Catholic Conference, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Catholic Charities USA. Andy holds a B.A. from UCLA and a law degree from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.