February 28, 2014


Be more intentional this Lent, thanks to God’s love and mercy

We are creatures of habit. Or so the adage reminds us.

And when it comes to the Lenten season, many of us live up to that saying.

We already have our minds made up that the practices we’ve implemented in years past will do just fine—again.

When Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 5, and continues for the next six weeks, some people will refrain from things that satisfy their sweet tooth, pass on soft drinks or coffee, or fast from something else that has become a necessary part of their everyday lives.

Others will focus on improving their lives of prayer by adding recitation of the rosary or daily Scripture reflection, while some will make a concerted effort to focus more intently on almsgiving—donating money or goods to the poor and performing other acts of charity.

All these practices are admirable, but maybe the Spirit has been gently nudging you to be even more intentional this year—whatever you decide to do—thanks to God’s love and mercy.

Pope Francis offered a unique perspective in his Lenten message. We published an article about this message in the Feb. 14 issue of The Criterion.

The pope focused on the theme of Christ’s poverty, with the title: “He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).

In the Catholic News Service story, the Holy Father encouraged people to courageously follow Jesus in seeking out the poor and sinners, and in making difficult sacrifices in order to help and heal others.

People of faith, Pope Francis said, are called to confront the material, spiritual and moral destitution of “our brothers and sisters, to touch it, to make it our own and to take practical steps to alleviate it.”

Saving the world, he continued, will only come “through the poverty of Christ,” who emptied himself of the worldly and made the world rich with God’s love and mercy.

God’s love and mercy. Those two themes have been among the constants during Pope Francis’ first year as universal shepherd.

Are we learning from our Holy Father’s example?

As people of faith, we know that Lent is a time for each of us to become even more intentional about imitating Christ.

Whether it’s through fasting, how we add to our lives of prayer, or what we do to assist our brothers and sisters in need through alms, God’s love and mercy should be an integral part of our Lent, too.

If we fast from something this Lent, why not take a few moments each day to remember in prayer those who go without food, both here and abroad?

Planning to add to your life of prayer? Take some time as well to reflect on and pray for those persecuted around the world for their religious beliefs. And pray for those considering vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

If almsgiving will be a central focus of your Lent, why not go beyond your original plan? If you were donating money, why not volunteer at a food pantry or shelter, too? If you are set to volunteer, why not donate goods or money as well?

The key is making sure we do more than go through the motions, and be more intentional, as we offer our Lenten practices.

“By loving and serving the poor, we love and serve Christ,” Pope Francis said, but such service also entails conversion.

A homily recently shared by a priest offered an insightful perspective on the beatitudes, and how they must become part of our everyday lives of faith.

He noted that we live the beatitudes by having “an attitude of being Christ” to others.

Perhaps this Lent, we can also work on our “attitudes”—not only of being Christ to others, but seeing Christ in others.

Lent offers us a grace-filled opportunity to be more intentional, imitate Christ and grow in our lives of faith—thanks to God’s love and mercy.

May we use these gifts to do just that.

—Mike Krokos

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