In preparation for Easter, the greatest of all holy days in the Judeo-Christian calendar, we are to participate in the three acts in Lent: fasting, almsgiving, and prayer.
Prayer is personal time set aside to talk to God, but before we do this, it should be done with a pure and contrite heart. Lent is a time to examine and reflect on our spiritual walk. In order for God to answer our prayers we must first purge ourselves of any indiscretions.
When my grandchildren fight I make them apologize to one another. If the wound involves tears, forgiveness is more of a challenge, but eventually they will forget their transgressions and continue playing. If we shared the same attitude as that of a child with forgiveness, we could live more peacefully.
The two words “I’m sorry” are simple little words that can change the atmosphere, but yet we struggle with them passing though our lips. Ephesian 4:26-27 states: “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” This means that not all anger is sinful or harmful. Sometimes when you are unfairly attacked you have the right to be angry; in this case we must make every effort to reconcile with the offender before the end of the day, or the anger will turn into bitterness. When we allow the sun to go down on our anger we are turning it into something that consumes us. When anger takes over our mind it all downhill from there. You become a slave to your injustice and it takes hold of your every thought. Sometimes for the sake of peace, the words “I’m sorry” are all it takes. Not “I’m sorry” with an explanation, but just “I’m sorry “will restore peace. “I’m sorry” means not to look back, not to replay the offense in your head, but to leave it at the foot of the Cross. We never need to defend ourselves because God is our best defense.
Our ministry is an almsgiving one and for the past 20 years we have served the homeless on Skid Row in Los Angeles. We continue our efforts during Lent only with the understanding that we are entering the holy season. I make every effort to speak of the Resurrection and the forgiveness of sins. This subject matter to someone who is homeless is received with a hot or cold attitude, there are no lukewarm homeless people. We cannot change the circumstances of the homeless but we can restore faith and offer hope. Many of the homeless community are wounded souls with the inability to forgive. We only have a few minutes to make a difference in their hearts; we plant seed and God cultivates.
Prayer comes natural to me, and if someone ask me to pray for them I will do it until the Lord releases me from that obligation. What I struggle with is fasting. Several years ago it was effortless for me to fast for 10 days on just a protein drink, but now that I’m older it is not so easy. My fast for Lent is omitting sweets and white flour, the two food groups that I love, so this is a huge sacrifice.
Lenten Payer of St. Ephrem the Syrian
O Lord and Master of my life, keep from me the spirit of indifference and discouragement, lust of power and idle chatter. Instead, grant to me, Your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humble-mindedness, patience, and love, O Lord and King, grant me the grace to be aware of my sins and not to judge my brother; for You are blessed now and ever and forever, Amen