6 Actions of the Heart During Lent
Lent – A Time for Fasting
Lent – A Time for Fasting
By S. Marcella Nachreiner
There is a song that Kenny Rogers made popular called “The Gambler.” It’s about the art of playing poker (the art of Lent!) He sings, “Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em…” about the cards you are dealt. I can see in the lyrics a parallel to some of Jesus’ advice for me: “When you give alms, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (hold ‘em), because my heavenly Father is the only one who needs to know how generous I am. Jesus says something similar about fasting: When you fast, don’t look glum: no one should notice (fold ‘em), only “your Father who sees what is hidden.”
During this Lenten season, I’m going to try to enter more deeply into the reason and meaning of fasting. I’m going to enter into a program of fasting from those things (anger, rash judgment, resentment) that block the free flow of God’s forgiveness, understanding and compassionate love. I’m not only going to turn off my computer, cell phone and TV for some free time, I’m going to use that time to reflect on the many times throughout the day that Jesus has revealed himself to me.
Stations of the Cross
Our Journey – A Prayer
By S. Roberta Smith, OSF
“Rend your hearts, not your garments.”
I feel a special stirring deep within me during this Lenten time! If the truth be told, I want — no, I yearn for a more intimate relationship with you, God. Show me the way, your way to you. I place a new and deep trust in you, so I will be transformed. Not outwardly so much, but inwardly. Change my heart, O God, make it like yours. Teach me compassion that leads to loving actions; show me how to do (literally) mercy, so I will be mercy; grant me a kind heart that knows no limit to love. Let me be grace, filled to overflowing so my ego will not interfere with this conversion, this new me! I need not rend my clothing in order to show that I’ve been touched by the Holy One but my heart will be your heart pinned to my sleeve…so all may see and maybe, believe. Thank you, O Holy One, faithful companion and friend as I journey this path called life. Amen.
S. Pat Burkard
Attending Mass has been part of my daily routine for many years. Hearing the Word of God each day enlightens my spirit, and receiving Christ in the Eucharist nourishes my soul, both of which strengthen me for service to others. This practice has remained constant over the years. What has changed however, is that through time I have come to be more aware of others who also are at daily Mass.
I had a powerful experience of this about ten years ago when I attended a funeral during the Christmas season. The hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful” was being sung during communion. Suddenly I found myself absorbed in thinking about all the “faithful” around me in the church and who had come to pray.
I remember wondering about their struggles and concerns. I thought about the family members of the deceased and wondered about their feelings of loss and sorrow at that time. I noticed a young mother with a baby in her arms and another child by the hand trying to focus on receiving communion and I wondered if her prayer was one of “just get me through today, O Lord.” In the communion line behind me, an elderly neighbor woman with her cane tried to keep up with the pace of the line, and I wondered if she missed the quick step of her earlier years. Then I noticed another neighbor whose wife was at home and no longer able to go out. Did he worry about leaving her alone or miss having her with him at church?
That scene comes to my memory every now and then. It reminds me that when I attend Mass it is not just about Jesus and me but also about noticing the faith of those around me as they pray for strength and courage to face their cares and worries.
This Lent I am making myself bring that experience out of my memory. While at Mass I try to be more aware of those around me and with whom I am praying each day. That awareness leads me to remember them in my prayers during the day even after we have gone our separate ways. None of us are free from daily cares and concerns and we all need support. It is a sense of love and compassion that moves me to offer my prayerful support for them and to remember that on this journey of life we “faithful” are one in heart and spirit.
By S. Ellen McClure
The rich and deep scripture readings that I encounter in Lent have been so moving to me over the years. I was privileged to study scripture years ago with some professors who had been students of the people who prepared the Jerusalem Bible. We all had our Jerusalem Bibles in class and took most of our notes right into the margins and the white spaces on the pages. I still have that Bible and when I use it for prayer, those classes all come alive again.
One means of boosting memories is the songs of the suffering servant in Deutero Isaiah which appear during Lent and Holy Week. They speak of the suffering of Jesus during his own agony. It’s hard to miss the connection between Old and New Testaments in these selections. The word for servant in Hebrew is ebed and the evidence that the Lord Jesus is that servant, chosen by the Father to suffer death for me, is unmistakable as I reflect on the songs.
I look to my life, which includes a move to a new home, meeting other residents and seeing my sisters in a new setting each day; how am I being servant? Is it by listening, a word of cheer, a promise of prayer or in ordering something on-line for one of the sisters that I can now and here be servant? In full-time professional ministry I could see so many opportunities to serve, but I believe they are as present and as important here and today.
Being a servant for me also involves asking for help with the everyday tasks I can’t quite accomplish. I can offer the Father my servant ego! Kindness goes a long way in servanthood. I have no idea of the histories of the non-sister residents here and I may never know them, but I see happy responses to kind words in passing. I am still unpacking things but even more I am beginning to unpack who Jesus is calling me to be in this journey of the heart. I pray I will read the signs and respond as a willing servant.
Share Spirituality through Works of Mercy
Share Spirituality through Works of Mercy
Sister Rosemary Bucchi
When we hear “Works of Mercy” we think of what we learned during religious instruction — the Corporal and Spiritual Acts (or Works) of Mercy. These are practices which Christians perform and the Catholic Church refers to as both penance and charity.
Many of us are familiar with the list. The Corporal Works concern the physical needs of others, such as feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless. The Spiritual Works of Mercy guide us to help our neighbor with their spiritual needs, things we often give less attention to doing. To instruct, advise, console, comfort, forgive and to bear wrongs patiently require more thought and giving of oneself than donating money for food and clothing, or visiting the sick. We often don’t recognize that the most important part of performing any act of mercy is prayer. Prayer that unites us with God changes the physical act of feeding the poor into a spiritual act that does good to another and gives glory to God. Jesus attended to the spiritual well-being of those He ministered to; for our lifestyles today performing Spiritual acts of mercy — sharing spirituality — seems especially appropriate.
We all encounter doubt in our faith journey. Yet we should always remember that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life and turn to Him along the way. During Lent, learn more about our faith and be open to talking with others about your beliefs. Do not judge, but help others find their way and correct their mistakes. Together we can learn to walk more closely with Christ. Be open to listening and comforting others who are dealing with grief. Even if you aren’t sure of what to say, your presence can make a big difference. Forgiving others isn’t always easy; we do not have God’s limitless mercy and compassion. But Jesus teaches us that we should forgive as God forgives, so rely on Him to help you show others the mercy of God. Do not be bitter about wrongs done against you. Place your hope in God so that you can endure the troubles of this world and face them with a compassionate spirit.
Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can support others. Joining together in prayer for the living and the dead entrusts us all into God’s care.
Reading the scriptures is a wonderful guide for life and show us what acts of Mercy we should do. Read Luke 6.
“Do for others what you want them to do for you.”
“Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”