This Lent, however, calls us to a deeper meaning, or as Fr. Thomas Keating says, “To a new level of interior freedom and a deeper purity of heart.” We fast, pray and give alms so that we come to realize that God, who calls us, is within us, helping us to be faithful. We need to realize that we walk within God every second, every day.
I suspect that all of us here do fast, pray and give alms right now. We fast from unhealthy foods and eat, for the most part, what is good for us.
We pray each day alone or with others. We pray for people who need help in their lives, in their family relationships, in finding or keeping work, in getting the COVID vaccine now.
We give alms in the form of money, or time, given to helping those in need. Many of you help in St. Vincent De Paul, some of you help the homeless children at the Transition School. Many of you call homebound parishioners weekly or every day. Many of you volunteer in parish programs and sit on various councils and committees. Many of you work for justice through MACG or other civic justice oriented organizations.
We, perhaps, need to realize that the people we help also walk within God, and God is in them. As we help others we encounter the Living God. We need eyes to see, ears to hear and to listen, and a heart that opens itself to God in others and in ourselves.
So maybe this Lent we do what we do with more attentiveness to God who is within us and in all others. More attentiveness to God within whom we live and walk.
We may be called to fast a bit differently this Lent so we are not distracted by things, but attracted to God. We fast to let go, empty ourselves, so we can be filled with God, with love.
This Lent we may be called to pray a bit more or more consistently. As we pray sit silently so as to hear and touch the God within.
This Lent we may be called to give alms in the same manner as before, or a bit differently, so we can encounter the Living God in others and encounter the Living God in ourselves.
This Lent let us follow the God who calls us to fast, to pray, to give alms.
The first and second Sundays of Lent we walk with Jesus in the desert where he is tempted and then walk with Jesus on the mountain top where he is transformed, transfigured, when the God within Jesus shines through. We, too, are called to resist temptations and instead to be transformed, transfigured, so the God within us shines through.
It is through our attentiveness that all this can happen to us. Maybe not in dramatic ways, but in the human, earthy ways of fasting, praying, almsgiving.
May the ashes on our heads remind us of what we really are about – walking God’s way and enjoying the companionship of God within us, within all others, and in whom we walk and live.
Thomas Keating. LIVING WITH CHRIST, February 2021, page 62.