The popular discipline of Lent — giving up something for the sake of others — is deeply rooted in stewardship if we do it with 'a renewed spirit and a contrite heart', Fr. Yaw writes. Photo by Ahna Ziegler on Unsplash

Fr. Yaw Acheampong: Lent is an invitation to a fruitful stewardship

By  Fr. Yaw Acheampong
  • March 5, 2019

The start of every new season is exciting and full of possibilities. Think of how happy people are when they see the first signs of spring, or, when the first day of school arrives, or, for baseball fans, the excitement they feel on the day of the season opener.

The same could be said of the seasons of the Church, and especially the season of Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday (March 6 this year).

With ashes on our foreheads, we express our eagerness to embark on the Lenten “disciplines” — to pray often, to go to Mass often, to go to confession, to do the Stations of the Cross, to fast and to give alms.

However, it is important that we understand the spiritual significance of any discipline and to do it with a right attitude. 

The season of Lent is described as the “acceptable time” and “the day of salvation” — a time of spiritual renewal to return to the Lord. 

As we begin the journey of Lent, here are a couple of questions to help bring focus to our Lenten “discipline.” What is the reason behind the Lenten “discipline” we plan to undertake? How do we see Christ in the plan? 

In order to focus on the spiritual significance of Lent, the season itself is shaped around the imagery of Christ’s 40 days of fasting and contemplation in the desert, a test of body and spirit. In fact, the Scripture readings for the liturgy on Ash Wednesday point to the penitential nature of Lent. 

When we hear Prophet Joel calling us to return to the Lord with all our heart “with fasting, with weeping and with mourning” we are reminded of our failures to live as children of God. When we hear Jesus giving us instructions on how to pray, fast and give alms, He is reminding us of our call to live as faithful disciples. If we take these readings to heart, they help us enter into Lent with humility, gratitude and graciousness.

As baptized people, we are called to live with Christ at the centre of our lives. Our spiritual renewal at any time in the Church year should focus on our way of life as faithful disciples and grateful stewards. That is particularly important during the season of Lent in light of the suffering, passion and death of Jesus.

We can use Lent as a period to reflect on the many ways to witness to the Lord by living out our baptismal promises to bear fruit as stewards. If we keep the context of our call to stewardship and discipleship in mind, the spiritual meaning of Lent becomes clear. 

What we do in Lent helps us to reflect and meditate on the meaning of Christ’s suffering and death in our lives. In Lent we orient our days around the suffering Christ. Our various Lenten “disciplines” may help us to learn to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who for His great love for us “emptied Himself… and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:7-8).

The popular discipline of Lent — giving up something for the sake of others — is deeply rooted in stewardship if we do it with “a renewed spirit and a contrite heart.” According to Pope Francis in his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), “we incarnate the duty of hearing the cry of the poor when we are deeply moved by the suffering of others” (193). 

When we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit, our journey with Christ will help us experience the mercy and compassion of our Lord. That makes the Lenten journey well worth our efforts, leaving us well prepared to celebrate the glorious feast of Easter.

(Fr. Acheampong is pastor at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Toronto.)

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