And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken. ~Ecclesiastes 4:12During Lent, we are called to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. They are the "three-fold cord" spoken of in Ecclesiastes 4:12. Satan will not prevail against us if we follow Christ's call to use the three-fold cord of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a basis for our Christian walk.
When Lent is viewed as some sort of magic formula done on autopilot, or something to "get over with" by choosing something small to give up, or do, the grace that could be obtained is lost. When we are too busy, or see ourselves as too "good" to "have" to "do something for Lent", then the grace that could be obtained is lost.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving--a call from Christ
Jesus talks about prayer , fasting and almsgiving as a given for the Christian. "When you pray," He says in Matthew 6:5. "When you fast," He says in Matthew 6:16. In Matthew 6:3, Jesus speaks the same way regarding giving alms. "When you give alms," He says. These things form the basis of the Christian walk. Christian spirituality involves not just prayer; not just fasting and not just almsgiving, but all three woven together in a nearly unbreakable three-fold cord.
In the early Church, Lent was initially a time of preparation for Baptism for new Christians. In preparation for the great feast of The Resurrection, which forms the cornerstone of the Christian Faith, we are each called to bring ourselves back to living the Christian life through prayer, fasting and almsgiving, not in a superficial way, but as an answer to an individual call from God.
The Call to Step out in Faith
Lent is a call to step out in faith and follow Christ. The Christian life should be something that gets us out of our comfort zone. It should not be something quick and easy for us. It should influence our every choice in life.
How is God calling you to prayer today? More individual prayer, perhaps? Praying with Scripture? Meditating on the Psalms? Prayer with a church community?
How is He calling you to fast? Perhaps He is calling you to fast from mindless eating, or from overindulgence in too much media. What sin might Jesus be asking you to discard this Lent? What temporal pleasure is keeping you from being completely in His will?
How can we give alms in a way that is different for us? Perhaps we need to learn to put aside a particular amount of our income to give to worthy causes. Perhaps God is calling us to give to specific individuals in our community. Maybe He is calling us to join a local church soup kitchen or volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center.
The discomfort that is sometimes involved in praying, fasting or giving alms (especially in a direct way) may be just the thing that Jesus is calling us towards. St. Francis of Assisi learned to overcome his distaste for the poor and ill in his community by serving them directly and becoming one of them. Humility, far from being a masochistic aberration, is the way Christ calls us to growth in Him.
Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."We are called to take up our cross with Christ, who took up His cross for us.