In our modern world today, many people think only about their next new thing to buy, latest fad diet to try, or the newest entertainment available. People buy new computers, new toys, new gadgets. They go to the best restaurants and fill their bellies with fine treats.
But not very often do they think of those who don’t have. Those who have lost everything and flee for their lives every day. The ones who are homeless on the streets they avoid or shun. Dirty, unwashed bodies and individuals who desperately need to be helped and loved.
Lent is a time for self-reflection. No one can grow spiritually or emotionally unless they really take an honest look at who they are.
To see yourself, and do so honestly, it takes courage and determination. Change isn’t easy, and neither is the ability to really see your own faults.
The spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola are time-tested, proven reflections. They are meant for contemplation, to see yourself before God as you really are.
Each step that is taken in the exercises builds upon the other. The first one is on love. Love came from somewhere. It is within each person to exude that Love to others.
Alms giving is the willingness to give to others who are in need. The gift isn’t out of one’s excesses. It is out of poverty. Alms is to give until it hurts.
In order to give something away, a person must understand what they have to give. They must take an assessment of what they are clinging to. Is it a material item, such as a computer game or new car? Or is it something that brings them pleasure, like the feel of a soft cloth?
The bigger question is whether or not the person can live without it. It means giving what they desire away so that others who don’t have may have what they need.
A great movie the exemplifies this behavior is titled, “Fireproof”. It is about a man who is self focused. He has desires that he is clinging to, and expectations from his wife that are unreasonable. His behavior and attitude was tearing his relationship with her apart.
Without giving a spoiler alert, the movie focuses on his struggle to realize how much he must be willing to give up in order to preserve something greater than his wants.
This is what Lent is all about. It is a time, once a year, to reflect on what we are clinging to. It is a time to find ways of giving those things away for the sake of others.
The cost to reflect on who you are and what you are not willing to give up will not come without a price. That price is time, prayer, and a willingness to be honest with yourself.
Time is something we tend to use for ourselves, our jobs, our pleasures. But if we were to use time to think about who we are and who we could be, it would be better served. For when we begin to understand ourselves better, we will also understand our relationships with others around us.
Giving up what we think we love helps us detach from the material world that much more. Our souls can be freed to live unencumbered with the burden of things. And by giving these things away, along with money we were saving up for a new toy, we further advance in the area of freedom.
Life without chains is a life worth living.
But none of this will happen if we are not willing to pray.
Prayer takes us outside ourselves. We reach beyond the gates of Heaven to Him Who knows us best. If we give Him the chance to show us what we need to detach from, perhaps the habits we have refused to let go of, we will gain an understanding of our relationship with Him. We will also gain understanding of our relationships with others.
Once we can see who we really are through the eyes of the One who created us, we will be able to find out what we need to fix, or have fixed. Without prayer, we only have ourselves to teach us.
To teach ourselves is to limit our resources. To reach beyond ourselves, we are creating a floodgate of opportunity to find out who we really are.
And that is what Lent is all about.
Make the space you need to see yourself in light of Perfection.
Read uplifting, spiritual books. Watch inspirational movies.
But most of all, pray. God is waiting to show you what you need to work on. He will give you the understanding that you must have in order to improve your relationship with Him, and thus with those around you.
Love. Love God, yourself, and your neighbor. Doing those simple acts will lead you to the road of perfection. But you must be willing.
God bless you on your journey this season. May it bring you great peace and understanding. Above all, may it bring you to Love.