LENT: PRAYER, FASTING, ALMSGIVING AND CONFESSION
Beloved in Christ, the season of Lent could be likened to the season of spring in which trees, grasses and flowers, literally dead in the winter season, are given a new lease of life. Lent is, therefore, a season in which the church reminds us of the need to constantly allow the grace of God to renew our relationship with Him.
There are several means or channels of God’s grace of renewal. In these series of talks, we wish to consider four of these channels of grace: prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and confession (of sins).
The use of a car may be a good imagery for organizing our thoughts on these four channels of God’s grace of renewal. In the first place, prayer is like the fuel of the car. As without some fuel a car cannot be driven, so without prayer, our spiritual life (with the Lord) stagnates. In other words, as there should always be fuel in the tank of the car in order to drive it, so our prayer should not be occasional but constant. Thus, St. Paul says: “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).
Secondly, fasting could be likened to the servicing/maintenance of the car. Imagine a car which has never been serviced/maintained. Soon it will develop some faults and cease to move even if its tank is full of fuel. Similarly, prayers alone are not sufficient for our spiritual life. We need to fast occasionally, and Lent is an ideal time to fast, so as to empty our spiritual fuel tank of the dirty oil and grease of sin; to tighten the lose spiritual bolts and nuts; and to fix our spiritual electrical and mechanical faults.
Thirdly, almsgiving is like the car insurance. As insurance is a kind of savings account against the eventuality of accidents, so almsgiving or charity to the poor is a kind of security against our spiritual accidents of sins. Thus, St. Peter says: “charity will cover a multitude of sins” (1 Pt. 4:8).
Fourthly, a car may be insured, well serviced and its fuel tank filled to capacity, but if we have no road-worthy certificate, we cannot legally drive it outside our compound. To be spiritually “road worthy” and move “freely” with the Lord, we need to confess our sins.
By Msgr. John Kobina Louis