If you want your prayers to fly to God, equip them with the two wings of fasting and almsgiving.
This good advice from St. Augustine encourages us to pursue the “holy trio” that the church calls us to each Lent. Like faith, hope, and charity, the three practices of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving work together to turn us away from self-centeredness and toward God-centeredness. They open us to his love and mercy, and they help equip us to become his ambassadors in this world.
We all know that these three practices are not always easy. But God knows our weakness. He also knows our potential—especially as he pours his grace into us. He knows that every step we take toward him has the potential to transform us a little bit more into the image of Christ.
This Lent, as you prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, ask yourself how your life reflects the humility and trust in God that are at the heart of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. Where have you fallen short of God’s call away from self-centeredness? And even more importantly, how can you become more like Jesus—who lived completely for God and other people, and not for himself?
Jesus “went off to the mountain to pray.” (Mark 6:46)
• Are there subtle—or not so subtle—ways that I have ignored my relationship with God?
• Have I made time every day to meet God in prayer? Do I read, reflect, and act on his word to me in Scripture?
• Have I given priority to God on Sundays and holy days by attending Mass and making a special effort to seek him?
“Return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning.” (Joel 2:12)
• How much do I rely on the Lord for fulfillment, compared to the security I seek from money, possessions, or other relationships?
• Are there areas of myself that I am holding back from God—secret parts that I don’t want to expose to his light and his love?
• Have I entertained impure thoughts geared toward self-gratification? Have I acted on these thoughts?
“This . . . is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly . . . sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked.” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
• Can I recall any situations in which I neglected to care for the people God has put in my life? Have I resisted putting their needs before my own?
• Am I doing what I can to stand up against injustice and to protect the unborn, the poor, and the defenseless? Are there recent situations where I failed to follow the Spirit’s lead in this?
• Is there anyone I have failed to treat according to the respect and dignity they deserve as a child of God?
“Give alms from your possessions.” (Tobit 4:7)
• Have I been a good steward of the gifts God has given me? Do I use them for his glory?
• Have I been stingy with my time and gifts? Am I an active supporter and contributor to the work of the church and of organizations that serve the needy?
• Are there situations in which I resist giving the “alms” of forgiveness to someone who has hurt me? Is there anyone I need to forgive? Anyone whose forgiveness I need to ask?