By Barb Arland-Fye
As we enter the three-day period of prayerful preparation called the Easter triduum, I have been reflecting on my journey to grow closer to Christ. It’s tempting to measure the just-concluded Lenten journey based on success. More time set aside for prayer? Check! Completion of the fast without cheating? Check! Almsgiving without hesitation? Better, but not quite!
A column I read in another diocesan newspaper a few weeks ago raised a question about fasting. Did we “fast” simply for the challenge of achieving a goal? Does our physical hunger transform into a hunger for Christ? After reading that column, I thought about tossing in the towel — but chose not to. My goals for Lent were achievable, yet required something more: to consider what I truly value if the ultimate goal is full communion with our Triune God.
Filling three sacks with clothes from my closet to donate to Humility of Mary Housing Inc. provided a tangible reminder of the difference between needs and wants. Listening to a woman who grew up in generational poverty share her story enlightened me. She explained that her “people” meant the world to her. They were the only treasures she had. Christ instructed us to love one another, even our enemies. People matter, not possessions. The message I take into the triduum: concentrate on building relationships, on seeing Christ in the other, no matter how difficult.
Each Friday during Lent I attended Stations of the Cross followed by soup supper at my parish, Our Lady of the River in LeClaire. Praying from “Everyone’s Way of the Cross” by Clarence Enzler proved to be especially poignant and challenging. A friend from the parish died during Lent this year. His death provoked thoughts about what it means to carry the cross, and to help others carry theirs.
On Saturdays during Lent I participated in eucharistic adoration and Liturgy of the Hours before evening Mass. To be honest, I struggled to resist the temptation to bring work-related reading to church. Still, in the quiet of the late afternoon, I felt at peace inside God’s house.
During Lent, as Steve and I prayed Liturgy of the Hours at home, I became more aware of my distractedness in prayer. God pulled me back in, to be inspired by words that evoked a sense of yearning in my relationship with our Lord. Father Robert Barron’s Lenten Gospel reflections, which I read following the day’s Scriptures, provided insights to deepen my appreciation of the journey toward Easter. On the Monday of Holy Week, Fr. Barron wrote, in part: “God is the enemy of death, and he has shown us his power over death in the most unambiguous way; our lives no longer need to be dominated by the fear of death, and we see proof of this in the most vivid way imaginable….” I needed to hear that.
Almsgiving has always been a challenge for me. I give, but on my terms. This Lent I had opportunities to practice almsgiving without counting the cost. Sometimes, I did count the cost. Other times, it seemed as if God gently guided me to add to the donation basket without hesitation. It served as a good reminder that everything we have, including our time, talent and treasure, are gifts from God.
Clarence Enzler concludes in “Everyone’s Way of the Cross” that our journey is not finished yet. We must continue to act on behalf of Christ in the world, in our interactions with others. The prayers, fasting and almsgiving have girded me on the journey.
(Barb Arland-Fye, editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)