This series has shown how Jesus Christ offers us the gift of freedom this Lent. He desires to free us from our sins so that we might be free to love those around us. How, then, can we open ourselves to receive this wonderful gift?
The most straightforward answer is that we have to pray for it, but that doesn’t mean that we sit, wait, and “shake leg”. Grace comes first, but God requires our cooperation. The grace of Christian freedom has already been planted in each of us at Baptism, but we must listen to the counsel of Mother Church to nurture this seed to its fullest.
During this season of Lent, the Church proposes the Three Pillars — namely prayer, fasting, and almsgiving — to help us to live in the freedom of the children of God.
Our freedom is rooted in our identity as God’s sons and daughters, and we grow in this identity as we converse with our Father. Let us lean into His heart, as He assures us of our belovedness. For until we rest in His love, we remain slaves to sinful activities that can never truly satisfy our hunger.
It is also through prayer that we receive the capacity to love. When we commune with the Trinity in prayer, we step into their perichoresis. As we dance in step with Their exchange of divine love, we share in Their kenosis(self-emptying) for our neighbour.
We can also pray for those whom we are called to love. Because if “to love is to will the good of the other”,and “every good and perfect gift comes from above (Jm 1:17),” then prayer is one of the best ways we can love someone. Perhaps it is the only way, especially if the relationship is awkward or has turned sour.
When we pray for our enemies, we look upon them with the eyes of Christ and realise that they too are broken people in need of God’s saving grace. We are thus set free from hatred and find the freedom to love them.
Our fasting is not limited to just food, but also to other pleasurable things. This helps us to grow in freedom in several ways:
Firstly, fasting from the pleasures of life helps us to recognise that we are not slaves to our present desires — whether they are good, neutral, or evil. For instance, if you can do without a morning coffee, maybe you can do without a nightly porn fix. Fasting from certain pleasures strengthens us to reject the sinful desires that enslave us, so that we may live in God’s freedom.
Next, fasting builds discipline. Discipline helps us to direct our will more freely, overcoming the obstacles of our own selfish wants. This helps us to love others more selflessly, free from being preoccupied with ourselves.
Finally, fasting from food, entertainment, or shopping gives us more time and resources with which we are better equipped to serve our neighbours.
Giving alms teaches us to be detached from our own possessions. In this, we learn what true liberty is. It is not about taking what we can, but about being able to give and not count anything as a loss to ourselves.
When we give alms, we open our eyes to recognise our neighbours’ particular needs. This conditions us to love them as they need to be loved — not as we wish to love them — just as Christ loved us.
In addition to giving material support, we can devote our time and energy to those who experience other kinds of poverty. In an affluent country like ours, many are living in the poverty of loneliness. The elderly and those estranged from their families are especially vulnerable. Why not give them a video call and offer your companionship?
Let us ask the Lord to teach us to use the Three Pillars of Lent to rediscover our freedom as children of God!
Written by Louis of VITA Scribes.