“Invite each person to speak a special name for Jesus, for example, Shepherd, Bread of Life, Friend, Light, etc. Then pray: Jesus, walk with us through Lent and bring us to the joy of Easter. We are waiting for you. Amen.”
In other centuries, Christians had fixed rules by which to keep or observe Lent. Particularly in matters of food and drink, the Church devised such guidelines as no meat during Lent. In our time, the Church invites us to choose our own ways of renewing our commitments. Among the many possibilities are:
Self-examination and Repentance
The word repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia, literally “a change in direction”. Christian self- examination and repentance are not about wallowing in guilt over past choices, but about seeing new choices we can make and finding the support we need to make those choices daily. A father apologizes sincerely to his teenaged daughter. A young girl decides not to participate the next time her friends are teasing the unpopular newcomer. A woman decides to change jobs rather than continue making a product she doesn’t respect. All these people are choosing repentance: they are changing the direction of their lives.
Prayer, Fasting and Self-denial
The Church links these together as another way to remind us that prayer is not just a set of words we say, but a life we live. In other times, fasting might have meant only one meal per day, taken after sundown. Growing up, many of us might have given up candy for Lent. In our own day, it might be time that we need to deny ourselves in order to give to others. One person might choose to cut back the time she spends on the computer in order to be more present to her family. Another person might choose to give up television one night in order to help out at his local soup kitchen.
Reading and Meditating on God’s Holy Word
Hearing the stories of our heritage, the stories that invite us into new ways of encountering God, ourselves and our world can help us deal with the pressures we face as we strive to make new choices for ourselves and our households.
Households with children can:
Choose a character from the Bible that you wish to learn more about. After reading his or her story, work together with the children to illustrate or dramatize the story.
Encourage each other to make good choices. This week, praise each other for good choices, creative problem-solving and just plain showing up day after day.
If adults in the household participate in an outreach ministry, consider ways you can invite children to share in that ministry.
Households of adults or adults and teenagers can:
Choose a new way to share scripture with one another throughout the season. Households might pick a book of the Bible to read aloud to one another, or might invite a different household member each night to tell a gospel story to the others.
In the pilgrimage through Lent to Easter, many use the names of Christ to give focus to their prayers. Invite each person to speak a special name for Jesus, for example, Shepherd, Bread of Life, Friend, Light, etc. Then pray: Jesus, walk with us through Lent and bring us to the joy of Easter. We are waiting for you. Amen.
A household with a single adult can:
Choose to read one book of scripture in more depth throughout Lent. You could pray a different psalm each night before dinner, or plan to read one of the four gospels straight through during the days of Lent.
A final though from the Rule of St. Benedict
“In these days, let us add something beyond the usual measure of our service, such as private prayers and abstinence in food and drink. Let each one, over and above the measure prescribed for him, offer God something of his freewill in the joy of the Holy Spirit.”
Living the Good News is a lectionary-based, arts-enhanced curriculum for all ages published by Morehouse Education Resources, a division of Church Publishing, Inc.