By Tony DeGol
More than a century ago, the lay theologian and philosopher G.K. Chesterton wrote the book, What’s Wrong With the World.
The first line said, “I am,” recalled Father Matt Baum, Administrator of Prince of Peace Parish in Northern Cambria.
“I think those are wise words, and that’s the sense I like to begin Lent with,” Father Baum continued. “If I’m following Jesus, I’m a screw-up, and I need help, and I need help from a Savior. This is the time I look to Him to help me with all of that. Really, that is the core of what Lent is about for me.”
The 40-day penitential season, beginning on Ash Wednesday – February 17, surely can be viewed as a gift from the Church to help followers of Christ deepen their relationship with Him. The journey of growing closer to the Lord can be accomplished primarily through the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
When one is praying, it is easy to ask God for a laundry list of things.
“Prayer is meant to change us, just as much as it is meant to do anything else,” Father Baum reminded.
The key is listening to what the Lord is trying to tell us.
“Ultimately, the greatest prayer is spending time with the Word of God, because that’s the ordinary way that God speaks to us,” he added.
Catholics are obligated to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but fasting is about more than just eating only one large meal on those days. It is a way of training our bodies to listen, exercising self-discipline, and giving up things that have control over our lives.
“There is a wonderful line in the opening prayer for Ash Wednesday that says something about going into battle with the weapons of self-restraint,” Father Baum mentioned. “I love that line because it touches on what fasting is really about. It’s about being able to say I have this desire, and I’m able to say no. Because I’m able to say no, it opens up the possibilities of the ways I can say yes.”
We often regard almsgiving as giving to the poor or to the Church from what we have. Rather, it is about giving back to God from what He has given us.
“We have to start from the view that everything we have is from God,” Father Baum maintained. “There is a long biblical tradition of giving back the first fruits of that, to acknowledge that God has done this for us and we are giving thanks back to Him from that first portion of what we’ve already been given. Almsgiving is recognizing God as who He really is and what he really does for us every moment of every day.”
Editor’s Note: Father Matt Baum shares more insight on the Lenten pillars of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving on Proclaim! TV on February 14 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.