by Archbishop Jason Gordon
A sacrifice is giving up something good for something that is better. This is the hidden dynamism of Lent.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the words most associated with this season. Each one requires sacrifice; together they provide a perfect spiritual guide. Here in this 40-day period we have the opportunity to really “change the change”! The real focus of Lent is not on the austerity of the season nor in the sacrifice to be made. The focus is on the deep change—conversion of heart—to which we are all called. This change must start with you and me.
We are now in the habit of blurring Carnival into Lent and encroaching on the Lenten time of sacrifice. I am asking that we guard against this. That we safeguard this time as one of sacrifice where we dispose ourselves to respond to the deep inner call that God gives each one during this period.
Let us observe Lent with strict discipline. Let us sacrifice for something bigger than ourselves— God’s kingdom.
PRAYER: Turning to prayer is saying ‘yes’ to intimacy with God. Take up the practice of prayer for Lent. I recommend you consider Lectio Divina, the Examen or Christian Meditation as three practices that are very old and tested. Each of these ways of prayer leads to the very heart of God. Google them to learn more.
FASTING: As Catholics we speak about both fasting and abstinence. For us, fasting normally entails limiting our intake of food to one full meal plus two smaller meals. (The smaller meals together should not make up one full meal.) Catholics from age 14 to 59 are obliged to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. We are also asked to abstain or refrain from meat on those days as well as on the Fridays of Lent.
ALMSGIVING: Our tradition teaches that almsgiving covers a multitude of sins. When we give to the poor, to those who do not have, we give to God. Lent is the season of almsgiving. Together with the prayer you take up and the fasting that requires you to give up, I am asking you to give away something. Make a conscious decision to give alms this Lent. Decide on the amount and give it away. Remember this season is the time to “change the change”, the time for deep conversion and disposing ourselves to God.
The Generation S Fast
In our archdiocese I am asking for a third day of fast, a 24-hour fast, from 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, to 6 p.m. on Friday 2. This is the Generation S 24-hour fast.
I am asking all teens of Confirmation age and our young adults, to observe this period of fasting. It is your opportunity to make a sacrifice for something bigger than yourself. We will all be praying and sacrificing for vocations that each young person hears God’s call and has the courage to answer it.
The Generation S 24-hour fast was started three years ago, challenging the individual to the ultimate sacrifice of no food for 24 hours (water is allowed). It brings together the three pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving, with an overarching theme, Sacrifice for Something Bigger Than Yourself.
It is meant to encourage young people to link personal sacrifice with service of Church and society. We believe that through this outreach, we are ultimately preparing the spiritual soil of vocations so young people may respond positively to God and the Church, either as priests, religious, lay consecrated, single or married persons.
The hope has always been to ignite the religious imagination through this initiative. The religious imagination is fertiliser to the soil of vocations and the gateway to mature discipleship.
As part of the Generation S 24-hour fast, I ask you, young people, to find persons who will sponsor your fasting and so aid your almsgiving. We propose the first 12 hours be sponsored at $10 per hour and the second 12 hours, being harder, be sponsored at $20 per hour. Of course, you can negotiate your rate. I am asking each of you to use some of your pocket money to sponsor a friend or top up your sponsorship. We all need to make a sacrifice on this day.
Thus far, proceeds of the fast have gone to ministries that serve socially displaced children, battered women and children in lower-income homes. You will have an account of how much money was collected and how it was disbursed. This will be publicised in the Catholic News. The proceeds of the fast are shared 60 per cent / 40 per cent. The larger portion goes to the selected ministry for their work with the poor and 40 per cent towards vocations promotions.
In past years, Confirmation candidates, students in Catholic schools and UWI students have participated in the fast. We want all our young people to participate this year. It is our dream that every young Catholic in the archdiocese fasts every year. We want this to become the tradition in the archdiocese. Some young people already look forward to the fast. We also want all our primary schoolchildren to practise abstinence and almsgiving on this day. Give up something and give away the money you would have spent on it. Let us make this Lent special.
The Generation S fast ends with soup prepared by volunteers or PVCs (parish vocations committees) in the parishes. Mass is offered to begin the fast as well as to end it.
KEY MESSAGE: On this first weekend of Lent make your commitment to prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Decide how you will pray differently and what you will give up for Lent – food, technology, self-promotion, resentment and animosity. Also decide what you will give as alms. Mark the date for the Generation S 24-hour fast and encourage others to participate. As a Church, let us sacrifice for something bigger than ourselves – God and God’s Kingdom.
ACTION STEP: Participate in the Lenten activities, go to Confession; engage in prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Encourage a young person to do the Generation S 24-hour fast with you.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 6:1–6, 16–18