We know that Lent is a time for fasting, deepening our prayer life and giving alms.We think of giving alms as giving money to the poor, and rightfully so, but there are other ways we can give. We can donate food, clothing or time. The word alms comes from the Greek word eleemosyne, which means "compassion or pity," and is itself from the word eleos, which means "mercy." (Vocabulary.com). Reflecting on its original meaning, we can look to the Spiritual and Corporal Acts of Mercy as guides for our almsgiving during Lent and hopefully, take these Acts of Mercy into our everyday life.
The Corporal Acts of Mercy are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter the homeless, cloth the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned and bury the dead.The Spiritual Acts of Mercy are: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, comfort the suffering, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, and pray for the living and the dead.
Applying the Works of Mercy to Our Lent
Knowing what the Acts of Mercy are, we can reflect upon them and ask God to tell us which may be our calling. We cannot, of course, do everyone but God will give us one or two to perform as our Lenten act of Mercy.
We do not, necessarily, have to take these lists literally. They can become our guide. Examples are: Feed the hungry ~ give canned goods to a food pantry or volunteer at a soup kitchen, Cloth the Naked ~Most of us have more clothing than we need. Choose a warm sweater or jacket and donate it to a shelter or make a survival bag (socks, gloves, a scarf, etc.) and donate it to a homeless shelter. Visit the sick and imprisoned ~ Because of the Coronavirus, hospitals, and nursing homes are not allowing visitors and many of us are homebound. We can phone someone who lives alone just to say hello and ask if they are OK.
Your family is a good place to begin. Check on a grandparent or elderly relative. Bury the dead ~ Consider someone you have loved and lost and pray for their souls. Comfort the suffering ~ Call someone who is going through a difficult time and offer support and prayer. So, you see that there are many ways to translate these works into acts you can easily perform and once you begin, you will feel God’s Grace in unimaginable ways and probably want to continue them throughout the year.
Lent can be Our Guideline
The acts we are asked to do during Lent could and should be a guide for how we live throughout the year. Increasing our prayer life may mean adding devotions we do not usually pray during other times and we may not choose to continue them after Lent but praying the Stations of the Cross, for example, can bring us to a deeper understanding of the sufferings of Our Lord and in this, we may come to a place where we pray more deeply, no matter what the prayer. Fasting is cleansing for the body as well as the soul and fasting one day each month may become a part of your spirituality. Fasting does not necessarily have to be not eating at all or living on bread and water for a day or longer. You may consider skipping a meal and offering that fast as a prayer for those who have no food. There are many ways in which Lent can offer inspiration to increase our prayer life and work to become closer to Jesus.
As Catholics, God offers us many ways to receive His Grace. We are blessed to have Seven Sacraments, Mary as Our Mother, saints who intercede for us and, most importantly, the Eucharist. Let us always offer thanks to God for His many blessings and live always in an attitude of gratitude.
Marilyn Nash for holyart.co.uk .