As Catholics prepare to embark on another Lenten journey, our minds quickly race to meatless Fridays and what we are going to give up for Lent. These Lenten traditions have their origins in the spiritual practice of fasting, which certainly is intended to help us redirect our attention to God and thus fulfill the greatest of all commandments as quoted by Jesus- to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. That in and of itself is worthy of our efforts, and yet many of us begrudgingly take these on as if they were really a penance for our sins. Or worse, if we eat meat on Friday because those nachos were hiding some ground beef, at least according to my Busia (Polish for Grandmother which is really spelled Babcia) a mortal sin has been committed.
Another tradition of Lent is almsgiving. Today’s culture has turned this into a go-fund-me page, Pay It Forward, or the iconic red kettle. When someone helps out another, why does a person feel that they “get so much more out of it.” I believe the underlying reality is that for that moment, the attention is taken off of ourselves and truly focused on the other. So many of the biblical teachings encourage us to take care of the poor and those in need. In doing so we enter more deeply into God’s reality which is why I believe there is a momentary sense of fulfillment that really is hard to describe. And all of this is made possible when we serve others, or as Jesus would teach in his response about the greatest commandment, when we Love our Neighbor.
In his 2014 Lenten message, Pope Francis states: “In the poor and outcast we see Christ’s face; by loving and helping the poor, we love and serve Christ. Our efforts are also directed to ending violations of human dignity, discrimination and abuse in the world, for these are so often the cause of destitution. When power, luxury and money become idols, they take priority over the need for a fair distribution of wealth. Our consciences thus need to be converted to justice, equality, simplicity and sharing.” This conversion happens with God’s grace and strength, which is why the third tradition of Lent- prayer- is so necessary.
At Steepletown there are many opportunities to serve others. Phil and Tom are a couple guys who in their quasi-retired lives help at Steepletown’s Kitchen Sage, which feeds nearly 400 preschoolers every day. Both drive one of the transit vehicles to deliver breakfast and lunch to 8 preschool sites of the Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC) ; Steepletown is a partner site of the ELNC as well. Please consider becoming a volunteer driver for Kitchen Sage this Lent! (https://steepletown.org/get-involved/volunteer/) or check out the many other opportunities to be of service at Steepletown.