Tuesday 25 February 2014

Seven Secrets for a Successful Lent 5

I hope that the first day of fasting was filled with that blessing which comes from seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. When we are able to give ourselves wholeheartedly to God then we can be sure that we have already received the gift of grace needed for such an act and state of self-forgetfulness.

The fifth secret for a successful Lent is this - do something different!

 Let's assume you are praying earnestly that you will see some growth and development in your spiritual life through this season, and will experience a greater sense of God's presence. Let's assume you are going to be serious in your commitment to following whichever simple rule applies to your situation. What more could be required?

Well a great deal more. Otherwise you will be like someone who has gone on holiday at great expense, travelling to a different country, to experience a different culture, and then spending the entire holiday in your hotel room watching reruns of TV programmes from back home!

And that is what many people do during Lent. They change their diet but they don't take the opportunity to change their behaviour. In the first place we will certainly want to tackle habitual sin while we are committed to a greater intensity of prayer with fasting. This will often require the advice and counsel of our priests and spiritual advisors. But we should surely not be content to complete this season with habitual sin having the same power over us at the beginning. If we are seeking grace to fast and pray then we should certainly seek grace to overcome persistent sinful behaviour.

More than that, we should make the most of the opportunity this season affords to watch less TV, to listen to less noisy music, and to use at least some period of each day in earnest spiritual pursuits. I mean that we should have a spiritual book, an Orthodox spiritual book, which we are reading thoughtfully each day - I cannot recommend the book Unseen Warfare strongly enough and it is often my own companion at this time of year. But we should also read more of the Scriptures, especially trying to read one of the Gospels with attention and enjoyment.

But spiritual growth requires more of us than that we think of ourselves. It is during this period of putting our own needs and desires second that we should be finding ways of helping others. These do not need to be grand schemes to eliminate world poverty, but could and should be a matter of finding someone in need and serving them. Is there someone who needs shopping done for them, or their garden tended, or a fence painted, or simply some company? Are there jobs which need doing at Church but which no-one seems keen to volunteer for? Can you serve others simply and without calling attention to yourself at home, at school, at college or university, at work or in the Church.

If we do not change our behaviour in this season, both dealing with sin and also making the most of the time and the grace given us, then we will have wasted a divine opportunity.

Do something different!

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