By Sean Martin
Each Lenten season, Catholics around the world voluntarily offer things up, such as candy or alcohol, and add a devotion to our prayer lives, like the rosary or Stations of the Cross. We make pledges to the Lord to pray and fast more than we have throughout the rest of the liturgical year. We have hope that these things bring us closer to God, which in fact they do.
My wife and I set out to pray Lenten devotions together. During our prayer time together, we came across this quote from one of the Desert Fathers.
“A brother asked one of the elders: What good thing shall I do, and have life thereby? The old man replied: God alone knows what is good. However I have heard it said that someone inquired of Father Abbot Nisteros, the great, the friend of Abbot Anthony asking: What good work shall I do? And that he replied: Not all works are alike. For Scripture says that Abraham was hospitable and God was with him. Elias loved solitary prayer, and God was with him. And David was humble, and God was with him. Therefore, whatever you see your soul to desire according to God, do that thing, and you shall keep your heart safe.”
After we pondered this quote for a bit, it seemed to resonate with what St. Paul says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12).
We all are freely given gifts, and we are to use them freely in return. We are to help build up the body of Christ. If we are like Abraham, then we must make ourselves available to others, spreading joy and helping to make people feel welcome in our homes, parishes, schools, and places of work. Perhaps this Lent, we could reach out to some people who have been away from the Catholic faith for a while and welcome them back home.
If we are like Elias, then maybe we could add a new devotion this lent to pray for others in our communities. There are always people who could use some extra prayers. In our family, we typically pray a litany of intercessions after our dinner meal prayer. This is a natural place for this type of family prayer.
If we are humble like David, then we could associate with the lowly, forgotten, or the outcasts of our communities. We could volunteer at our local soup kitchens or food pantries. We could visit the elderly that may not be able to get around out of their homes. We could pray for an end to the atrocities of abortion and euthanasia.
The Lord offers us the gift of charisms for building up the Body of Christ. We should discern and pray about what spiritual gifts God wants to give us or has already given us. When we come to recognize these gifts from God, we are obliged to put them into practice. “Lord, who throughout these 40 days for us did fast and pray.” What are we doing for him?
Sean Martin is director of new evangelization, catechesis and family life for the Diocese of Sioux City.