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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

14 March 2014: Jean Halliday, St Laurence Catholic Church

Lent

When I think of Lent, one word comes to mind immediately, fasting. This word has in the past conjured up a grey journey of forty days ending in the exploding light of Easter. Why should this special time in the church's year be viewed like that in my mind? It is a privileged time given to me in order that I might come closer to God, and to renew my relationship with him, what is so grey about that

In the Gospel, prayer, fasting and almsgiving are always aligned but Jesus is quick to tell us that these are to be done in secret, no one should know, so that outwardly we go about our normal lives as usual. That means to be a person of peace and thankfulness.

"Always be joyful; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks: This is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus". ( Thess: 5:17-18) There, that tells me how wrong I am to view Lent in such negative terms. Indeed the very feast we are preparing for should lift my heart, it is my salvation.

Fasting helps us to focus on what it is we are undertaking at this time, what we are preparing for, the new life Christ brings us by his death and resurrection. It helps with our prayer life, honing our spiritual life and senses so that we are ready to meet Jesus in the garden and to recognize him as the risen Lord.

Alms giving is prayer in action, "The Lord taught us to pray not only in words, but also in actions". (St Cyprian) It is the basis of all Christian life and therefore not just for Lent, it must be given in humility and respect, and as I said before, in secret.

What we are undertaking at this time of Lent is really the blueprint for our whole life, to be built on so that we deepen our love for God and each other. St Jane de Chantal said: "Prayer is the channel that unites our hearts to the heart of God.

This article was submitted for publication in the Petersfield Herald on 14 March; it is possible that it was published earlier or may be published later.

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