By: Bro. Anthony O. Alcantara –
Saying no to something that is bad for us, something that doesn’t add value to us, or something that doesn’t bring us closer to God is always a good thing. But nobody said it’s going to be easy.
This Lenten season, perhaps we can consider saying yes to being more and having more of the right things, those things that bring us closer to Jesus, that allow us to be a better version of ourselves, that transform us to be what God wants us to be.
Everything, whether habits or ways of thinking, starts small, according to our rector, Msgr. Bobby Canlas (see page 2). We can all start being more and having more with small habits, too. BJ Fogg, PhD, author of Tiny Habits and founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, recommends using an anchor or a trigger for new habits. We can choose the most appropriate anchors for us so we can make the habits stick.
Be more prayerful.
We can be closer to Jesus and be spiritually healthy by praying more this Lenten season. We can even limit our consumption of social media or Netflix to give us more time for prayer. Here are some ideas.
- Pray the Stations of the Cross. We can contemplate on the Passion of Christ by praying the Stations of the Cross. Anchor: After I hear Mass at the church or online, I will open my Stations of the Cross booklet and begin my prayer.
- Pray the Seven Penitential Psalms. The Seven Penitential Psalms are as follows: Psalms 6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, and 142. They can help us reflect on and express sorrow for our sins. Anchor: After I sit on my bed to prepare for sleep, I will pray the Seven Penitential Psalms with reverence.
- Do an examination of conscience. Reflecting on our day can help us see how God communicates with us through events and people we encounter. Anchor: After I say my usual prayers at night, I will review my day and do an examination of conscience.
- Go to confession. The Sacrament of Confession gives us the grace to avoid committing the sins we have confessed to the priest. Anchor: No need for one. Just take out your calendar and make an appointment, just like how you do it at work.
- Read the Bible. Reading the Bible will help us to know Jesus better. Anchor: After I hear my alarm clock in the morning, I will turn it off and open my Bible and read for 10 minutes.
Be God’s caretaker of your body.
Just as God wants us to be spiritually healthy, He wants us to take care of our bodies and be physically healthy as well. If we have the right mindset and we do it right, we can create habits that will help us become better Christians.
- Fast. Catholics are required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. If you can and if you don’t have any medical conditions that prevent you from fasting, consider fasting for 40 days. Fr. Cris Cellan said fasting can help “free our souls for prayer” (see page 4). Fasting is good for our health, too. Studies show it leads to longer, healthier lives. Anchor: After I wake up, I will just drink ample amounts of water or a cup of coffee without sugar and skip breakfast.
- Give up meat for Lent. We are required to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent. If you can, why not take it up a notch higher by giving up meat for 40 days? Besides, red meat, according to the World Health Organization, can cause cancer. You may also consider replacing meat with fish for the whole period of Lent. Anchor: After I go to the grocery, I will fill up my cart with more vegetables and fruits instead of meat.
- Give up alcohol, soda, or milk tea. We all have our favorite beverages. We can cut down our consumption or give them up for 40 days as part of our Lenten sacrifice. Anchor: After I have my lunch, I will drink water instead.
- Walk or bike to work. This Lent, why not exercise more? You don’t really have to enroll in a gym or buy exercise equipment. Walking or biking to work will do just fine. Anchor: After I sit down to plan my work week on Sunday, I will set my schedule to accommodate time for walking or biking to work.
Be more generous.
Jesus’ death on the cross is the greatest act of generosity there is. Shouldn’t we repay this generosity by being generous ourselves? Being generous to the poor and the sick is an act of gratitude for God’s overflowing mercy.
- Give to your favorite charity. If you have a charity or cause that is close to your heart, this Lent is the perfect time to give more. Anchor: After I arrive home, I will put P10 in my piggy bank and increase the amount by P10 every day for 40 days. That will result in P8,200 by the end of the period.
- Give more to the church. The church needs more support now because fewer people are going physically to church to give their love offering. Bills and salaries of church staff still need to be paid. The Shrine of Jesus, too, needs your support. Anchor: After Mass every Sunday, I will commit to donate a certain amount or a certain percentage of my income.
- Give more of your time. You can also be generous with your time. Time, after all, is also money. Commit a certain time for volunteer work, even if it’s just online. Anchor: After I do my errands every Saturday morning, I will sit down and see how I can help my church with its activities or projects.
- Give more of your “thank yous”. Saying thank you to people can help spread positivity to our circle of influence. It can help us spread Christ’s message of love to all. Anchor: After I shut down my computer, I will send a quick message of thanks to one of my colleagues at work.
These are just some ideas for making our Lenten celebration a spiritually nourishing one. We can be more and have more if we pray, fast, and give alms. What habits will you start this Lent? What anchors will you choose?