You would think that, in the days leading up to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, he would have wielded as much power as he could to get his followers into shape for the challenging times ahead. Instead, he talked a lot about serving one another. On the night before he died, Jesus acted like a servant, washing his followers’ feet. His message was loud and clear: think of others, make their needs your priority.
Serving Others First
Lent—a time set aside by the Catholic Church for spiritual renewal and reflection on Christ’s passion and resurrection—is the logical liturgical season to explore what it means to serve others. Rather than concentrating on ourselves (“Should I give up chocolate for Lent or coffee?”), why not walk around the neighborhood and pay attention to what we see? Are there elderly neighbors who need help with their houses or yards? Are there youngsters in our circle of influence who could benefit from organized sports or after-school tutoring? Are there service programs within a few miles of our home that need volunteers? Today the Internet makes it possible for us to do a simple search to find where we can take our extra clothes and furniture, where we can help distribute food, and where faith-based programs provide social services and support. Websites, such as Catholic Relief Services—the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community—can provide other opportunities to get involved on a more global scale. And if you are a teen, young adult, or the parent or teacher of teens and young adults, consider print resources like Raising Kids Who Will Make Difference that offer more ideas and faith-based support for helping others. All the above types of action are known in the Catholic faith as acts of Christian charity or service and are common Lenten disciplines.
Following Jesus’ Example
Another way to help us emulate Christ’s humility and service during Lent is to renew our friendship with Christ through scripture reading, prayer and reflection. The guided prayer program, Meeting Christ In Prayer, helps us to do just that. “The next eight weeks are an opportunity for us to meet Christ anew,” write the program authors. “Gradually, our efforts at imitating Christ will allow us to see that we actually participate in his life and in his ongoing work in the world. This is the goal of Christian faith and witness—to participate in the life and work of Christ.” This eight-week group prayer program is ideally suited to Lent and be can run throughout the seven weeks of Lent, concluding on or after Holy Week. Opportunities to share with and support others in the Christian life fill the program.
Putting Others First
Through the reflection and repentance that mark Lent, we hope to clear out our personal clutter and start fresh with Easter, to become more whole and more holy. All of this requires that we step back from ourselves and get a clearer perspective. Nothing helps us step back better than focusing on someone besides ourselves.
Humility Benefits Everyone
Finding the means to serve other people, we benefit those people in the help we offer them. We benefit ourselves in balancing our interests and energy. And we benefit the Kingdom of God, simply by living more as Jesus did. When we follow Jesus’ example of humility during Lent—everyone wins.